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July 1, 2020

Outsourcing web design: How to vet a freelance designer

Outsourcing design work to freelancers is faster, cheaper, and better. It is important, however, to vet your freelance designer. Here’s what to consider.

Kristiane Austad
Written ByKristiane Austad

Now that you have decided that you need a new website, the next step is to find a web designer. You’re probably considering outsourcing your project to a freelance designer because, you know, it’s a really great idea. Outsourcing allows you to focus on your core business and facilitate growth and innovation. Understandably, outsourcing web design to freelancers can raise some hesitation. Here’s how you can vet your designers to certify that you receive a winning website.


Why you should outsource your web design projects

Unless design is your core business, you’ll want to outsource it. More than half of all businesses outsource business functions to cut cost, focus on core business and access intellectual capital. In Graphiq, we believe in core competence. Outsourcing your web projects to a competent designer not only gives you greater results, but it lets you fully focus on the development and growth of your own core competence. We believe outsourcing is faster, cheaper and better. Here’s why.



Companies will often use in-house resources or agencies to solve most design tasks. But that isn’t always fast enough. A lot of time runs out in ineffective agency meetings or in-house designers balancing different tasks simultaneously. An alternative that is not fully utilized is freelancers. Freelance designers are flexible and have immediate capacity. Unlike agencies and in-house designers, they are dedicated to your project only and will naturally finish it faster. Read our article here, to learn when you should hire a freelancer or an agency.



Outsourcing your design tasks is definitely cheaper and can actually save you 60% on overhead costs. Consider the alternative cost of attempting to do it yourself instead of focusing on your core competence. Another factor to consider is the administrative costs of agencies. As a freelance designer gets the whole cut, they will naturally have a lower hourly rate than an agency. Which is profitable for both you and your designer.



Utilizing freelancers, you will get the opportunity to work with the best designers within the field. Unlike in-house and agencies, remote work knows no geographical borders and you could hire top talent from a huge pool of designers. We’re talking infinity pool here. Freelance designers also heavily rely on referrals and reputation. This constant evaluation drives them to create success for every single client in every project. If you’re not convinced yet, read our article here to know why freelance is the future.


How to vet a freelance designer

Now that you’re convinced about the benefits of outsourcing web design, the next step is to find a freelance designer. We understand if you have some hesitations about this. How can you know that the freelancer is competent and reliable? Having vetted hundreds of freelance designers, we happen to know a thing or two about what to look for in a designer to ensure that the web project is successful.



The first thing you should look at is the designer’s portfolio to see the work they have done previously. Most designers will have a website or an online portfolio at Behance or Dribbble. If they don’t - drop it. If they do, check their previous work to see if they have done similar projects before. The portfolio is probably the best indicator of what results you can expect. Check if their visual style matches what you want your website to look like.



Once you have found a promising candidate with an impressive portfolio, be sure to check their references. Portfolio pieces show you the visual results, but you’ll want to know if the clients were happy with the project too. If the designer doesn’t already have client references in their portfolio, don’t hesitate to ask for them and even reach out to them yourself. Look for online ratings and feedback to verify if the designer is reliable.



Identifying what experience the designer has is important to know what to expect. Find out how long they have been practicing web design. You can’t expect the same results from a junior as a senior designer. It’s also relevant to find out what industry experience they have. Freelancers are flexible and you don’t have to discard them if they haven’t worked with your industry before, but it’s always a good indicator if they have in-depth industry knowledge.


It’s also interesting to know where they have worked. Have they worked as a freelancer their whole career or do they have experience working in-house or in agency? A background of working in teams could be beneficial. You could also ask about how they got into freelancing. Was it by choice and what was their motivation? Many designers choose freelancing to have the creative freedom to work on projects they’re passionate about, and these are the designers you’re looking for.



You might also want to know what education the designer has. Whereas some designers have a university degree, others are self-taught. Although design is a highly creative occupation and experience generally overweighs education, a degree is not be underrated. For certain technical or psychological disciplines like web development or UX/UI design, an educational background could be beneficial. Creativity, however, cannot be taught.



Designers will often specialize in different disciplines. Within web design, we differentiate between UI designers, UX designers and web developers. To design a website you need a web designer, a web developer and potentially a content creator. Sometimes, a freelancer can fulfill all these roles. Other times you’ll have to hire different freelancers for different processes. It’s important to know what exactly is the designer’s expertise.


Check whether the designer has an extensive understanding of strategy. You don’t just want web design, you want a website that will work towards your strategic goals. Depending on your technical requirements for your project, you also need to find out which tools the designer is an expert in. Which content management systems do they master and where will the website be designed and developed?



Before hiring a freelance designer, you’ll want to know what their process looks like to know what you can expect from the collaboration. Find out how many iteration rounds you can expect and how feedback works. Which platforms will you use for communication and feedback? Also set some expectations for how long the process will be, and how available they will be to you. Are they working on different projects or are they dedicated fully to yours?



An important factor in the vetting process is cost. You want to find out if the designer is within your budget. Do they estimate cost based on an hourly rate or a fixed project price? Don’t be blinded by hourly rates. A designer that charges $10/hour might use 100 hours on what a designer who charges $100/hour uses 10 hours on. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. To avoid unforeseen costs, you could request a fixed price.


A senior designer will charge a higher hourly rate than a junior because they often are experienced in effective processes for iteration and communication, enabling them to deliver projects faster. Remember, it’s about finding a designer that can deliver on your project request, not just your budget. Winning web design is worth the investment. Write a clear and detailed brief on what you want from your project, and you’ll receive a more accurate price estimate.



Finally, you need to get all their contact information to be able to get in touch with them. Find out more about the designer’s personalia. Where are they located? Collaborating in completely different time zones can be a hassle. What language do they speak and in what language will you communicate? Location and language can also be relevant when it comes to cultural understanding. Depending on your market, mutual cultural references could be beneficial.


Thoroughly vetting a freelance designer takes time, but it’s a make or break when it comes to successful projects. It’s especially important if you’re looking for freelancers in an online marketplace where anyone can register. If you find the vetting process a little overwhelming, you could just contact us at Graphiq who have a vetted pool of designers ready to get started with your next web design project.

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