How to Be a New Client for Design Work

How to Be a New Client for Design Work

NOTE: This post has been migrated from my graphic design site,


Of course you want to do it all, your business is your baby! But, as a business owner, sometimes you find yourself in scenarios that you cannot solve, due to the lack of skills & tools necessary. Do you buy stock imagery and manipulate it in Microsoft Office for a 24 page annual report? Your options will be greatly reduced in what you can create, simply due to lack of functionality. Do you create a website to advertise your restaurant, but with no knowledge of theme manipulation, layout, or even color theory? After a quick review of what your competitors are doing, you may be ready to be a design client.

Now, you are forced to look at the outside world, where the choices of professionals to hire are plentiful. You could be facing this same situation with your finances, business licensing, or even your hiring predicaments, but for now, let’s concentrate on your marketing.


There are so many places to find designers:,,, your local chamber of commerce, the telephone directory, and so many more! You may hire someone remote and online, with the entire world available to you, but with little personal relationship. Or you may want to inquire about a large marketing firm, which is likely over the top for what small businesses need. Lastly, there is the option to hire someone one-on-one with in your community, that bridges that gap between shady online artist and expensive marketing firm.

You should also be aware that there is a wide berth of skills available throughout design agencies and solo designers. As the client, you will need to research: look them all up online, and ask to see portfolios, or references from past clients. You are responsible for hiring someone who matches your needs. Regardless of who you go with, your role as client will be essentially the same.

Here’s some quick training for people new to hiring design professionals.

Getting Started

All designers have slightly different processes that vary as much as do your projects, but there are the same key elements in each. For example, creating a trifold brochure will be way less complex than building a website for a large organization because of the purpose and goals for the project. That said, the process will generally look something like this for all the newbies out there.

Initial Client/Designer Talks

You will need to meet the designer/team you have decided to work with. This may be done virtually via email or chat application, or you may “meet” via phone call or Skype. Of course, there’s always the in-person meeting which may be more intense and scary but also more idea-provoking and worry-sqwashing. I lean toward the in-person interviews with all new clients to help feel more comfortable with me, but also, so that I can understand their preferences and needs better. After that, we usually gravitate towards email and chat communication for the sake of speed.

But what do you bring to this first discussion?

  1. A prioritized list of products (if there are more than one)
    Please be aware of when you need each product finished.
  2. Clear purpose for each of the final products
    This clarity should include your most specifically defined audience, method of dispersal, and specific metrics or goals you intend for the project to fulfill.
  3. As much of the final text as possible
    If you need to hire a copy-writer or editor, please make that known. Otherwise, you will be expected to send over content before the designer gets to work.
  4. An idea of what you want the product to look like
    If you have done market research for your project, your goals will be more specific. However, if your request is vague, you will likely need to pay extra for your designer to invest time into market research. It will not benenfit your business to base all design decisions on whether you like blue or not.
  5. Your budget per product or overall
    All designers and firms have different rates, and most will do their best to accomplish whatever they can within your budget. Be up front about what you can afford, and what is most important to you to accomplish with that. Note that most designers and firms also expect an upfront deposit on the project costs.

Remember, you are the client here, not the boss, so let the professional you are working with lead the conversation. Be sure to ask lots of questions.And always be as honest as you can because that will help them create the best product for you.

Designer Presentation

After initial discussions, contract signings and deposits are made, your artist/team will get to researching and concepting. Sketches will happen again and again, and eventually, they will come to you with proofs.

What is presented to you will likely be covered in your initial contract or discussion but could possibly entail:

  • various concepts that need more work
  • fully laid out proofs containing text you already sent over
  • mockup images of your potential logos/products in use
  • hand drawn sketches for presentation only on complicated art projects

Client Critique

Your job now is to take the work that is presented to you and start analyzing. You may have a slew of options in front of you to choose from, or you may have one large package to review closely. Either way, here’s a quick plan of action: (Be sure to specify in your notes what image/proof you are specifically looking at.)

  1. Work from large level to small detail.Start with looking at the concepts as a whole, and then move through the layers of fine details, like color and font choice.
  2. Focus on the options that you are most drawn toand note what it is you like about these.
  3. If there are details that you are immediately turned offby or just don’t understand, note these facts and causes also.
  4. You are the client, aka the decision maker, here so you will need to let the designer know how to proceed, aka which concept to focus on revising.
  5. Give all of this to your designer/team, and be prepared toanswer questions asking for clarity.


You and your team of professionals may go through a few rounds of this revising and critiquing. Do your best to be coherent and clear, and value the fact that you are paying for the time it takes to fullfill your requests.

If you have multiple project needs, the designer will likely prefer to invoice you for the balance due at each milestone. Please remember that you are paying a business professional, and they are paying their own bills out of this.

If it was just a fun hobby for which they didn’t require compensation, designers would only do it for friends and family.

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