Whatever the size of your business, hiring a full-time designer isn’t always in the budget. Regardless, your business needs and deserves strong, on-brand design work. In these cases, hiring a freelance designer is an excellent option for one-off projects or for ongoing design needs.
So, how do you find the right designer for the job? Believe it or not, the design output is just one element of a successful working relationship. Follow these tips to find and hire the right freelancer for your next project:
1. Outline your needs
Before jumping straight into your designer search, you should first iron out your specific design needs. Have this information ready to discuss before you speak with designers so the project’s needs are super clear. Here are a few high-level things you’ll want to include:
- Company profile
- Project details: design needs and goals
- Expected end-deliverables
Pro tip: If you have a very specific design style in mind, create and share a link to a moodboard for visual inspiration and direction. You can create these on Dribbble by saving Shots to your “My Saves” page. Just hover over a Shot and click “Save”.
2. Narrow down your search
At Dribbble, we’ve made searching for your next freelance design hire easy. Use our Designer Search engine to sort through profiles based on specific criteria. Depending on your needs, use either our Basic or Advanced search offering:
Basic Search: Use this to filter by designer skill-set and location. Remember, location might be a deal-breaker if you need your designer to be available/online at certain times.
Advanced Search: Use this to refine your search even further by experience level, availability, and payment structure.
3. Efficiently review portfolios
Now comes the fun part—reviewing designer portfolios. We recommend looking out for styles or aesthetics that fit with your project’s vision while also keeping an eye out for work that showcases similar projects to yours. As you review portfolios, keep adding Shots to your “Saved” moodboard to share with potential hires later on.
4. Prepare and personalize your outreach
Next, it’s time to initiate a conversation. Remember, some designers get a ton of work requests and might only answer those that sound legitimate. Your high-level project notes will come in handy here, so make sure to include this information in your initial outreach message. A good rule of thumb is to personalize your messages to each designer. It might sound time-consuming, but it goes a long way.
Mention what you admire about their work, any specific Shots of theirs you like, and why you think they’d be a good fit for your project. Don’t send a generic message to every potential hire. Designers can easily tell when this is the case and will likely write your message off as spam. Authentic, thoughtful outreach is an excellent start to a harmonious freelancer-client relationship.
5. Explore project logistics
At this point, you’ll probably have a response back from a few of your top candidates. You’ll want to further explore your project scope to iron out some key details. Designers should be able to lead you through this scoping process—but here are a few essential discussion points you’ll want to cover:
- Budget: What is it and how will payment be structured?
- What will the project workflow look like (i.e. expected milestones and timelines)?
- How many large and small revisions will you be able to ask for?
- How will communication be carried out (Phone, email, Slack, video…)?
After scoping out the finer details and getting a sense of the designer’s communication style, you should know whether they are the right fit for your project.
6. Get a detailed agreement in place
So you’ve found your perfect match? Wonderful! Now comes one of the most important pieces of the puzzle—the contract. Your freelancer should have a contract ready to share with you that outlines everything you discussed during your project exploration. This contract is vital to the success of your project because if any miscommunications arise, you can refer back to it. To learn more about how freelancers should set up their contracts, see this checklist and make sure all bases are covered.
While every project will work a little differently, these pointers will help streamline your search and ensure the interests of both parties. By putting in the effort and investing time in this process, you’ll be well on your way to developing a strong (and hopefully ongoing) working relationship with a great freelance designer.