For many small businesses, hiring a graphic designer or illustrator can seem like a daunting task, so here are 8 things you must know before you hire a creative pro for your next project. My name is Brittany Lewis and I am a creative entrepreneur with over a decade of experience working with independent creators and small businesses with their graphic design and illustration needs and I want to help you hire like a boss.
Number 1 – Have an idea of what you want
This may come as a no brainer, but the more prepared you are to actually articulate your idea, the better your designer or illustrator of choice can provide accurate information including pricing and proposed scheduling.
A seasoned professional, such as myself,, will ask you as many questions as possible to determine the scope of work involved in your project. This isn’t to get all in your business or to farm for ideas. I say this because a lot of people who have never have never hired before tend to be secretive with what they are looking for and it can be like pulling a sucker from a toddler to find out what the project actually is. We ask questions to be able to create an offering specific to your requirements and it offers your professional of choice all of the information they may need to determine how they can best be of service. In my practice, this is typically done with a face to face meeting either in person or on zoom.
Number 2 – Have a goal in mind
To piggy back on knowing what you want, it can also be helpful to have a goal in mind. This looks like knowing when you’d like to launch, what audience you want to reach, where you see your company in the long run and how you intend to use the art that you’re having commissioned. What’s your overall objective? Having a goal in mind can help your professional of choice create work tailored specifically to your vision for your company which can also help attract your ideal audience. A great example of this is in children’s books. A book targeting kindergarteners will look and read completely different than a book of the same subject targeted toward middle schoolers. The same goes with logo and branding design. Sometimes the request is for a logo but the need is for better visibility and a clearer brand identity which can be achieved through other means. You want to make sure you’re clear on your goal to help paint the picture for your creative pro to make images perfectly suited for you and your desired audience.
Number 3 – Have a timeline and plan for contingencies
Planning and executing a quality project takes time. Don’t wait until the last minute to hire your graphic artist or illustrator of choice. This can save you time and money in the long run. In the era of instant gratification, we often have unrealistic expectations of how long things should take. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself at least 6 months before you wish to launch your project or business to hire your creative professionals. This doesn’t mean every project will take 6 months but giving yourself at LEAST that much time helps you to plan for any hiccups along the way and helps to ensure the best possible outcome. If you’re in a hurry, just know that it’s not uncommon for creative professionals to charge a rush fee for last minute work. It is not the responsibility of your creative professional to make up for your lack of planning. So if you want to save yourself some time, money and a headache, plan at least 6 months out.
Number 4 – Do your due diligence
One of he hurdles that I face is working around people’s preconceived notions of what hiring a creative is like. There’s a lot of misinformation and unrealistic expectations around hiring a professional graphic artist or illustrator. And unfortunately, it’s often punctuated by stories of some of the negative experiences that other people have had. As a matter of fact, a lot of the content that I’ve seen around hiring professionals is almost always told from the perspective of “Beware of the big bad creative! They’re out to get you.” The thing is, there are tons of ethical and reputable graphic designers and illustrators out there, it’s a matter of connecting with the right people. I look at it like this, there are too many logos floating around, too many ad campaigns and websites popping up for EVERYONE to be having a hard time hiring a creative.
So how do you combat that and have an overall positive experience? Easy, by doing your due diligence. Thoroughly research the person you’re looking to hire. With so many reports of people being taken advantage of, it can be a bit of a challenge to trust people you’ve never met and I get it, especially for first time clients, but doing little due diligence in selecting an artist to work with, can reduce your risk significantly.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their creative process and anything else you’d like to know as it relates to your project. This will be a good gauge of their professionalism and to see if they’re someone you want to work with. And if you don’t feel comfortable with an artist, don’t hire them. Don’t try to make a person fit your mold and don’t ignore red flags, there are thousands of talented creators to choose from.
Number 5 – Not all artists are created equally
Make sure the artist you’re choosing to work with works in a style best suited for your project. Not all graphic designers are illustrators and not all illustrators are skilled in graphic design. Make sure that you’re well researched on the strengths of the people you wish to work with. A great way to gauge a designer or illustrator’s skill level is through their portfolio or anywhere they share their art.
Number 6 – You get what you pay for
The more experienced a professional is, the higher the price tag is likely to be. You pay for their skill, their expertise and the value that they bring to your project while on the other hand, less experienced professionals and students alike may cost a lot less to work with but you don’t get the same level of expertise you might get with a seasoned veteran. Likewise, 3rd party sites such as Fiverr and UpWork will cost much less than hiring a creative entrepreneur but you get what you pay for. If hiring from those sites is where your budget lies then that’s perfectly okay, it’s just a good rule of thumb to lower your expectations with these sites. For some, these sites can be good starting places for your business but they aren’t great for a tailored experience and they definitely aren’t good places to gauge industry standard prices. Something else that I have noticed is that a lot of the negative experiences we hear about are from these types of sites. So be careful in these spaces. Your budget can have a deep impact on the type of service you receive. Either way, as you grow, so too will your desire for an elevated service experience. If push comes to shove you can always save up to work with the more established creators or seek additional funding to be able to hire the more top rated creatives.
Number 7 – Be prepared to sign a contract and pay a non-refundable deposit
Any reputable service provider will require you to sign an agreement and pay a deposit to begin services. This helps keep everyone involved honest as well as locks in your time with the service provider. This contract should be explicit in the terms and conditions as well as the scope of work. This includes your deliverables or what you’ll receive for the amount paid, any applicable fees, the number of revisions allotted for your project and other important matters.
Number 8 – Hiring a professional does not guarantee copyrights to the finished work
Lastly, be aware that hiring someone to create work for you does not guarantee you copyrights of that creation. This is important and not talked about enough. There are two types of contracts, which we’ll get into a little later. They are work-for-hire agreements and licensing agreements. Each has their own pros and cons for both the client and creator, and each can be written in a way as to give exclusivity to the client but it’s always good to be fully aware of the copyright agreement of your project.
If for instance, you’re hiring someone to illustrate a children’s book for you, unless specified in your agreement, you do not own the copyrights to those illustrations. So when it’s time to copyright your work, you can only copyright the part that you contributed to the project which in this case is the manuscript and vice versa, the artist can only copyright what they contributed and created, the illustrations. It is not uncommon to have to pay a premium for copyrights. It’s like a musician signing over their masters. In most cases, a well informed artist will only do so at a much higher price point.
So that wraps up 8 things you need to know before hiring a graphic designer or illustrator for your next project. I wanted to create this post because I’ve worked with many clients who have never hired a professional before or who are coming off of negative and less than professional experiences and it dawned on me that although it’s our job as creative entrepreneurs to help guide the creative process, there’s really not a lot of information out there geared specifically toward small businesses and independent creators from the perspective of people who actually do this for a living.. So if you like this video and want to see more about working with a graphic designer or illustrator from the perspective of a professional, be sure to check out my YouTube Channel!