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How Do I Make Sure My Designer Is A Real Graphic Designer?

In this profession, there are many, many fakes. Similar to how anybody who buys an SLR camera thinks they can claim to be a professional photographer, just about anybody who buys Photoshop thinks they can claim to be a professional graphic designer. There’s no such thing as a graphic design license, so how are you going to make sure you find the right person?

There are a number of ways to determine whether a designer is legitimate.

Look At The Designer’s Website

The designer’s website is going to speak volumes about who they are as a person and who they are as a worker. A self-employed designer is going to have a website in this day and age, no matter what. A print designer may have a mediocre website, but a web designer should have one that is pretty amazing to look at. The designer’s work should demonstrate a mastery of his skills. If he’s a web designer and his website isn’t any good… guess what?

No matter what, the designer’s website is going to show samples of his work, list services he provides, and usually has information about what makes that designer qualified.

If the designer’s website is simply a portfolio with nothing else of any real substance, chances are this designer is not operating in a self-employed manner. This person might be interviewing for jobs at design agencies, be currently employed full-time and doing work on the side, or might only be a student or amateur showing off some talent. Whatever the case may be, they are likely only looking for some work to do on the side, or are using the site to show their work to creative directors at large agencies and small boutiques. If you are looking for someone who will be able to work on your projects during your business hours, move on to another choice. If you’re looking for someone who can only work perhaps an hour every few days on your project(s), you can continue considering one of these people.

Designers who work full-time as designers and do work on the side can be an amazing resource, particularly if they are specialists. There’s nothing better than having a Flash video game designer who does nothing but Flash games all day long at his full-time job design the game you need. The biggest issue with full-time designers doing work on the side is they may be so specialized that they can’t take a design all the way to production by themselves, because they are used to a team of other people. Another problem is their full-time job takes precedence over your work, and if you have a deadline, you may miss it.

If the designer is obviously a student, unless you are familiar with working with designers and can coach this person into producing your project, you need to move on to another choice. You might think that you can take advantage of a student’s inexperience, but it’s more likely that your time and effort is what is going to be taken advantage of. Students and inexperienced designers require a lot of babysitting and don’t necessarily know how to make your finished product no matter how creative they may be.

If the website is focused on something other than design, such as printing, but they offer design, then design is a side-business. Unless you are looking for low quality, cheap looking design, avoid using companies that are offering design as a secondary service. Never have a company that offers free design or extremely cheap design perform your design work. Student-run newspapers and print shops are bad about this – supply your own professionally designed materials to these companies and let them focus on their real jobs. When something is free or cheap, be on high alert.

Make Sure The Designer Is Grounded

Do not trust your business to someone who might be able to come up with neat looking designs, but never be located ever again. You need to choose a designer who uses contracts and is happy to provide you his phone number, email address, and mailing address. This person isn’t trimming your tree branches in your front yard for two hours. You want someone who has a reputation to uphold who can be found in more than one way. If you aren’t hiring them to work on-location at your business, they better have some foundation of a business themselves. Use your brain and only trust designers who can obviously be trusted. The most legitimate designers use contracts and do not expect payment in full before services are rendered. Jobs less than $500 are occasionally paid up-front, but you can usually request to withhold a certain amount so long as your deadline is not extremely soon.

See How The Designer Prices His Services

Professional designers typically use fixed rates for their services with one-project-only clients. These rates are not usually public; if they are, they are starting prices only for budgeting purposes. Professionals never offer 100% flat fees. For example, you will never see a professional that says he will design any logo for $200, any brochure for $300, etc. Professionals always quote based on their expected amount of work on a project. Professionals who use hourly rates only use them on large projects, projects that are outside the scope of what they normally design, or projects for clients that have a lot of work to be done over a period of time. Professional web designers, typically charge hourly rates and not flat fees because websites are huge jobs.

Amateur designers work for obscenely low amounts and almost always price their services hourly. Amateur designers are not always bad, but you have to make sure they know what they are doing. Amateur designers are better suited for getting jobs at small boutiques and large agencies than trying to do work on their own. They simply don’t have enough experience.

And then there are the underpricers… a difficult to name group. These are the individuals you see offering design for disgustingly cheap, enticing rates. As a rule of thumb, if there is a price advertised, they aren’t a professional. As enticing as their prices may be, you are better off avoiding these underpricers like the plague. They typically price their services 2 or 3 times cheaper than professionals and provide 4 or 5 times less service than the professionals. Many of these underpricers offer huge lists of services including things like banner printing or sign production that you wouldn’t expect a single designer to offer. Several of these underpricers are actually outsourcing the work to people in countries like India and acting as pimps in a manner of speaking. Beware of these underpricers just like you would anything else that was as much as 90% off standard price.


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