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How to Work With Freelance Designers

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How to Work With Freelance Designers

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: April 1, 2014 Updated: April 1, 2014

Small business owners often outsource to freelance designers to create their logos, marketing materials and more. While using online services where hundreds of designers bid on your project at the lowest possible price can have its place, there are times when you need an ongoing, personal relationship with a designer—someone you can work with over and over again and count on to deliver every time.

How can you develop this kind of working relationship? Here are some tips.

Start by choosing your designer wisely. Your local chamber of commerce, personal and business connections, other small business owners and social media networks are good places to look for designers. If you see a small business with a marketing piece, ad or signage that really stands out to you, contact the business owner and ask where he or she had it done. Good designers will have professional websites where you can check out their portfolios to see whether they’ve done projects similar to yours. Ideally, you want to look for a designer who is not only familiar with current design trends, but also has some experience in your industry and working with small businesses.

Make a shortlist of several options and contact them for more information about their services. Find out:

·         How does the designer charge? Some designers charge by the hour, others on a per-project basis. If the designer uses a standard contract, ask to see it. Check out factors such as how many revisions are included in the price, whether you will own all rights to the finished product (very important if the designer is creating your logo), and whether the designer charges a percentage of the fee even if you aren’t satisfied with the work.

·         Who will be working on your projects? Is this a one-person shop or does the designer have partners or employees? You might be impressed with one designer’s skills, only to find out a much junior person will be working on your projects. Does the designer outsource to other designers? This isn’t necessarily bad, but if the designer is outsourcing to the same type of online design services you were trying to avoid, there’s not much point to hiring him or her.

·         What other companies does the designer work for? Asking about clients will give you an idea not only of whether the designers is conversant with your industry, but also where you may fall in the pecking order. If a designer has lots of big clients, the reality is you may find your projects falling to the bottom of their priority list. Be sure to address this concern honestly.

·         Where is he or she located? Today, it’s possible to work well with designers across the country or even across the globe. However, communicating about design issues can be difficult for small business owners. It’s often easier to discuss visual issues in person, and if this is the case for you, you’ll want to choose a local designer who can come by your office.

Once you’ve selected the designer, keep the relationship happy and successful by:

·         Clearly communicating what you want. Find examples of the type of design you like and explain what you like about them—is it the color? The use of type faces? The graphics or photos?

·         Being open to suggestions. You hired a designer for his or her expertise, so use it. You don't have to accept designs you hate, but do give the designer a chance to explain the reason behind the design. Perhaps he or she will change your mind.

·         Limiting your requests for revisions. There’s nothing a designer hates more than umpteen emails asking to change this, that and the other. It’s OK to have a lot of input into the design, but instead of sharing every thought as it pops into your head, take some time to review the work, think about it and discuss all the changes you’d like at one time.

·         Setting clear expectations and deadlines. As with any working relationship, be sure you are clear about your standards. Using project management and scheduling tools like Zoho, Trello or Google Drive is a great way to ensure you have the latest versions of files all in one place so everyone can look at them and share their input.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades


Much helpful for me because I am an entrepreneur who has started a graphics design business. I can learn from here how freelancers are working and how to deal with them. Nice one, thanks!!
Awesome article! Really small business provide good information to everyone for their require.I like site who help me for my needs.thank you
as a designer and a business owner who works with designers and other professionals i think working with freelancers is fun and creative but hard needs patience... great article! :)
Good article! As a small business attorney, I'm unfortunately called upon to help small businesses with problems that crop up -- sometimes years later -- after hiring a freelance artist or designer. Therefore, I wanted to mention a few issues to be aware of, and to make sure you're considering or dealing with, when hiring a freelancer. (1) First, even though you pay for something, you do NOT own the copyright. If that's important to you, i.e. you don't want the freelancer reusing or reselling what it is you paid for, then you MUST have a contract and that contract MUST have the language "work made for hire." If you have a contract, and it does not have that very specific phrase, then you do NOT own the copyrights, pure and simple. (2) Second, even though you pay for something, you do NOT necessarily own it. Turns out some unscrupulous freelancers will simply "borrow" images or graphics from the Internet, and incorporate them into whatever they produce for you. Unfortunately, this is illegal and infringes the copyrights of whomever the freelancer borrowed from. This can be a VERY damaging problem, as large image farms, such as Getty, iStockPhoto, and others, have dedicated law firms trolling the Internet for unauthorized uses of their images, and they will slap significant lawsuits on you. I've had this EXACT issue occur for one client, and they ended up having to defend a $25k lawsuit because their freelance web designer (who did their website over 5 years ago), borrowed an image without my client's knowledge or permission. Lack of knowledge is NOT an excuse in these types of lawsuits. THEREFORE, make sure you have PROOF and an accounting for EACH AND EVERY image incorporated into whatever is produced for you. (3) Third and finally, make sure that you request AND REQUIRE, the "native file format" for whatever is produced for you. For example, suppose your freelance designer produces a nice, colorful logo for you. You don't just want a JPG or PNG. You want the "Adobe Illustrator," "Adobe Photoshop" or other native file format for the work. Why? Suppose, later, you want to change the color of something? Or, you want to change the look, or a word, or a phone number? Having the original, native file format will make this a breeze for any new freelancer you hire for the job. Without it, that freelancer essentially needs to start over. Notice a repeat of some advice above, i.e. even though you pay for something, you do NOT ... ? This is the greatest risk to hiring a freelancer. There are great freelancers out there, and the good ones will know about these issues and give you what you need to make sure you're protected. The newbies or unscrupulous freelancers won't know about this, or won't care. Good luck! Larry.
It would be wise that after you view the designers work and want to make the necessary changes, would be to go on skype for example to communicate with the person so you can show them visually what you want done. Plus it builds re-pore with them in case you need them again
Great article Rieva Lesonsky! Here you have explained very clearly. Communication is very important between the business owners and the designers that would helpful to make good relationship. We have to make sure about the requirements clearly. When communication is not clear we may lose our business, work and time. I too had both good and bad experience.
The best thing that I have learned as a small businesses owner is that we can get the competitive price for a welldone design via Google, we just need to send the brief of what we want and they (freelance designer) will do the rest...
Great article! Really small business owners and social media networks are good place to find for designers. You can hire a designer accounting to your requirement and designer expertise. You can also make good relationship with communication.

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