If you have never hired a designer before to help you with your business or creative project or blog, you may wonder if and when it’d be a good decision. If you are just starting out, it is a decision that has to be tackled. Do you hire a designer or do you do it yourself. And if you have been around a little while, already doing your own designing, or buying some pre-made graphics and getting by, you may at some point wonder if it is time to take things up a notch and hire a professional.
So how do you know when? What questions should you ask yourself? And then how do you prepare if you decide to hire a designer?
Is hiring a designer right for you?
Like anything, there is never a one size fits all approach. If trying to design yourself feels like a burden or a major struggle or you just really hate doing it. Then doing it yourself is probably not a good idea. You will only find yourself wasting hours getting frustrated and feeling unhappy with the end result. However this doesn’t necessarily mean straight away hiring a designer.
Why is it a struggle?
Look at why you are struggling and how you are feeling about it. Do you have a good eye for design but don’t understand graphic design basics and how to lay things out. In this case, could using pre-made templates or guides help, or taking a course or reading a book on design basics. If you want to have the control to still design for yourself whenever you want but lack some design skill but still have that creative knack and a good eye, just a little learning may be all you need.
If you are struggling with the tech, such as using design software, like Adobe, you could look at more simple software like Canva. Or if you are attempting to create your own website but have no idea how to set it up from the technical point a view, you could try an easier platform like Squarespace, or design it yourself and then only outsource the coding and set up.
If you struggle with certain aspects but not all, options like outsourcing the hardest aspects, using simpler software, buying pre-made templates or educating yourself could be the best solution for you.
However, if you are just finding the whole thing too hard, frustrating and time-consuming. Or maybe you feel like you just can’t design to save your life! Then it may be time to look for a designer to help you.
When is the right time to hire a designer?
Hiring a designer when you are only just starting can give you an amazing starting point. But it also has it’s dangers. Businesses evolve and change, especially in the early months and years as you discover what you want to do, what your audience wants and what feels right and is being well received. There is a lot of self discovery and experimentation early on. So commiting to hiring a proffessional to design your branding and graphics has it’s risk. What if you change your mind about the name, or the message or what you offer or even who you audience should be? If you really want to start off proffessionally with a great design, be sure to do a lot of research, ground work and experimentation and talking to your audience behind the scenes first. You need to besure about what it is that you want to do. Not that things will be forever set in stone, but you want it to be able to last a good amount of time and also set the tone for your brand and begin to build that presence and recognition.
Are you ready to be seen? Much like the point above, you need to have all your ground work done. A solid plan, all your copy and images ready to go and products ready. Once you launch, it is going to bring attention to you. This could even mean getting featured, getting PR and building your audience. If there are things that are not ready and in place to handle that, you may want to hold off on the professional designing until you are ready. This does not mean, using it as an excuse to procrastinate and never make the move, but be sure enough is in place that you do not leave your designer hanging waiting for you to finish something off or are launching your amazingness out into the world with things half finished and not being able to properly capitalise on the exposure.
If you have been around a while and have either been feeling unsatisfied with your current design and branding or have got to a point where you are clear about your goals and what you offer and want to step things up, then it may be a good time to hire a designer.
Then there is the re-brand. If you have realised that things are not working, or you want to pivot direction and feel much more confident about the way you are heading then before, hiring a designer to help you make that move, will really boost your confidence about it and make you feel like you are stepping things up and taking it to a more professional level this time.
The key is clarity. You need to be clear about your project and that is what you really want to do. But also don’t be afraid that it will lock you in forever. Just be confident that it is something you want to pursue for a good chunk of time, and you have a good plan in place, have gotten to know your audience and their needs well and your research is done.
Do you have the budget?
Hiring professionals can be a big investment. Before getting too excited that you want to hire a designer, it is important to look at what kind of budget you have available. If things are too tight, you will likely waste your time and the time of designers quoting you, by aksing around only to find it is out of reach.
If you are starting out and have an upfront start-up budget and want to include design work in that, be sure to map out all your start up needs and make room for design work. If you can’t afford to outsource everything at once, you may want to take baby steps and outsource the most critical things first or the things you struggle with the most first.
My suggestions– If you are starting a business, start with getting your logo professionally designed. If you need a website, find and buy a template you love and pay someone to help you make small but effective customisations. If you are working on a blog, buy a nice theme and then hire someone to design a great banner for the top.
Unsure what it cost to hire a designer? Look around at a few designers websites for package prices or ask in facebook groups. Generally though for small things to get you starting you are looking in the hundreds of dollars, but if you want to do full branding or a website it’ll likely be in the thousands.
Do you have the time?
Even if you have the skill, confidence and know how to design for yourself, is the time it would take you to do it of less value then the cost to hire someone?
If your business is blossoming and things are going well and you are busy, even if you feel confident to tackle your own design, you then need to ask if it is a good use of your time. Are there other areas of your business that only you can do that need your time more than design?
I have seen successful business owners, that have in the past worked as designers, still outsource their design, because it is not the best use of their time. Paying someone else to do it, means they can better concentrate on their true zone of genius rather then fuss over their design.. because after all we are our own worst critiques and tend to fuss over our own work.
