11 Strategies to Evaluate If a Freelance Designer Is Right for Your Business

What is one strategy for quickly evaluating whether a freelance designer is a good fit for my business?

Freelance designer on the work

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Read Online Reviews

If you find your freelance designer through a site like Elance, you’ll be able to see what their previous clients thought about their performance on a number of metrics including quality, cost and timeliness. It’s not just about the design, but about making sure you can get what you want, when you need it.

Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile Swim School

2. Use Qualifying Questions to Test Problem-Solving

Test your freelancer’s ability to think creatively. As a startup, you are resource strapped and need people who can problem-solve on their own. Ask questions such as, “how would you approach this problem?” or “what would you do in this situation?” After a few qualifying questions, you’ll be able to tell if this freelancer is worth a shot.

Faraz Khan, Go Direct Lead Generation

3. Evaluate Their Time Management Skills

I like to find out from freelancers how exactly they plan on accomplishing the task and how long they think it will take. Time management skills are absolutely necessary when you hire a freelancer; they need to be able to balance urgency without compromising on the quality of the work that they deliver.

Cody McLain, SupportNinja

4. Look Beyond Their Portfolio

Designers put a lot of work into building an impressive portfolio, but it may not accurately represent their ability to produce good work for a reasonable price. Look at the portfolio, but also ask previous clients about their experience — an awesome portfolio can hide a lack of productivity and the interpersonal skills that are essential to a productive relationship.

Vik Patel, Future Hosting

5. Determine Whether They Understand Your Business

The key to a successful designer for your business is how well they know you and your business. I am assuming you already vetted that they are talented, competent, etc. but the biggest factor will be how much you have to babysit or use your own time to get what you need. It is invaluable to have a designer who can run with little direction and create things you couldn’t think of yourself.

Torrey Tayenaka, Sparkhouse

6. Ask Them to Explain Their Past Work

You can evaluate how well a candidate will be able to understand your requirements and translate them into an original design by having them tell you about previous projects in their portfolio. Take one and ask what the client had originally said they wanted. Ask about roadblocks along the way. Ask how they measured success. You’ll learn how the designer works with others and listens to them.

Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

Freelance graphic designer

7. Have Them Test Your Product

Give them a test to perform on your website in an area that you know needs improvement. Make sure you let them know there are no restrictions and do not give them a ton of direction. Their past work might be good, but you want to see how the work they do on your website lines up with your aesthetics.

Jayna Cooke, EVENTup

8. Ask Them to Pitch You

You shouldn’t have to do detective work to test for the right fit — or go into things blindly. If a designer is truly interested in your project (a good test in itself), he or she should have no problem drawing up a proposal that includes their specific recommendations and interpretations for your brand. It never hurts to ask for case studies as well.

Sam Saxton, Salter Spiral Stair and Mylen Stairs

9. Look for Chemistry, Critical Thinking and Execution

You need to make the most of your first interactions with a freelancer — how do they interact via email or phone? Do they listen and ask poignant questions? Can they articulate their process, role and critical thinking? Is there chemistry? Do they follow through? Great design is only one aspect of a great fit. Look for a partner who delivers on the relationship, thinking and execution.

Sunny Bonnell, Motto

10. Start With a Test Project

Freelancers can be amazing…or not. Figuring out which it is can be difficult. At VideoBlocks, we start by finding someone with a strong relevant portfolio, and then assign a test project such as a navigation element or landing page. In addition to looking for a solid final design, it is also important to look for effectiveness in communication and hitting deadlines.

Joel Holland, VideoBlocks

11. Test Them on Design and Professionalism

Provide them with a general outline of what you are looking, for excluding colors or any serious details, and give a deadline. Allowing the designer to usetheir own creative skills are key here. Another part to take note on is their level of professionalism, as some designers may be horrible at correspondence or communication. It’s important for your designer to understand what a deadline means for your bottom line.

– Hesam Meshkat, Guzu