Hi guys! It is another business Friday and I am looking to you for what you want me to write about. Design, business, letterpress? If there is something you’ve been dying to ask then you should comment on this post or any of the others in the future so I know what to blog about for Business Fridays. These posts will be primarily informative only, to serve as a guide instead of photo eye-candy and I’m ready to dish it out!

The first request I had was from a friend that emailed me wanting to know some tips on hiring a designer to do her identity. As I started to think about it I came up with a lot more than 5 but eventually narrowed it down to my top 5 (if I weren’t to do it myself).

1) P O R T F O L I O
I CANNOT stress this enough. New designers are the only exception to this rule (see No. 2 if you are looking at hiring a newbie). The most important thing to look at is a designer’s body of work. If you like what you see, then you’ll like what they will create for you. When you have a potential client, open the dialogue (or if you are the potential client, tell the designer what you love about their work). This conversation is usually the most important because it reveals a lot about both people and their interests as well as work ethic.

I used to be timid in showing my work – it sort of felt like I was bragging too much about myself and I’m a little shy. I soon learned though that if I wasn’t willing to stick myself out there to win the job, the job would go to someone else. I needed to prove that I was capable of doing the work and so the timidness went away and now I shamelessly get excited to show what new projects I’ve been working on! If you are shy and have a hard time talking about your work, start small. It took me about a year to get comfortable with my “voice” and imagery in explaining myself. The old adage rings true – practice makes perfect!

2) P E R S O N A L I T Y
This is another big one. We all get along with certain type of people. Make sure the designer is someone that you can be honest with (and they won’t cry when you critique their work) as well as someone that is similar to you. This is sort of a hard one, because on the internet and with google sometimes it feels like you are drawing a designer out of the hat. I know, it feels like there are a million of us out there!

Do your research – try to find out the person behind the business. If they work with a lot of photographers doing their branding they most likely know a lot about the photography business and would do a good job for you (if you are a photographer).

Discover if you can a little about what they do when they are not in the “designer shoes” (heh, no pun intended). I have kids, a hubby and a family. When I’m not working I’m playing with them, or change diapers, or giving injections (my son is diabetic) or read bedtime stories. We like to swim and do stuff outdoors a lot. If you haven’t noticed on twitter, I have a slight obsession with fashion and SHOES! And if you have been paying attention, you might notice that yellow, in any shade, is my favorite color.

It doesn’t hurt either to be forward and drop an email to the designer. Tell them that you are big fan of their work (we always love that ;) and that you wanted to know a little more about how I got in to graphic design, or letterpress or whatever. Usually if you are nice they’ll email back. RESEARCH is key to finding someone that you think you’ll work well with.

3) s c o p e   o f   P R O J E C T
This is another big one. Don’t hire a print designer to do your stop-motion video. Do hire your print designer to do your letterpress business cards ;) Learn and ASK what type of work they do. If you REALLY love their style but don’t see a large body of work in the type of thing you want to hire them in, ask them if they’d be interested in trying something new. I’m no hard-core programmer, but I really love html and css – something I’d have never found out had a client not begged me to do their website. Now with 5-6 sites under my belt (and trusting and patient clients) we’ve come up with some awesome customizations for them.

4) B U D G E T & C H A N G E S
This is really no way to sound nice in saying this but you get what you pay for. With that said, it can still be quality but just not quite as much quantity. (letterpress cards are not the cheapest things around, but they are beautiful). I have been on the client end of things. I planned my own wedding, have built a house (what a terrible experience) and much more. It all comes down to budget.

When we built our house we had a set dollar amount for our loan and about 20% saved as a down payment. We hired a “family friend” as a contractor who looked at numerous house plans and provided the same estimate for all. I had specific photos of cabinets, window trim, drawings of the exterior of the house and more. Our contract was bogus though and paired with a contractor that couldn’t follow a budget turned nightmarish for us. Every time we wanted to do something, he said “Sure, no problem!” To which we’d ask “how much extra” - won’t cost extra. Well it did, in labor. Look at your budget for your project. Talk to your designer to make sure you understand what that entails, and if changes are made beyond what is outlined in the initial estimate or invoice make sure you know what you are paying before the estimate turns over. It will save a lot of grief in the end. As a designer I like to know what a budget is, so I can advise what will be best for the client with their allotted dollar amount. I don’t like estimating in the dark just as much as you don’t like giving out a dollar amount. If you have no idea what your budget is, just tell your designer that you have no idea what x & y will cost you but you’d like to see their pricing. If it’s way more than expected then go back and ask the designer how you can shave your costs.

5) T I M E L I N E
Everyone wants their stuff done yesterday. When hiring a designer, it is actually a good thing if they are busy – it means they have work. If you have a tight deadline, be prepared to pay extra. If there is flexibility then that will go a long way. Be considerate of how long it takes to design something. If you have no idea, then ASK! I love it when my clients ask, “how far out are you on branding packages?” Or what will it take to get my cards printed and in my hands in 15 days – to which my response would be, “provide camera ready artwork”. Printing always adds to the time-frame. If you are looking for a specific service and are bidding out with a couple of people/companies ask them all the same questions regarding if they can meet your deadline. Lastly, don’t make the decision solely on deadline. Some processes can’t be rushed or the work that is churned out is crap. Sorry to be so frank but usually rush jobs have a lot more stress than love put into them.

In the end…
it might be hard to find all of these in one designer but at least be aware of what their strengths and weaknesses are and be willing to compromise in one area if another area is really important (like you really love their portfolio but they are booked 6 months out you’ll have to pick which is more important to you). I’d love to hear what other comments or suggestions you have if you are a designer – or if you are a client what have I missed that is important to you?