How to hire a Web designer or design company

How to hire a Web designer or design company

Paul Jarvis is a best-selling author and designer. He writes weekly for his popular newsletter and runs an online course on becoming a better freelancer.


Hiring a Web designer or design company can seem like a daunting task. Too many speak in nerd and the good ones never seem available to take on new work.

So. Much. Tech.

Some of the biggest names in tech are coming to TNW Conference in Amsterdam this May.

I realize that maybe your cousin is a Web designer who builds websites on the side. Or your friend’s brother in college once updated your Tumblr in exchange for a case of beer. Or that you can, quite easily, figure out Web design, programming and WordPress yourself, but you just haven’t found the time.

Web designers hear these types of comments a lot (possibly second only to “make the logo bigger” on mockups). While there’s nothing wrong with learning new things or having hobbies, for the love of whatever god you believe in, hire a professional to design and program your website.

Professional, as in someone who does Web design full-time, as a job that they get paid money to do, and has done so for a while.

How do you find the right professional Web designer?

Do you walk into a hip coffee shop and look for plaid shirts, tattooed fingers and Apple laptops?

hipster millennial phone

While that would probably work, it makes more sense to start by looking at websites you enjoy visiting, and that appear to have a good community and engaged following. Does it say at the bottom of the website who designed and programmed it?

If not, send a brief email to the website’s owner, asking who they used and if they were happy with their designer.

Make a shortlist of designers (two or three) you want to work with (from looking at those sites you like and asking who built them). What are their portfolios like? Can you get behind the tone, aesthetics and presentation of their own websites and other websites they’ve done? Are their project sizes (features, functions, what the site does, etc.) similar in scope to yours?

Make the first move

Contact these Web designers and actually talk to them on the phone (old school, I know). You want to make sure you understand how they communicate, since they’ll be responsible for visually communicating your online business. Do they talk in technical jargon or Star Trek references (although the latter could be a bonus)? Are they clear about what they can provide for you? What is their process?

Ask for references and actually contact them. Ask each reference what it was like to work with the Web designer. Find out if they delivered on time, on budget, and if the client could honestly recommend them.

There’s no industry standard for pricing a website

price tags

They can cost next to nothing to well into six figures. Since you already have a good idea of your budget, see what the designer’s average project typically costs to determine if your budget fits into that range. If the two numbers are way off, it’s best to find out early to avoid wasting anyone’s time.

Chances are if you’ve found a Web designer who’s responsible for a popular website, they’re fully booked for a little while. Most good Web designers are slammed, sometimes months in advance.

Find out when they could start a project with you and how long projects typically take. There’s so much you can do before a project starts, and waiting a while gives you a chance to do your own homework on what you need to provide the designer in terms of colors, aesthetics and product purpose.

Be prepared to adjust time and money if none of the professionals you want to hire can work with your budget or timeline – maybe that means waiting a little longer or saving up a little more. That just gives you more time to focus on your business idea, products/services and value.

Here’s a list of important questions to ask before you hire anyone:

  • Can you provide a list of five references I can contact?
  • Do you do this full-time and how long have you been doing web design?
  • What is your process?
  • What is the typical budget range for your projects? how are payments broken down for projects?
  • What is the typical turn-around time for your projects?
  • When can the project be started?
  • What do you need from me before we start?
  • Do your clients see a return on investment? Do you have proof of increased conversion rates or goals being achieved after you’ve done a redesign?
  • Does the price include making the site mobile friendly?
  • Will the site be supported by retina screens?
  • Do you custom design or use templates?
  • Who will own the website design when it’s paid for?
  • Do you offer maintenance or training or post-launch support?
  • Who is the contact person and who is doing the work? is anything outsourced or subcontracted out?

As important as any of these questions is understanding and communication. Do you understand what they are talking about when they are describing what they do or what they can do for you?

Ease of communication is key in any project, especially a Web design project, where things can get confusing or misaligned due to jargon or tech speak.

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Top image credit: Shutterstock

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