How to hire a Freelance Graphic Designer

I’ve got some advice for those of you who are looking to hire a freelancer, whether you’re trying to hire a freelance graphic designer, a freelance video editor, a freelance whatever you happen to need today. We’re going to cover five things that you need to know when hiring a freelancer, and I think this is going to be helpful for the far majority of you, especially if you’re dabbling in something or you’re running a small business.

I’m also going to give just a little bit of advice for freelancers out there who should have an understanding of what a client might need and should be looking for. I’m going to cover how to find a freelancer in the first place, how to choose one, how to work with them, how much to pay them, and also how to make sure that you’re getting what you paid for.

So you’ll definitely want to read this to the end.

One of the things a lot of people tell me that they struggle with is that they can’t find a freelancer in the first place, and there’s a couple of different ways you can go about it. One of the ways that I strongly recommend is that you get a referral from a trusted friend, business partner, or somebody that’s already in your network.

If somebody in your network has already used a freelancer for their services, then it’s probably going to be one of the best relationships you can have. So that’s probably where you need to start. Ask a friend, a family member, or somebody that you look up to or that you know who’s hired for this kind of thing before.

If you don’t have anyone in your network, or you don’t have anyone that you trust that you can ask for a referral, then maybe just maybe you go and you look at a freelancing website. I am going to recommend two here. There are some people who are freelancers who are not going to like these recommendations, but the thing is there needs to be an answer for everyone.

I have had great experiences with Upwork, and I’m planning to do a post that actually is a review of my experience on that, and I’m also getting ready to run a few experiences in 99designs so that I can show you guys what my experience of that has been.

Now a lot of my friends who are authors, public speakers, and have hired out for other things have used both of these services. I’ve used Upwork. I’ve also hired freelancers directly in my network. So those are things that I’m very comfortable talking about.You can use these online marketplaces to find people and contract them for services, and it makes this whole process a lot easier if you don’t know where to start or how any of this works. So I would recommend that.

Ideally I would prefer that you have a personal one-on-one relationship with somebody that you want to hire, but that’s not always going to be a practical answer or an answer that gets things done quickly enough for you. So there needs to be a solution for everyone.

The one thing I’m going to caution you on is do not be tempted to go to Fiver. Do not do it. I understand that there are people that have had great experiences with it. If you want to play Russian roulette, I’m not going to be held responsible for what happens to you. You have been warned.

With those options in mind, how do you choose a freelancer to work with in the first place? Well, there are a couple of things that I personally look for when I’m hiring anyone. I obviously look at their portfolio and their body of work for whatever it is that I’m hiring for. But I also try to get a sense of their personality.

If I’m able to call them and interview them via Skype or via phone or meet them in person, then it’s easier to get a sense of their personality. If not, I have to rely on that through their work, possibly by looking them up in social media, and I have to decide if they’re a comfortable fit for me.

A lot of you think that the work is the work, and I understand that, but to be honest, relationships matter a lot. And being able to be aligned, being able to communicate well with somebody, is going be the make or break point between whether you get the most out of them for your money or not.

So personality is at least as far as I’m concerned a huge priority, in some cases more than their portfolio and body of work. Again, they’re going be professionals out there who disagree with me on this. There are going to be business owners who disagree with me on this.

This is just what my experience has taught me. Whenever I’ve hired by prioritizing personality, I’ve never regretted it. When I’ve been very impressed with someone’s work, and then they’ve been a pain in the butt to work with, it’s because I overemphasized the quality of their work versus their personality and how they communicate and how they behave.

Finally, I also look at the presentation. I look at the way that someone represents themselves before deciding to put my brand in their hands. So I take a hard look at that. Again, this one is a take it or leave it, you have to decide what you’re most comfortable with.

Now regard to some other practical considerations in hiring, you also can and should look at their depth of experience, whether that’s the volume of their body of work or their years of experience or specific skills that you would prefer that they have or whether or not they’ve served a key target market.

Too often people look at impressive work and don’t look at whether or not the work that someone has done aligns with their industry or what they would need or the style that they prefer to have things done in, and that could make a difference. Also, I look for people who have compatible workflows with mine. The thing is that I ultimately do a lot of in-house work myself for my business.

I also work with people all over the country, if not all over the world, and we have to be on the same page. And in my case what that means is we’re using Adobe software across the board. So if you have software compatibility issues, if there’s a reason where you guys are using all Mac software for example. Let’s say that your workflow is something that’s very Mac specific. Let’s say you’re using ScreenFlow, or you’re using Final Cut Pro.

