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Finding a new graphic designer, and planning the first date

Having to part company with your current graphic designer and then hire a new one can be quite an ordeal, striking fear into the most seasoned of Marketers. And I get it, I too have had to (sadly) let a designer go and hire new talent, even the odd freelancer on rare occasion.

It’s difficult to get past the comfort you enjoy with your current designer. She knows your company, your brand, and even those weird little quirks you have. It’s so easy to work with her as she ‘gets’ you – but deep down you know it’s time to move on.

The thought of having to start all over with a new designer, thinking he’ll never understand your ways is a giant, mammoth hurdle you’d rather not face – but you know, you’re not alone. Just about every Marketer faces this moment at one point in their working life.

Yet, hiring a new designer can be worth the effort, and I’m here to help by sharing what some of our clients did when they hired our design agency.

Ask for a referral.

Start first by asking a trusted colleague for a referral. If they work with a great agency, they may be willing to share them with you. Some Marketers love their designers and will jump at the chance to help them win a new client. If they have a bad designer on the other hand, you’ll likely hear about that too. Uhm, so don’t hire that one.

And naturally, try social. There are many great designers out there, so tap into your network. If you’re a b2b Marketer, try reaching out on LinkedIn. Creative agencies lurk there too, but the key is getting a referral from a 1st connection. Obviously, FB and Instagram will be great too, but designers who invest time on LinkedIn are likely more business-minded and may be a better fit for your company. 

If you want to inflict self-pain however, hire one through Upwork, Fiverr or 99designs. Like online dating, you may have to go through a dozen creeps to find a good one. It’s a time suck having to constantly explain your brand and repeating your instructions, so we suggest finding a design partner through referral.

The vetting process.

If you get a referral, then most of the work is already done, so there’s only a few simple steps left.

  • Start by checking out their website and social presence.
  • Does their portfolio match the calibre of work you need done?
  • Do they have any relevant samples remotely close to your collateral?
  • Have they been in business for at least a couple of years?
  • Do they list their clients by name?
  • Do they have real testimonials or recommendations on LinkedIn?
  • Are they at least someone you’d invite to dinner?

The first date.

You make the first move. Get that colleague to connect you and make the first phone call, email or text. Don’t wait for them to initiate, they’re just as busy as you are. Well, you at least hope they are. If they respond quickly, then you’re off to a good start.

But many designers won’t even respond, and many will put up roadblocks. They may tell you that they’re on vacation, or can’t talk to you until next week, and certainly don’t have room to take on new work until the last week of the month. That could be a sign that working with them will be difficult.

And that’s not a good thing if it’s an agency either. Sure, a busy agency is a sign of a good agency, but if they don’t have bandwidth to take on new clients and grow their own business, what makes them think they can help grow yours?

However, if that designer responds by saying “sure let’s talk”, then you may have landed a good one. They should sound excited to work with you, but not desperate. And they should ask just as many questions of you, that you ask of them. Remember, you’re being vetted too. 

Then start small.

Never, ever award a new designer a big project at the beginning. Start them off with something small, low risk and see how they perform. And more importantly, see how easy it is to work together. It may be rocky as you get to know one another, but push through the first one and see how it goes.

Then wait for stakeholder feedback on the creative. If it performs favourably, then move to the next project. And the next. Take it slow and you may get to third base.

And maybe check back with that referring colleague to see if his first experiences were just as positive as yours. Don’t forget to thank them for finding you a great agency. 

Ok, Dad, thanks for the advice.

One of my readers said my posts sound a bit like her father’s advice. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing she said, but I guess it just come from years of experience, and hearing stories from Marketers just like you. Many love their creative agency and many don’t, so find a good one, you deserve it. Your mother and I just want you to be happy.

Greg Carmichael
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Greg Carmichael

Author Greg Carmichael

I’m Greg (the guy that wrote this), and the Creative Director at Synergy Design. We’re a graphic design creative collective in Streetsville, Mississauga, which is just outside of Toronto, Canada. Simply put, our team of 7 graphic designers provide enterprise-level graphic design for marketers, laser-focused on creating digital marketing content and print collateral too. If you learned something here today, or if I made you LOL, consider reaching out to start a conversation on how my Team can elevate your marketing content. [email protected] • 416-737-9432 •  

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