I don’t need to tell you that branding is an investment. If people are charging what they are worth, then you're looking at a deposit with a comma in it. Period. So you, being the smart cookie that you are, already know this. If not, I’m sorry I was the one that pooped on your parade.
Really, the ROI (return on investment) of a brand can last for years. Years. Nike paid $35.00 for the swoosh and as of this writing is worth approximately $91 billion dollars. Yeah. With a “b”. And while I wish Nike fortunes upon you, let’s keep it in the realm of probability, not possibility. Parting with your hard earned money to buy your branding may seem like a painful experience, but it really doesn’t have to be. And to do this, you need to be really sure when you hire your designer that you’re making the right choice.
Things To Look For
A portfolio: Can’t find their portfolio on the web? Then ask for it. Any designer that is worth hiring is going to have a portfolio that they are will to share. This may not be on the web (paranoia isn’t exactly uncommon in the creative fields), but they should be willing to share it with you. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you got a referral from your bestie that this is the best designer ever. The fact of the matter is, don’t spend a dime with anyone before you are familiar with their work. A portfolio does this. If a designer isn't willing to share or doesn’t have a portfolio, run. Don’t walk. Run.
References: Once again, this is just a basic of the game. In fact, their references and portfolio are the way that most people get hired for freelance work. Those references will be honest conversations with people who have either a) worked with the designer, or b) can vouch for the skill of the designer.
Social proof: Are the answering comments on social media? Are they responding to people on their blog? What about a negative comment about them not getting in touch with people in a timely manner? Look at the communication skills of your designer before contacting them and after. Are they setting expectations? Are they timely and someone you vibe with? This is all as important as their portfolio and references because you are going to be communicating about something that isn’t in existence and in some ways aren’t even tangible. Communication is god when working with a designer.
Proof of their expertise: Do they have a blog? Awesome. Read it. Like, as much as you can. Let them prove to you what they know. Research what they know. You want to make sure that you are in the hands of a professional that knows what the eff they’re doing.
Things To Be Wary Of
A designer trying to work without a contract: Nope. Just nope. A good contract is in place to protect everyone in the arrangement. And if they are trying to work with a contract and you haven’t read it, please boo. Please, please, please read that contract. Talk about it with the designer. Discuss your contract for the love of pearl.
A designer that can and will do it all: Jack’s (or Jane’s) of all trades are masters of none. Someone who has taken the time to hone in on a certain skill offers that one skill is probably your best bet. Someone that says they’ll design a billboard for you and help you work through your branding is probably capable of both but hasn’t found that distinct focus on one particular thing that makes them great at what they do for you. The question, in the end, isn’t about if they can do it all. The question is how well do they do what you need?
Designers charging for the discovery process: This includes all interaction before the contract is signed. This process, while beneficial to the client to be, is really about making the professional decision on whether or not moving forward with a contract is a good idea. And no one should be paying for this. Period. The discovery process is all about getting to know one another, getting familiar with processes, and making an educated decision. The only thing anyone should be spending in this situation should be time.
Still Not Sure?
That’s a-ok. This is a big decision. And there are resources out there for you to benefit from.
Ask for help: Know someone who has had a brand designed? Ask them. Know a designer that works in the field? Ask them for help. Be careful when talking to designers. We all have a huge opinion ; )
One thing I will say, though. Don’t devalue the term, “I’ve heard.” We talk. We all talk. The creative community buzzes like bees.
Still have questions? That’s a-ok too. I’m hosting an AMA tonight all about hiring a designer. Care to join? See below ; )