If you hire a video editor, they need to be on Final Cut Pro or ScreenFlow or whatever you’re using. A lot of people who are creatives will argue that no no no, it’s about the results, it doesn’t matter what tools you use. From a business standpoint, we know better.

We know that workflows matter, systems matter, systems scale businesses, and that’s the difference between someone who might be a business owner or have an agency versus somebody who’s just a freelancer.

A freelancer is a hired gun. They can work with whatever they prefer and whatever’s best for them. The problem is that if we have to hire them, they have to conform to our constraints much in the same way that if we hired an employee, and they worked in the office, they would have to use the tools that we provide them in most cases.

So, as a business owner, as an employer, I prioritize people who use the systems and workflows that I’m accustomed to and that all my other vendors use and that my in-house people are going to be using. So, that’s something you might need to look at. Whether that means that people need to be using specific software or operating systems or hardware, you need to look at that.

For those who are creatives, you need to understand that if you were a professional photographer, and you hire a second shooter, most people who hire a second shooter as a photographer are going to hire someone who’s using the exact same camera system as them. Why? They can swap out accessories, batteries, and lenses very easily, and they they can explain things to each other and be on the same page very rapidly.

You might like to shoot Canon. I’m shooting Panasonic. I don’t have lenses that are compatible with yours, or I would have to invest in a speed booster to build a swapout and use your lenses, and it doesn’t mean that it’ll produce the same results, et cetera, et cetera. It’s the same thing with file compatibilities and systems.

So I understand where you’re coming from, you want to be valued on your work only and not your tools, but there are business owners who that’s not gonna work out for. I happen to be one of them. Let’s talk a little bit about how to work with a freelancer.

Once you decided whether you hire someone through a referral or that you reach out directly or maybe you even took out an ad and hired somebody, you have to figure out what the working relationship is gonna be like. You have to figure out how you’re gonna communicate with them.

So you have to know, is it going to be via email that change requests are made and that you are communicating with them, or is it gonna be via phone calls? Is it gonna be via Skype meetings? Are you going to be using Slack, or are you gonna be using a project management system? This has to be clear, and you have to have a consistent form of communication, and you need to be able to reach each other. One of the reasons that I don’t like certain websites, Fiver being an example, is I don’t like situations where I don’t feel like I own the relationship with my vendor, with my freelancer, with my service provider.

I like that sense of control. A lack of control creates anxiety for me, especially when it comes to getting work done, and so I need that in order to feel comfortable. Which is like why I love to hire directly more often than not, rather than using a website or a service or a platform where I don’t have that. Now with regard to communication and things like that, I feel that Upwork does a pretty decent job of allowing you that.

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They’re not sponsoring this video, I’m just saying that that’s what my experience has been using that particular platform. So that’s why I recommend Upwork and 99designs over something like Fiver. That’s one of many reasons. But you just have to keep that in mind.

In general, you need to go ahead and have that agreement in place of this is how we’re gonna communicate, this is how we’re capable or allowed to communicate, and then you need to make sure that all communication is clear. You as the client need to set clear expectations for your designer from jump street or it’s going to be a problem.

You need to also make sure that you understand what it is that they’re gonna be providing to you, and that you ask appropriate questions. If you don’t know, then ask. You are the employer. Don’t worry about being embarrassed. Clarity is the most important thing. Don’t worry about how you’re going to look or be perceived.

I guarantee you that they’re not judging you, and even if they are, they wanna get the work done for you and they wanna deliver because that’s the only way they’re gonna get paid. So don’t worry about the embarrassment, just be clear. Speaking of getting paid, let’s talk about that.

Typically in a given situation when you’re working with a freelancer, you’re going to either have service fees, flat rates, or hourly rates. There is a temptation by many people who hire freelancers to get the cheapest hourly rate possibly. I prefer to pay in flat fees for a project. This might require you as someone hiring to do your research as far as what something costs.

If you don’t know what something costs, and you don’t know what’s appropriate, ask somebody. Find a person in social media who provides that service, reach out to them, DM them whatever, and ask how much they would charge for something like that, and then start to figure out whether that’s in your budget, and then negotiate with your freelancer. Or you could just ask your freelancer what their rates and what their fees are. You could just ask, and then you can haggle if you want to one way or the other.

I prefer to do this. I prefer to set a fixed budget for what it is I know I am going to spend both in a maximum, and then I set myself an ideal range of what I would like to get as far as a deal or what I would like to save. But I set myself a minimum and a maximum.

And then I usually do my own research, understand what the pricing that is reasonable and what is the average and so on and so forth, and I get some quotes, and then I’ll ask the freelancer what is it that they feel comfortable to charge. And then I’m able to make a decision from there.

