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Tips to Ensure a Freelance Graphic Designer Creates Quality Work

How to Assure Your Freelance Graphic Designer Delivers Quality Work

Graphic design
May 20, 2022
9 minutes

0%

These days there are many terrific freelance graphic design websites where you can hire skilled graphic artists. But how can you ensure that your selected freelance graphic designer delivers quality work if you aren’t a designer yourself? Read on for some actionable tips!

Not that long ago, many people thought freelancers lived and looked like the Big Lebowski. These days, a freelance career is much more common and, in some areas, is becoming even more popular than traditional jobs.

This is undoubtedly the case with graphic design since most designers in the US (90%) work in graphic design freelance. So finding a suitable candidate shouldn’t be that difficult.

However, employers find it the most challenging to ensure that the work you get from a freelancer is high-quality. This article will give you 9 tips on making sure that you’re getting the best results for your money.

Make sure you hire from a reputable platform

There are tons of freelance graphic design jobs websites out there. This means everyone can get their shot at working in graphic design freelance: super-skilled design professionals and total amateurs looking to make a quick buck.

The first step in ensuring you avoid the latter is to choose a reputable freelance graphic design job platform where you can find a skilled candidate. Here are a few ideas on where to look.

  • Upwork
  • Fiverr
  • Freelancer
  • Behance
  • Dribbble
  • Toptal
  • Working not Working
  • Design Hill
  • Design Crowd
  • 99 Designs

The choice of the freelancing platform often also impacts how much you pay for graphic design. For example, Fiverr logo design projects range from just $5 to hundreds of dollars. On the other hand, the hourly rate for graphic designers on Toptal is about $70 per hour, so you definitely won’t be able to get something quite as affordable.

Different platforms have different types of vetting and commission systems in place, so it’s all worth looking into to decide on the best one. Fiverr is definitely an option to consider if you’re after something extremely affordable. Bear in mind, though, that there are a lot of inexperienced designers there.

If you’re ready to dedicate significant time and effort to browsing vast portfolios, Behance offers a tremendous library of graphic design work. But, a lot of the freelance graphic design setup isn’t done for you, meaning you’ll need to negotiate with designers.

Know what to look for in a portfolio

As a non-designer, when I look at a bunch of portfolios, I’m usually feeling sheer awe. But since working for a design company, I’ve also learned how to properly assess a designer portfolio.

Here are a few tips.

Overall look and feel

You may think that with a well-written brief, any designer can adapt to any task, but this isn’t always the case. When looking at a designer’s portfolio, pay attention to colors, typography, shapes, and layout. You’ll often notice that designers stick to a particular style and apply it in most designs.

This isn’t a bad thing. Many newbie designers don’t know how to list freelance graphic design on a resume or portfolio. So, they end up with a salad of every job they’ve ever done and personal projects. Their digital portfolio will look a bit “all over the place” and include designs that aren’t quite polished.

On the other hand, a designer with a well-developed sense of style probably has lots of experience and knows how to play to their strengths and create high-quality work. Moreover, a consistent-looking portfolio is also a sign of professionalism. It means the designer took time to curate their work.

However, if you find that the style and tone of their work simply isn’t hitting the mark, it’s better to move on to the next candidate.

manypixels dribbble.png At ManyPixels, we employ dozens of designers with different styles. However, you’ll notice that our portfolio is still well-curated to give potential clients a sense of our designers’ capabilities.

See some of ManyPixels’ best design works

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Simplicity

A famous design quote suggests that the most extraordinary design asset is simplicity. And it’s very accurate! Creating a simple visual solution to a specific problem is the make of a genuinely skilled designer. If they can deliver maximum results with minimal elements, they will be able to take on almost any design challenge.

graphic design quote chimero.jpg

One of the basic design principles, balance, dictates that a design shouldn’t be able to exist without every single element in it. If you take out an element and the balance is intact, this suggests redundancy.

It’s a clever little hack to assess whether a freelance graphic designer is truly a master of their trade.

Relevancy

When we talk about relevancy there are two things to consider: relevancy to the design task and adherence to the relevant design trends.

Of course, not every business is a trendsetter in their industry, and not every business should be. Still, you definitely don’t want graphics that look dated.

Designers working in graphic design freelance should be especially aware of what’s trending, so a portfolio that looks like or hasn’t been updated for several years is a red flag. It either means that the designer hasn’t been able to get much work (which may point to an issue with quality). Or, it means that they don’t take their work seriously enough. Honestly, I can’t decide which is worse!

Originality

Here’s the big one. Incidentally, it’s the issue that most people looking to hire freelance graphic designers are interested in. Truth be told, it can be challenging to measure the extent to which a piece of design is original. As with any other creative task, it’s doubtful that anything is 100% new and original.

Truly original design work is about approaching a specific problem from a different angle. So instead of using Google’s image search to discover something that looks similar, it’s much better to consider whether this approach is bringing something new.

Wondering how much to pay freelance graphic designers? It’s often worth spending more on designers who exhibit this type of creative problem-solving approach.

Still unsure what I’m talking about? Take a look at these creative packaging designs. Although the graphics themselves are pretty simple, the way they are used to complete the product’s look is absolutely brilliant.

creative pasta packaging.png Packaging of the world

cat milk carton design.png Vera Zvereva on Behance

Interview the candidate

After such a detailed analysis of their portfolio, you might think that meeting the freelance graphic designer is obsolete. Sure, it’s not necessary in some cases if they’re only working on a simple, one-off project or adding some revisions to an existing design.

