Designers are everywhere, at every price point. I wish I could say that price and quality correlate. They don’t. But a good designer, at whatever price, is a great asset.
The most common error made by design customers? Spending too little time selecting a designer and too much time micromanaging their work.
Instead, invert the priority. Spend all the time you want choosing a designer. Be candid about your expectations. But then step aside and let the designer do their work their way. You’ll get better results.
These days, any decent designer has an online portfolio. Reviewing portfolios is the easiest way to find potential designers. Ask colleagues for recommendations. Or note design work you like, and find out who did it.
There are thousands of designers out there. This will sound a little mean, but I think necessary: if anything about a designer’s online portfolio gives you pause, then move on. In particular, if a designer doesn’t host their own portfolio under their own domain name, it signals laziness or ineptitude. Move on.
It’s fine to ask designers to show you samples of work they’ve done for similar clients. It’s also fine to ask for a detailed proposal with deliverables and budget. It’s wise to negotiate a fair procedure for canceling the project before the end (e.g., a pro rata kill fee).
But don’t ask for discounts or spec work. That just makes you look like an irritating cheapskate. At the bottom of this barrel are those who further insist “this project will be great exposure.”
It can be convenient to work with a local designer. But it’s hardly mandatory. Designers today are comfortable working remotely and emailing ideas and proofs. Indeed, if you live outside a major city, a remote designer is probably inevitable.
It used to be that if you were working on a print project, it could be an advantage to work with a local designer. They’d often know of good local printers. But these days, printing is also done remotely. So this matters less.
Test all design work in context before approving it. For instance, if you hire a designer to make letterhead, always test sample designs by printing out a real letter, or have the designer mock one up. Likewise, for a website, insist on some real HTML pages, not a Photoshop prototype.
Consensus kills. If you work with others, approval authority for design work should be vested in the smallest possible group of people. And definitely not subject to popular vote. You’ll never please everyone, so there’s no point in trying.