Posts by Jordan Southard

Questions to ask a graphic designer before you hire them

The old saying ‘You get what you pay for’ is often 100% true in the design world. When looking to hire someone for graphic design work, it is important to ask the right questions to make sure you know exactly what you are getting for your money. Here are a few examples of what you should be aware before hiring a graphic designer:

Where can I see examples of your work?

These cases are relevant whether they have a website portfolio, a behance.net or dribbble.com account or some other type of portfolio to see re-world examples of work they have done. Now one thing you have to consider is some designers are very limited by their clients what work they can share in their portfolio, as well as busy graphic designers ofter let their portfolio’s slide when business is great. Either way, you will need to see some of their capabilities before hiring them.

Who can I talk to that has worked with you in the past?

A good graphic designer will have a client that they have worked with in the past that you will be able to reach out and ask questions. Just getting a couple of names from your designer will help to ensure they have good past and present relationships with their clients. If you end up following up with some of their customers, the most important types of questions to ask are likely about their communication, competency and whether they delivered in a timely matter.

Who is doing the actual work? Who will be my primary point of contact?

One of the worst feelings in the world is when you develop a relationship with someone during the sales process, only to be passed off to someone that you find out isn’t delivering the promised goods. It is important to know who is doing the actual work as well as who will be returning your calls or emails. You will also want to know what kind of partners or employees will be working on this project ahead of time. Is this person going to take your project and immediately pass it off to some other company to finish the work? You want to find out as much about the process as you can.

If I need stock photography, where will you be purchasing it from?

So, let me start by saying “Google Images” is never the answer. Did you know if your designer steals a photo or image you can be held responsible? On the same note, please be cautious about scams where people falsely lay claim to a picture on your site and try to con you into paying them. Any skilled graphic designer is well aware of getting images from legitimate sources or creating their own. It is just important to be on the same page from the beginning.

What is the project timeline?

Well, we all live and die by schedules. A graphic design project is no different. You want to make sure you know ahead of time if this project is going to take six days or six months to complete. Defining milestones are also important so you can make sure the project is progressing along as promised to you. When will the project actually start versus how long the project will take is important as well.

What are my precise deliverables for this project?

Who owns the designs once they are bought and paid for? Is your graphic designer licensing the use of their designs or will you own them outright?

What kinds of files will be provided for this project? If you are designing a logo, you should ensure your file is in vector format. If the project is for a brochure, you might have to negotiate a higher price for the AI, PSD or ID design files if you plan to hand these off to another graphic designer in the future.

How will you be billing me for this project?

There are a lot of different ways which designers and developers charge for service. Some things that we like to focus on are What are your payment terms and requirements? Can you provide me with a W-9?

A skilled graphic designer or web developer will be able to answer all of these questions for you quickly as well as provide you with an in-depth view of what their process will be.

High Value Targets

High Value Targets (HVT) is a term borrowed from the US military. Wikipedia defines a high value target (HVT) as “a target (a person or resource) that an enemy commander requires to complete a mission.” The business world takes a slightly different approach to the idea of HVTs.

Why don’t we first look at the difference between High Value Targets and Low Value Targets.

Low Value Targets are products, experiences, activities, etc. They produce little to no results towards important objectives.

High Value Targets are an exercise, activity or engagement that will yield the highest returns toward your important objectives.

We all have limited resources. These resources can be described as ATTENTION, FOCUS, ENERGY, MONEY and so on. The most important resource of all is TIME. Time is the one thing we never get back no matter how hard we work, how much we try, time is a limited commodity. What our number one daily goal must be is to focus on that which brings forward the best return for the use of our limited resources. There are just 24 hours in each day to cram in sleeping, eating, working and free time. Every single day we must pick and choose resources to utilize that allow us to achieve our most valuable objectives efficiently and effectively.

So while it seems like sometimes you must take the time to respond to hundreds/thousands of emails, you must ask yourself if spending hours a day on email is really the most valuable use of your limited resources. Many other entrepreneurs I know typically try to limit email to about 1 hour a day, usually first thing in the morning. This helps them stay on track, maintain focus and engage the High Value Targets.

Good Design is Good Business

While it might seem advantageous and beneficial to hire someone who is studying graphic design in college, more often than not, you will end up with sub-par results. One of the main advantages of using an experienced designer is, in fact, their experience. Would you consider hiring someone that’s in college learning about building to build your house? You likely would hire someone with the reputation and the skill to oversee the project, with the less experienced person as their apprentice. Let’s now shift back to business, the graphic design student, might be there helping build the brand, but you have someone with experience managing the execution and hopefully mentoring the nephew. 

A seasoned professional has the skills to complete the job if problems or unknown situations arise. They have a network of resources that they can lean upon to finish the job on time. With experience, comes speed and viability. On the surface, many things look great when hiring someone will little experience, but once you get further along it will often end up costing you more for time spent training or correcting the negative impact on your brand from missed opportunities and poor design choices.

Good design is good business. Clients sometimes ask ‘Why does it matter as long as my message is out there?’ This attitude is a dangerous point of view. Sub-par or off-brand designs end up looking like a cheap knock-off. Even worse than buying the knock-off designer handbag instead of shelling out for the high-quality real-thing. Sure they may be hard to distinguish from each other at first, but the real one will last. On the flipside, sometimes big name brands are overpriced. The same holds true in the advertising world. If you’re a small business, you can walk into someplace like VaynerMedia in NYC and write a check for 80, 90, 100, 250k a month to get the biggest name in the business, but they too might not be the best for your business.

My suggestion for anyone looking to take their brand to the next level, you need to make sure you are getting the most out of your money. Find someone with experience who also keeps in touch with what is going on in the ‘now.’ There is no shortage of subpar boutique advertising agencies that come with a large price tag, but have no idea what they are doing. Many of them may even have a good reputation for work they did in the past, but some “agencies” become stuck with what worked 3, 5, even 10 years ago!

Let me leave you with this one thought. Nothing important existed ten years ago. Not smartphones, not Facebook, not Youtube, not Twitter, not Instagram, not Snapchat. NOTHING.