Deciding to leave your steady job and become a freelancer is not an easy decision. There’s a lot to consider and it’s scary as hell to take the leap.
One of the main things I’ve been struggling with (and I guess everyone does in the beginning), is where and how to contact clients.
Is not like there’s a shortage of clients; what exists is a gap between good companies and good designers.
Somehow, the greatest clients always seem to encounter jerky designers, and good freelancers struggle with clients who want to pay 9 euros (10 dollars) for a logo with unlimited revisions.
Because of this miss-match, I decided to help potential clients identify a good freelancer.
Where to look
There are infinite places where you can look for a freelancer, depending on if you’re willing to pay in advance or not.
If that’s the case, you can create an account in platforms such as People Per Hour, Upwork, Fiverr, 99 designs, and Indústria Criativa to name a few.
These online platforms will allow you to be reached by several designers, and analyze different proposals according to your project. This method can save you time. Let the freelancer come to you instead of going to them.
However, you should know that most of these platforms cannot guarantee quality; what you get is a great number of counter-proposals.
Ultimately, you can end up with a good professional that genuinely cares about helping you achieve your goals or, you can work with someone that does cheap work and only cares about getting paid.
If you choose to look for a designer on your own, there’s a couple of safer steps you can take. You can 1) ask your connections for references or 2) search for online portfolios and contacts.
Most designers use Instagram, Dribbble, and Behance to showcase their work and to connect with clients.
Reach out to them, and try to cross-reference with their website or LinkedIn for past work experience and credibility.
What to ask when reaching out to the freelancer
Let’s say you found a couple of freelancers whose portfolios you liked, and they all have good references. Now what?
Search for past similar projects that they’ve done – the same type of work, same industry or equal dimension.
After that, ask for a project proposal. Give as much information as you possibly can. They expect to hear the project description and goal, the budget, and timeline.
Avoid using buzz words such as modern, fresh, and clean. Instead, provide examples of what you mean when you use these adjectives. The designers will understand your point of view more clearly, and will be able to tailor the offer accordingly.
Also, keep in mind that custom proposals are time-consuming and some designers might charge you for it, even if they end up not working with you.
Make it clear, right in the beginning, if your budget includes a fee for initial proposals.
What to expect
Everything went great, and now you feel confident in working with this designer.
What are the next steps?
1) Schedule a meeting
Either in person or via video call, it’s important to look at the proposition once more and clarify everything on both your part and the designer’s.
Important aspects to talk about are the timeline, the budget, who’s the decision maker, goals and target among other more specific things according to each type of project.
2) Sign a written agreement
This can look like a mere bureaucratic headache but it’s fundamental.
A contract will protect both parties when it comes to delivering files, revisions and additional or included costs.
Asking the designer for a contract will ensure that everything you agree upon is clear on both parts and it will also make you look trustworthy.
3) Stay in touch with the freelancer during the project
Chances are that – depending on the project’s dimension -, you might need to meet the designer more than once. That’s expected of you.
A good designer will bring you aboard for feedback and for additional clarification if needed.
And because he’s good, he will want to work with you, rather than just for you. Which leads me to the next point; feedback.
How to give feedback
This is the biggest barrier that exists between designers and clients.
The truth is designers don’t know how to ask clients for feedback and then complain when clients aren’t clear. On the other side, clients complain that designers don’t listen to them. Thus, a never-ending circle of complaints and bitterness.
To avoid that, don’t tell them what to do; tell them what you think might be or not be working.
For example, don’t say things like I don’t like the button blue, make it orange.
Although Design is subjective, and no one will ever agree on everything, it’s more about context and testing than taste.
Try something like: I’m not sure if the button works in blue, why did you pick that color? Can we try orange and see which one the target audience prefers/responds better?
Trust me, if you make this small change, you will be seen as someone who wants to understand the process and is trying to make it better.
Rather than telling the designer what to do ( he/she might hate you for it), be comfortable with giving specific input.
“I think this element works because [it follows the style we agreed on the proprosal] -> it’s good, specific feedback;
I don’t think it’s working because [it’s too small. If you make it bigger, it will work.]” -> not specific, based on personal opinion and assumptions.
Remember, feedback is not about pointing fingers. If you feel the designer is doing good work, praise it. It will make the designer feel appreciated and will give him the confidence to carry on.
When the project is completed
Everything went smoothly and now you’re in the final phase.
Make sure everything is delivered and paid for.
If you need something extra that wasn’t described on the contract, don’t beg. See if the designer is willing to negotiate the price and be honest about it. We all make mistakes and forget things.
In case you have everything, send a message thanking the designer and make it clear if your final feedback and project can be used as future proof.
And finally, if you had a good experience, reference the freelancer to more people. Both parties will thank you for it.
Final solid advice from a freelancer
There are good and bad professionals everywhere, including in this field.
I know that sometimes clients have bad experiences with freelancers, and after that tend to mistrust designers in general. Use your better judgment and give the new person an opportunity. We are all different.
Secondly, you’re paying that person but don’t exaggerate. Yes you want to save money and yes you need it fast, but keep in mind that there’s a person on the other side of that equation. That person also has bills to pay and also has the same amount of hours in the day as you do. Be reasonable.
Thirdly, don’t undermine the job. It might look something simple and easy, but took the designer many hours of study and practice to get to that level.
As well as you respect a doctor, a mechanic or any other profession for their expertise, respect designers the same way.
We make it look easy, but that’s because we work hard.