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The Top 10 Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring A Designer

You are selecting a designer to enter into a long-term relationship with. It's much like hiring an employee. Finding a designer that you enjoy working with, that produces effective designs for your business and that will be there for many years, will go a long way towards the success of your business.

1. Will you show me your portfolio?

Any designer should be more than willing to show you their portfolio. If they have a large portfolio, ask to look at samples that are similar to your project. What you should be looking for is if their style of design appeals to you. Also look at the quality of their work. Ask them to explain their design choices. This will help you understand their methodology.

2. What type of projects do you specialize in? Do you have experience with businesses similar to ours?

Although they have done projects like yours before, is it what they do most often? If a designer enjoys working on a particular type of project or for a particular type of client, this will be where they do their best work.

3. How long have you been designing and what are your qualifications? What references could you provide for the type of work we are considering?

While this is an important question, it should not be your sole criteria for selecting or not selecting a designer. What you are looking for is their dedication to their craft. If they have studied design and properly established a business, you can be fairly certain this is not a whim or hobby. Yes, the longer they have been in business, the more experience they have.

However, if the qualifications are there and the designer suits you and your business, don't let lack of experience spoil it. This is an area where you will need to rely on common sense and gut feelings but you will be well rewarded with a great match of personality and style.

4. How many clients are you working with right now? Do you have time for another project?

Even if they are willing to take you on as a client, you need to evaluate if they will give proper attention to your project. If you think the designer is a good fit but worry they are overloaded, ask if you can schedule the project for a later date. Don't be afraid to ask the designer to keep their schedule clear for a specific week, to devote time for your project. If they are not willing to do so, it may be a sign that they don't manage their time or projects well and should be a signal for you to reconsider working with that designer.

5. What is a reasonable time frame for a project like mine?

You are not asking how much time it will take to design, you are asking when you will get your completed project delivered. Take into consideration time for reviews and revisions, lead times on printing, and so on.

Remember, you are part of this equation. Even if the designer is prompt in getting you proofs for review, you must be prompt in returning the revision requests. Both of you are important components in keeping your project on schedule.

6. How do you work?

What you want to know are the specifics about how the project will be completed. How many preliminary sketches will you get to choose from? How many rounds of revisions will you have? Ask the designer to layout the entire process for you.

Also ask the designer if they will accept changes to their process. If they provide one round of revisions and you would feel more comfortable with two, ask if they can accommodate that. While they will layout their usual or preferred process for you, they should be willing to adjust. These changes should be reflected in the project estimate or proposal. Check for them.

7. How many people work in your office? Who will be doing the work? Will any of it be subcontracted?

OK, this is really three questions but they are so closely related we will count them as one. Let's take a look at the first one.

It only matters how many people work in the office if you want to know who will be answering the phone and how you will be able to get a hold of the person who is responsible for your project. It also may indicate that more than one person will be working on your project. Again, it's important to know who you will interface with. I guess that actually covers the second question too.

Finally, you are asking if any part of the project will be subcontracted. If so, you need to be very comfortable with the project leader. This will be the person you will be interfacing with and who will be conveying information about the project to the subcontractors.

8. What are your payment terms? How do you charge, by the project or by the hour?

Knowing the payment terms of any vendor you work with is a good idea, your designer is no exception. The key question is how they charge. Certainly, if they charge by the project, you will know clearly what the project will cost. Paying by the hour is trickier. If the designer is fixing a web page or working on a small portion of a project, it may make sense to charge by the hour. For the most part, you will want to look for designers who charge by the project.

9. What if I'm not happy with the design?

This is a big one. With each project, you take that risk. If you have worked hard at finding the right designer, the risk should be very small. However, you must ask this question. What you are looking for is if the designer has a kill fee.

A kill fee is a percentage of the project fee that will be paid to the designer if the project is canceled. This ensures that the designer gets paid something for the time they have put into the project and it gives you the option of canceling the job if you are not happy with the design or any other aspect of the working relationship.

That being said, please exercise this right judiciously. Try working with the designer to correct the design problems first. If the problems are not resolved in a timely manner and to your satisfaction, or the relationship is deteriorating because of the conflict, that may be the time to cancel the job.

10. Who owns the design once it's finished and paid for? What files will I receive at the end of the project?

In most cases, it makes no sense for the designer to retain the rights to your marketing pieces. It does, however, make sense for them to keep a copy of all associated native files. Later, when changes are needed, the designer will have the prior files to work from. The files that you should receive depend on how the project is completed.

Here's a fun bonus question!

11. Why should I hire you?

Do you remember dreading interview questions like this? However, if the interviewee, your designer, has put any thought into working with you and has asked you questions, as well, this should not be a hard one for them to answer. I leave it up to you to determine if their answer is right or not.