There are many factors to consider when researching and hiring a designer or firm. Consider the entire package: the quality and value of the work, responsiveness, ability to meet your deadline, costs, etc. Partnering with an experienced designer or firm may (or may not) cost a little more in terms of money than another one but may save you money and time in the long run. One may be a better fit for your needs, which means less time having to explain or convince them to believe in your project or your mission. They may even be able to save you money in other areas, such as printing, with their creativity and expertise or by recommending trusted vendors you wouldn’t otherwise know about that save you time and money.
Prior to requesting an estimate from a potential designer/firm:
- Review their portfolio: Most are readily available online. Do they seem to have repeat clients? Do they have the expertise you are looking for?
- Ask about their creative process: Are they simply order takers who will blindly do whatever you tell them even when they think it’s not the best route, or will they partner with you and provide professional opinions and guidance, allowing you the option to take it or leave it?
- Gauge how responsive they are via phone or e-mail with your initial contact (and later as well): Do they have normal business hours and respond promptly, if at all? How long will it take to get a first proof or to make minor text changes throughout the process? Calling the designer or firm to ask questions can be a great way to see if you both might be a good personality match, which may or may not be a factor in your working together.
- Ask for references: Ask clients what their experience has been working with the designer or firm with respect to attention to detail, staying within budget and on schedule, the type of work you are seeking to have done, etc.
If the designer or firm seems to be a good fit, request an estimate. Be sure to check the terms about the number of designs, number of drafts or time allotted for revisions, and even what constitutes a “revision” (typically anything deviating from the content you originally submitted) so you can manage your expectations. You don’t want to end up spending money on unforeseen expenses—or incurring additional time into your schedule, which could become costly to you. If something is not mentioned as being included, then it probably isn’t. Always ask to be sure.