You should ask these 12 questions when interviewing a new designer.

Hiring a new designer for any creative project is a bit like screening for a first date. It might seem like a stretch, but just stay with me for a minute.

You’ve found this seemingly perfect match online. They seem to be everything you’re looking for. They’re creative, personable, professional and they have great hair. You both love coffee, tacos and cats. It’s kismet, right? Maybe.

Here are a few questions to ask that will help make sure you aren’t booking a project with a scrub.

  1. Do you bill an hourly rate or flat fee?

    It’s always nice to know things like this ahead of time. For example, I do have an hourly rate, but most of my first time projects with new clients are flat rate projects like logo design or web development.

  2. What are your working hours?

    If you’re working with an independent contractor or freelancer (like me) it’s important to know what their boundaries look like. Do they have regular business hours? Will you be able to reach them late in the evening or is it easier to email one another? For me, it’s easier to use email and schedule any necessary calls around family time.

  3. How do you prefer to communicate about a project?

    This is linked to the previous question. They might prefer phone conversations to email. Maybe they use a project management tool to send you updates and get feedback.

  4. Do you have terms and conditions I can review?

    Not the most important question, but if they’re anything like me, this might slip their mind. It’s why I put a link to it in every single invoice and proposal footer. It’s good to know ahead of time what their expectations for you are and what responsibilities they are willing to take on themselves.

  5. Do you work with sub-contractors?

    This isn’t me, but some designers will sub out design work when they get busy. This isn’t necessarily bad, but you want to know who is working on your project. If it isn’t the designer you hired, then you should know that up front.

  6. What is the price range for a project like mine?

    Any designer that’s been in the game for a while will be able to answer this pretty accurately even before getting project details. If someone asks me about a new website I can tell them that it generally runs between $2,000 and $5,000, but that their price will depend on the specifics of their website. If they can’t answer this for you in a straightforward way, I’d consider looking elsewhere. It could mean they struggle with scope creep and that means you might get billed for hours you weren’t expecting.

  7. Where are you located?

    You might just take for granted that this person you found on Google is in a specific location. It’s important to know where in the world and in relation to you they are located. Will you be able to reach them during your regular business hours or are they located in a different time zone? Is meeting once a month for a briefing feasible or will you have to navigate video conferencing?

  8. Tell me about a recent favorite project.

    Knowing what they enjoy working on most will not only tell you something about them as a designer, but about how they feel about what they do. It’s easy to say you love graphic design, but I sound a little different when I’m describing a logo development project (YAY!) and a lengthy ecommerce website development (yay).

    Listen to their overall tone. Do they really enjoy their work or are they going to lose interest halfway through?

  9. Can you explain your design process to me?

    Okay, this one is sort of a loaded question for me. I never used to know how to answer this. “Process? What process? I’m an artist for Pete’s sake!”

    I realized that if you can’t explain how you work to a potential client then they won’t be a potential client for long. If you don’t even know how your process works then you aren’t paying enough attention to that process. Which means that you probably aren’t paying enough attention to the projects either.

  10. How long does a project like mine usually take?

    Timeline is always something I want to nail down early on as a designer. I want to set those deadlines for myself and my client. First, so I can make sure I’m getting paid. Second, so the client knows exactly when to expect rough drafts, proofs, revisions and final artwork. This keeps both of us accountable. I can’t tell a client a web design project will take three weeks (provided they get me revisions quickly) and then take a month and a half. That’s just bad business.

  11. What kind of client do you enjoy working with?

    Like the question about their favorite project, listen to how they talk about their favorite clients. Are they really passionate about it or are they just collecting paycheck? This is also a good time to ask yourself if you sound like one of these clients. If not, then maybe you need a different designer.

  12. What else I should know about the way you work?

    They might not be able to think of anything, but it’s important to ask. When people ask me this I tell them three things. First, I value my work. I know it’s valuable and I’m not going to undervalue myself to fit an unrealistic budget. Second, I value my clients. If they’ve agreed that my services are valuable and agreed to pay me what I asked for then they deserve the same level of commitment. Last, I value honesty and transparency. I’m not going to blow rainbows up your bum if I’m missing a deadline. I’m going to try and let you know that ahead of time so we can pivot

Scheduling that consult

Now that I’ve laid that out for you, it should be super easy to find a great designer. And like any first date, you are under no obligation to work with the first designer you contact. Just because you called them doesn’t mean you have to work with them. Trust me, I talk to plenty of people who never call back … I honestly couldn’t tell you why. I mean, I’m a freaking catch!

Wanna try out these 12 questions on me? Go ahead and schedule a free phone consultation. I look forward to answering your questions.

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