Great use of framing to draw the eye. Via Jasper van der Meij

As an entrepreneur launching a startup, great design is crucial. If you don’t have the skills to do it yourself, or don’t want to rely on your network to connect you, don’t worry; all you need to know about finding the right designer is here.

Know what you (and your customers) want

What do you want? A logo? Poster? Flyer? Who’s your target demographic? How should your customers feel when experiencing your brand? What color scheme and typeface communicate your ethos?

Many entrepreneurs have vague aspirations as to their brand’s personality but can’t pin down what they want. Enter the magic of Pinterest. Put words describing your brand in the search. Pin images which feel like your brand on a Pinterest board for your future graphic designer to see. This is your brand inspiration board.

Now that you can communicate your concept, decide whether you need an in-house or freelance graphic designer.

Freelance or in-house

It’s clear that you need design work done. Should you hire a salaried in-house designer, or work with a freelancer? Let’s compare.

Pros for in-house graphic designers are: they’re exclusive to your company, have your needs memorized, and are available on a full-time basis. However, they may be limited in their skill sets (for example, a brand designer may not be able to design packaging), the onboarding process can take some time, and they’re normally paid a full salary regardless of workload, which may be difficult for a young startup to sustain.

Freelance graphic designers are desirable for young startups because they work on a job-to-job basis, allowing you to only pay for the work you need, you can choose from amongst a pool of specialists, and even if a freelancer is in a remote location, you can still work together using online collaboration tools. Cons may be: briefing freelancers take longer, you may not be able to communicate in real-time, and finding the right fit takes longer.

In-house or freelance. Logo design by 99designs designer shaka88 for helloT7.

Know a designer’s specialty

There are different specialties in graphic design. Website design is different than logo design. For this reason, there’s a good chance you’ll end up employing a freelancer at some point.

It’s important to understand what a graphic designer does and doesn’t do. For instance, graphic designers, as a general rule, aren’t also web developers, so don’t expect your designer to code. Graphic designers don’t usually creative strategizing either. Creative directors do that.

So you understand what to expect from a graphic designer, but where do you find the right one?

Locating a graphic designer

Internet platforms can help you locate a killer designer. There are freelancing sites, portfolio sites, and plenty of ways to find local freelancers.

99designs is a freelancing site where you can either evaluate the portfolios of graphic designers and start a project, or start a design contest where several designers submit concepts after reading over your brief, and you choose a winner to work with.

Fiverr,, and Upwork are also freelancing sites allowing you to post a job and receive applicants. These platforms don’t have design contests, but they do offer designer profile access. However, because these three sites aren’t geared exclusively toward graphic design, they don’t provide as much in-depth, design-centered features as a design-only platform like 99designs.

99designs’ designer search tool finds a designer who matches the desired style, has experience in your industry, and is available to work right away with an algorithm and filters. While working with a designer, use the doodling annotations tool which allows you to give feedback by sending notes or even scribbling them. Also, 99designs manually ranks designers after evaluating their portfolios into 3 tiers, and the higher contests are gated, giving you access to only the crème de la crème.=

Freelancing sites offer security and convenience. With 99designs’ 1-to-1 Projects, you pick your ideal designer, and invoices are paid before a project begins, but all funds are held until the job is done, meaning designers get paid securely, on time, and clients are satisfied with the results.

Behance and Dribbble are portfolio websites where graphic designers can organize and display their work. Since these sites are designed to display one’s breadth of work and experience, they’re less functional when it comes to an actual workflow. You must contact and make a deal with a designer yourself.

Services like Yelp or Craigslist can help find local freelancers near you. Word-of-mouth is another way to locate independent freelancers in your neck of the woods.

How can you tell which designer has chemistry and compatibility with your brand?

Picking the right one

When going through graphic designer’s portfolios, look for samples with your style. Want vintage? View designers specializing in vintage logos. Ultramodern? Check out minimalist designer in the tech space. A little bit of edge? Check out the art and entertainment industry.

Screen designers with expertise in the design category you’re searching for.  If you’re looking for logo design and a designer only has posters and book covers, you may want to keep looking.

Stick with designers who have worked in your industry. They’ll know inside terminology and symbology. 99designs’ Find a designer search tool can help. It can filter for all of the above and help you find the perfect match.

Making contact

Time for contact. Introduce yourself and begin developing a rapport by sharing the passion of your idea. Remember, show the prospective designer your Pinterest inspiration board so you’re communicating visually, not just verbally. Tell the designer why you picked the images you did. Discuss the scope of work, and inquire about interest and availability.

Communication is key. Logo design by 99designs designer Mainstream Account for tbeard15

Negotiating the rate

Pricing’s next. Familiarize yourself with the standard rates of the industry, and note that the following factors can influence a designer’s price: experience, cost of living in the designer’s area, and the scope of work.

Awesome graphic designers can seem expensive, but quality design is an investment. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so research typical costs of having a logo designed and understand how this will pay off in time.

What are the terms of your payment deal? An hourly rate or are you paying by the project? How will payment be sent?

Covering these issues helps avoid misunderstandings and reveals warning signs that you’re biting a bad apple. If there’re communication issues or something doesn’t feel right, listen to your instinct and abort sooner than later.

Handshakes are great, but…

Logo design by gothard

Protect yourself and the designer by having a contract. With platforms like Upwork or 99designs, the contract is already drawn up so you don’t have to make one yourself.

A contract should contain: delivery deadlines, number of revisions, rate agreement, rights ownership, and a confidentiality agreement if applicable.

Cover your bases by knowing tax laws in your country. Get the right tax forms for yourself and the designer so you’re squared away with the law.

You get out what you put in

That’s the scoop on finding, hiring, and working with a graphic designer. Put effort into all these areas and you’ll be setting your business up for success.