Having the skill and a good eye will only enhance your experience with a designer as you will be able to bring a clear vision of what you want, and they can do the hard work of bringing it to life for you.
What are the alternatives to hiring a designer?
Learn how to Design Yourself
If you have creative skill and a good eye, simply improving your skill set and knowledge may be all you need to tackle your design work yourself. If you want to improve your technical skill, you way want to take courses on Adobe software, or if you want to use something like Canva, there a plenty of great articles on their blog.
Even watching YouTube Videos can help you hone your skill.
Once you gain that skill, it will be of great value, as you don’t need to hire out every design job you need, but can always easily create the graphics you need on the fly.
Buy and use pre-made templates and customise to your needs.
If you are good at tweaking things and adjusting them to the look and feel you want, but struggle with starting or knowing how to lay things out well. Buying pre-made templates for graphics and brand elements can help get you that head start. Be sure to first plan out four fonts, colours and any other elements, so that you have a guide to turn to, to make sure you customise everything in line with your branding and don’t get carried away by something pretty that is inconsistent with the rest of your visual branding.
Experiment with design
If designing seems to come naturally to you or you feel you can easily pick it up, experimenting may be the fastest and easiest way for you to get better and better and designing your own graphics and finding your style.
When artists are taught how to create art and find their style, they are often advised to first copy the masters. It is the same with learning design by experimentation. While it helps to know some of the fundamental design principles. A great way to learn and get better at designing is to first imitate and copy others. But tread carefully (Don’t share things that are too close to the original, this will tread on copyright problems and will reflect poorly on you, as it is often quiet obvious) . If you copy something closely to learn, keep it private as part of your learning. As you get the hang of it, pick up on ideas and principles that work well from your imitating, you will then be able to discover your own design style and create more unique designs that can be shared and used for your branding.
Check out places like Pinterest or Dribble for design inspiration. My Pinterest is full of Design inspiration of that helps get you started!
What should you do once you decide to hire a Designer?
So if you have decided hiring a designer is the best thing for you, here are some tips to help you prepare for outsourcing your design work.
Get clear on your message and style
Get clear about your business or project message. What do you offer, who do you help, why do you do what you do, what makes you different.
Then what kind of style do you think would best represent you and what you do and appeal to your audience? While the designer will help you with this, starting to get a general idea of what you want will really help. Start a Pinterest board and collect inspiration. Think about the vibe and feel you want to create.
Know your audience
Get clear on who your audience is, why they need you and why they are drawn to you. Who are they, what do the like, where are they from and what do they struggle with. Knowing your audience well will make it easier for your designer to craft a style and brand that speaks to your audience and attracts the right people to you.
Plan what you need done
Work out exactly what design work you will need help with. Consider if there are things you can do yourself or things you just need a template designed for that you can edit each time you need it. And then what things need to be fully taken care of by a designer. What will it be used for, and will it be printed or digital or both? If you need help working this out, check out my post “How to Decide What Graphics Your Creative Business Needs”
Organise your content
To be better prepared when you approach a designer, it is a good idea to started preparing and getting all your content together, including your copy (as in text) and images such as photography or any existing graphics you want to be used. While there may be time to work on some of this during the design process, the more you have ready upfront, the easier it makes the designers job and the faster it makes the process.
Decide on your budget
Before looking at any designers, decide on your ideal budget, and also have a stretch budget. While you may have an ideal price range you want to spend. You may come across your dream design style is the perfect fit for your project and you feel like they will really get you but they are just outside your decided budget, this is where a stretch budget comes in. How much are you willing to pay to get that perfect design, rather then something that you are just happy with. You want to be excited about your visual identity, so don’t settle for less just because it is all you can afford right now. Either wait and save, find a way to stretch the budget or talk to the designer to see if there is a way to reduce what they offer you so that it can fit in your budget. Be aware some designers will not be willing to budge, and that is there right as a business owner. But it can never hurt to ask, and if they say no, start a plan to save up, and just let them know you are saving up and will be back in touch once you are ready.
If you have any special events or significant exposure coming up and there are any parts of your project that need to be done by a certain time. It is important to note this, look for a designer who can work within that timeframe and that you are upfront with them about the urgency and deadline.
Take the time to look around and look at various designers. Look at their portfolios and see if there style suits your project and the feel you want. Find designers who usually work with similar types of people and will get your industry and your needs. Look at what they offer and if they have experience with the types of work you will require. And also ask around for recommendations or look at testimonials to see if it feels like a good fit. There is nothing wrong with stalking them a bit, reading their blog posts, checking out their social media, and getting a vibe off them. Remember you will be working together, creating something special together and you want to find someone you feel you can click with and will produce the kind of work you will fall in love with. If you find a few you like make a short list and then see who has an offer or package that you feel best suits your needs.
Get clear before designing
So whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a designer it yourself, it helps to first to the ground work and research, so that you are clear on what you want to communicate and offer and who you want to attract. To help get you started I have created a little checklist worksheet, so you can be sure you have considered all the basics and are ready to either get designing or hire a designer.