How to hire a freelance Graphic Designer


A guide to hiring the very best graphic designers

Written with help from Carrie S.

There are wide range of projects where the input from an expert graphic designer are crucial. For example, creating a logo or brand identity, designing a brochure or advertising banner, right through to designing a complete website. But with hundreds of vetted UK graphic designers to choose from, how do you hire the right freelance graphic designer for your project?

In this guide, we'll look at some common traits of a successful freelance graphic designer and some interview style questions you can ask to check they are right for your project:

In this guide

How to hire a freelance Graphic Designer

What makes a good freelance graphic designer?

There are a number of common traits shared by exceptional graphic designers:

Problem solving ability

It's easy to think of graphic design as 'making things look pretty'. But a great graphic designer does more than simply set colour schemes and typography. A great graphic designer solves problems. Here are some examples:

"Design me a logo"

Actually means, "create me a simple, memorable representation of my business my customers will understand".

"Make my event poster look nice"

Actually means, "create an advert for my event that's going to stand out on a very busy high-street, and persuade people to come".

"Fix my facebook advertising banner"

Actually means, "Make my promotional message stand out and encourage people to click, whilst complying with Facebook's advertising standards".

You see, what seems to be a simple task of applying some colours and some fonts, are much more complex problems to solve.

Knowledge and experiences

Whether a good designer is born or bred is debatable. Having 'an eye for design' is one thing, but any great designer will tell you that choosing colour palettes, typography and composition is as much a learned skill as an inherited one.

A good graphic designer's experiences are arguably more valuable than their grasp of design theory. For example, if you are an events company needing to design a promotional email, a graphic designer's experiences of creating emails and flyers for successful events is more valuable to you than their knowledge of the rule of thirds.

A healthy dislike of rules and convention

The very best graphic designers know when to follow the rules and when to break out into something new. This is one of the greatest assets a freelance graphic designer can bring to your project.

If you look at any industry and pick three like-for-like competitors, you'll notice very quickly there are similarities. This is a result of the competitors 'borrowing' ideas or elements they like from each. After a while, the competitors are so similar, no one stands out.

Hiring a freelance graphic designer is the best way to break the vicious, "this is what our industry expects", cycle. A good graphic designer will help you break the old rules and introduce something fresh.

Communicates with clarity

It may be surprising but the most important part of the creative process is the communication at the start. Asking the right questions and expressing a concept or direction as a solution is the key to starting any successful graphic design project. With the wrong input, getting the output right on the first attempt is difficult.

A good freelancer graphic designer will ask lots of questions, gathering as much about you, your business and your industry as possible. They will then discuss their proposed solution with you. As you can appreciate, communicating effectively at this stage is crucial - even the best idea will fail to get the go-ahead if it's pitched in the wrong manner.

Mastery of creative tools

This final trait may seem obvious. Of course, a graphic designer should be able to produce a finished output. However, there is a difference between being able to use a tool and mastering it. For example, resizing a photo in Photoshop is a very basic task but creating 3D objects and automating processes in Photoshop requires expert level knowledge.

It is important when hiring a freelance graphic designer to ensure they have the required level of understanding of the tools needed for your project. You will benefit from a higher standard of output, and it is always most cost-effective to hire an expert even if it means paying a slightly higher hourly rate.


Writing a brief for your freelance graphic design project

As mentioned in our guide on writing an effective brief, your brief is the difference between a good project outcome and a bad project outcome.

Here are some tips to remember when briefing a graphic designer:

Describe the problem you need solving

It's tempting to jump straight to attempting to describe the picture you have in your mind. But it's worth starting at the beginning with the problem you are solving. Using one of the examples from earlier...

"Design me an A4 poster with people running on it" may seem like a clear brief, but starting with the problem adds a whole new layer of clarity.

For example, here's some context of the problem which provides more information and context and will help your designer make better decisions. "I have a running club for stay at home mums and the elderly. I'm opening up a new area and I want to offer discounted membership fees for the first 100 who sign up. I'm going to put up a poster outside the local leisure centre".

Don't mandate anything more than the essentials

When describing the desired result, it can be tempting to put on your designer's hat and be extremely prescriptive about what you want the designer to create. To get the most value from your graphic designer's talents, you should only mandate the very essentials. For example, you might include the wording of a particular offer or product description in your brief. The more you control the output, the more you restrict the graphic designer's scope to solve your problem.

Agree on amends up front

Any graphic designer will appreciate feedback and amends are a part of every project. The great graphic designers will want to agree on the number of amends in scope of the project before it begins. Two rounds are considered an acceptable number of amends:

Two rounds of amends, managed correctly by both you and the freelancer will be plenty for the majority of projects. If you or your business has quirks that mean you'll need an extra round of amends, this should be agreed upon up front so the freelancer can work this into their quote.


Questions to ask your freelance graphic designer

After you have created your graphic design project and you are starting to shortlist and discuss the project with freelance graphic designers, here are some questions you could ask to help you select the right one.

Do you have a portfolio?

Every great designer will have a portfolio. It's important to try and review their work as objectively as possible. When reviewing their work, look for their ability to adapt to range of styles or projects.

Have you worked in my industry?

Previous industry experience can greatly shortcut the time to get a project started.

What milestones would you deliver my project in?

This is good way for you to get an understanding of the deliverables you can expect, without needing to get into anything too specific.

At what stages can I provide feedback?

In other words, at what points in the project will I start to see something I can provide feedback on?

How and when do you work?

Knowing when your chosen freelancer works and how they prefer to communicate, is important for any project. If you prefer giving feedback on the phone, you will be better off hiring a freelancer who keeps similar working hours to you.

In general, it is more beneficial to ask open-ended questions about things like ways of working or previous experience, rather than try and explore specifics.


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How to write effective briefs for freelancers

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