But an interview is also your chance to assess how they approach the process and discuss the details about the deliverables and timeframes. Although, you should always put the latter in writing if any disputes arise.

Designer's Work Tracking Checklist

Learn how to work effectively with designers: from writing a brief to giving feedback and tracking work.

Moreover, candidates sometimes don’t know how to list freelance graphic design on a resume. For example, if the design hasn’t been made public yet, or if they were just a collaborator on a joint project. An interview gives them the chance to mention any relevant bits of experience (even those unrelated to design), which may help them deliver top-quality work.

For example, a designer who has done a course in social media marketing or manages social media for a side project could be a terrific asset. They know all the technicalities of social media design and have a greater understanding of engagement and social media product placement.

Write a detailed design brief

If we said it once, we’ve said it a million times. A well-written brief is half the job done in graphic design!

In our experience, poorly created design briefs fall into two extremes: too little or too much information. While a designer probably does “know better” than you, you cannot expect them to read your mind. They might have the skill and talent to create a high-quality piece of design. However, it might totally miss the mark without background information and be unusable for your industry and purpose. Here are some of the critical elements every design brief should include:

  • Type of project
  • Purpose of the project
  • Placement of the project
  • Brand guidelines
  • References
  • Timeframe and deliverables

On the other hand, if you get too specific about your ideas (e.g., layout, fonts, shapes), you could miss out on an opportunity to get something much more effective.

A widespread mistake is ignoring the importance of white space. If you insist on adding too many elements to a design, a professional will probably advise you against it. And in this case, you should ignore your initial brief and take the alternative route.

Here’s an extremely famous example from the world of advertising design. A client would probably never think leaving so much empty space on a piece of print design is effective. Luckily, the designer knew this would help deliver a powerful effect and clearly convey the main message (small cars are better).

Check the design against your brief

So, you’ve submitted your brief, and a few days later, your freelance designer submits the first draft. Don’t ignore your initial reaction. If you immediately hate it, your audience will likely react similarly.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the designer is at fault. Go back to your brief and check whether you have made requests that led to this result.

We deal with this situation often. And truthfully, it’s a ubiquitous part of the design process. Sometimes you simply need to see something to see that it doesn’t work. Clients don’t have any additional charges with our own design service if they decide to completely overhaul the design and start from scratch.

With freelance graphic design jobs, things are usually a bit different. A freelancer will often charge extra for additional work, especially if they’ve delivered on the brief provided. Still, it’s usually a much more affordable option than trying to find a new designer to take over the project.

Check the design against your brief

So, you’ve submitted your brief, and a few days later, your freelance designer submits the first draft. Don’t ignore your initial reaction. If you immediately hate it, your audience will likely react similarly.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the designer is at fault. Go back to your brief and check whether you have made requests that led to this result.

We deal with this situation often. And truthfully, it’s a ubiquitous part of the design process. Sometimes you simply need to see something to see that it doesn’t work. Clients don’t have any additional charges with our own design service if they decide to completely overhaul the design and start from scratch.

With freelance graphic design jobs, things are usually a bit different. A freelancer will often charge extra for additional work, especially if they’ve delivered on the brief provided. Still, it’s usually a much more affordable option than trying to find a new designer to take over the project.

Gather feedback from your team

Always get a second opinion, right? Once you’ve written up your own feedback and impressions, you should get some input from your team. Considering their expertise, marketers, copywriting experts, and developers can provide beneficial comments.

Moreover, the rest of your team probably has a much deeper understanding of your target audience than a freelancer. So you can consider their responses a sort of “focus group.” This will allow you to approach the designer with constructive feedback and quickly get top-quality results.

Set up KPIs & follow the metrics

The key difference between art and design is that design always fulfills a specific purpose. So, to know whether you’ve actually received high-quality work you’ll also need to know what purpose a design is supposed to serve.

This isn’t something you can measure or determine overnight in most cases. But, you should still have those key performance indicators to help you check the quality of the design.

Let’s say the freelance graphic design job was to create a landing page for a new campaign. In this case, the most relevant KPI might be the number of clicks on your call to action button. You’ve done the SEO and marketing work and got people on the page, but they aren’t making that final action. Then, there might be an issue with the design. Either the button isn’t visible enough, or the page’s overall structure doesn’t work to guide users to the CTA.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this often-quoted experiment from Hubspot. A simple change in the color of a CTA button led to a 21% increase in conversions!

Follow up

Although the freelance graphic design setup usually means a one-off basis, it’s worth investing a little time and effort into building a relationship with a quality freelancer. If you don’t have or intend to get graphics elsewhere (in-house or from an unlimited design service), establishing a good working relationship can save you time and money and avoid stress.

After the final design has been submitted, you may ask the freelancer to provide feedback on their perspective and inquire if they’re interested in something a little more long-term. Since the uncertainty of their next gig is one of the biggest challenges for freelancers, they’ll likely jump on an opportunity to win a recurring client.

This is where you might want to consider how much to pay freelance graphic designers working for you on a more permanent basis. Often, they will agree to give you a reduced rate or some sort of package deal, which can be pretty beneficial.

When it comes to getting quality graphics, this is also a worthwhile step. The more a freelancer gets to know your brand and style, the better they will get at delivering exactly what you want.

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Another option for top quality design every time

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Danica.png

Danica Popovic

May 20, 2022

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.