I usually find that you get better pricing when you do this. I also feel that when you let the freelancer tell you what they’re valuing their work at, you get a more honest communication, you have a much better relationship, because they don’t feel like they’re getting screwed.

They feel like they asked for something, and then you either said yes to it, or you asked more and more detail, what you might be getting for that. You can negotiate, maybe not on the price, but on value. Rather than trying to talk the freelancer down in price, I would say well if I pull back these requests, could we get this closer to this number because that’s what my budget is? So if I make it a little easier on you, and you don’t have to do nearly as much work, can you work out a better deal for me? I would use that language, and I would go that route.

If you want more things, which is usually the direction I go, is I actually usually end up asking for more rather than less, and then I just increase the price accordingly in terms of what I feel comfortable with, and ask them if that’s alright or if that’s what they’re comfortable with.

And here’s another tip that I use. If I have something that the other person may value or may want, I put it on the table to say, hey, is this something you’re interested in? I let them say yes or no, and then I ask them if they’d like to make a consideration in terms of either adjusting the price in exchange for a service of mine or a product of mine and do some bartering there.

I put it on the table as an option. I don’t usually lead with that. I let people tell me what they’re comfortable with. Sometimes people come to me and want exactly that scenario, or it’s something that they think about. Because there are things that I do have to offer them. So you have to be aware of that. Be careful with this as well.

Don’t offer exposure per se, but if you actually really do have leverage or you want to offer something in terms of saying, well I have more business to do with you, I’m going to be doing bulk orders or ordering you know services from you at a high volume, or I have a network that I can introduce you to in terms of referrals, or I have a large email list.

Would you like to have some type of access to it? These are things that you can discuss, and if the freelancer isn’t open to them, then they’re not open to them. But just be upfront and have a position of integrity and value when you’re negotiating prices and fees. Something else that I consider is I avoid hourly rates whenever possible at all costs.

I don’t think there’s really an incentive when it comes to hourly rates. If you’re painting my house and you’re charging by the hour, you have every incentive to take six months. If I need something done timely, I don’t go in an hourly rate. I pay outright because it gives you every incentive to get it done, get paid, and move to the next job.

With regard to those payments, if you’re using a platform, the payment is held in escrow and then you have to review and approve everything before the payment’s released. If you’re doing this on your own, working with a freelancer, maybe ask if payments can be made in terms of installments based on stages of work that are completed and reviewed and approved by you as the client Or do something like a deposit 1/3 or 1/2 upfront, and then the rest incrementally.

Figure out what you’re comfortable with, and if possible try to either have a general agreement, a contract, or an invoice in place from the freelancer to just have some paperwork behind this transaction. In terms of how to make payments, PayPal, Stripe, and Venmo are great payment systems.

I highly recommend those. And those are great ways to work with freelancers. Typically if you’re using an online platform, it is compatible with those things. PayPal being the most widely used of all right now. Finally let’s talk about how to make sure you’re getting what you paid for. Ultimately, you should put some kind of review process for approval in place for final payment, and it should be clear how many revisions you are allowed as the client. Do not make the assumption of assuming you have unlimited revisions or that you’re entitled to that.

This is someone’s time and livelihood, so just try to do a fair deal and be honest and upfront about what your expectations are, what you need, what deadlines are. I would also make sure that when you’re working with freelancers, give them soft deadlines. If something is due on Friday, don’t tell ’em it’s due on Friday.

As for it by Tuesday or Wednesday to give yourself room for flexibility. Like just give yourself that buffer in the worst case scenario. Because there’s a lot that you don’t control in this situation, and you don’t want to be left holding a bag, you don’t want to be in an uncomfortable situation for you.

You also don’t want to put your freelancer under the gun. So you know just give some slack where it’s needed. Getting a deposit in place and then holding the remainder of the money until a project’s completed is the best case scenario in terms of making sure you’re getting what you paid for, in terms of getting the final files. You know you could do that at roughly the same time or same day as far as a transaction. I think that that’s usually fine.

Just make sure that clear communication is being had by you know you and your freelancer if you wanna make sure that you’re both getting what you paid for. No one likes to have a bad referral or a bad reference, no one likes a bad testimonial. Everyone wants to feel that they’ve been treated fairly.

So just make sure that you’re operating accordingly and that you’re making it easy for them and for you. So clients out there, I hope this helps you understand how to hire a freelancer and tells you some things that maybe you needed to know.

If you’re out there and you’re a freelancer, maybe this gives you a better insight into the way that a good client should deal with you, how you should be treated, and also maybe you understand what a client might be looking for a little better. Also if you have any tips or advice that you want to offer, either freelancers or clients, leave those in the comments section.

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