When to Contract a Graphic Designer - and When to Do it Yourself.

As an owner of a graphic design business myself, I love to take on new clients. Ideally, everything design-related is better done by a graphic designer if you don’t have experience yourself. However, I understand that not everyone can afford to contract a designer for all of their design needs. To make sure you’re spending in the right places here are some key times to contract/hire a graphic designer – and when you can most likely get by on your own.

When Starting a Business: Contract a Designer!

Every business at some point will want to cut corners instead of paying for the real deal. This is especially prominent in businesses that are just beginning, as budgets are tight and owners are fine with learning new things to kickstart their new venture – which, might I add is perfectly acceptable! You’ve got to do what you've got to do. However this is not the time do the graphic design yourself unless you have considerable experience. This sets the stage for the image of your brand... for better or for worse. Because tools and experience are limited, the outcome maybe be less than satisfactory and can hurt you in the long run.

You may be able to pinpoint things you like and things you dislike in designs, and you may even be able to create something that looks nice - but without professional graphic design experience, you may overlook important aspects of identity design such as: proper font pairings, applying design principles (balance, contrast, visual hierarchy, etc) appropriate color choice for your brand, creating the correct file types, creating something that can be easily reproduced/printed, promoting your company's USP (unique selling point), etc.

A good graphic designer will not only make it look nice, but ensure every detail (visual and implied) represents your business well. They’ll ask you about your goals as a business, your target market, and help find what’s unique about your business and then reflect that in the design. Having really impactful design as you start your business will be a great catalyst for your future success and confidence.

Also, designing without past experience tends to result in sporadic efforts that cause you to revisit the same tasks later when you find that they weren’t sufficiently done. Perhaps a business designs their own logo only to find that when they need to print it in black and white only, the details get lost and the logo is no longer recognizable. Back to the drawing board! A graphic designer has the foresight and experience to know that the design will need to be adaptable across a variety of media to make the logo functional across the board, making things smoother from the start.

Imagine not worrying about having to hold off on growing your business because you’re waiting to decide on how to visually represent yourself! Just let a professional take care of it and you can get back to strategizing and growing.

Public Content: Contract a Designer!

Everything that people see that ties back to your business is building or destroying your brand. Whether it’s a flyer, poster, website, business card, or even an invoice - you’re going to want the design to be right on the money.

When dealing with content that is being seen by the public eye, right off the bat you need to make sure that your output is as professional as possible and simply possible. Nothing is more frustrating than laboring hours on your own design only to find that that “perfect image” is too small to be printed without looking pixelated, or that amazingly vibrant color you chose comes out dull... Actually, I lied. There is something more frustrating – spending the time and the money on a ton of prints with an overlooked error. Through contracting a designer, certain printing restrictions and requirements can be prepared for and incorporated into the design the first time.

Beyond the perk of professional production, consulting and working with a professional graphic designer also creates brand consistency across every design. Companies without design experience that do their own design work are likely to fall into small variations across projects, slowly breaking apart their own brand. This makes it incredibly difficult for your target market to identify each design as belonging to your business. On the flip side, a professional designer will define all of the ins and outs of your brand and make sure each piece of design reflects that. Check out Twitter’s style guide for example. Notice how they outline every detail from defining the amount of negative space that must surround the logo when placed in a design down to the minimum size their logo should ever be. This is professional attention to design details.

This leads into some occasions in which you could feel comfortable in doing things yourself:

Recreating Simple Designs or Editing Pre-Existing Designs: You Can Do it Yourself!

Let’s say you have a flyer that was designed by a professional, but now has outdated information on it. This would be a great time to do it yourself! The backbones are already there and most of the time replacing information shouldn’t change the design itself. Say you have greeting cards already made, but you want to print them with unique quotes in each one. This is another occasion that you could take it on yourself rather than pay a designer to do it. You can request to have the file sent to you as an editable PDF so you can easily change text from your PDF viewer. Done and done! Then, if a special quote is needed last-minute, there is no need to reach out to the designer and wait for them to fix it for you. Granted, some of you may have low confidence in doing things like this. No problem! Surely many graphic designers are willing to help make simple changes, but that will obviously come with a price, including the chance that there will be some more turnaround time. If you need an immediate change, it can be difficult to hire someone to do it in the time that you need it in.

You can even go so far as to recreate a simple design with a different application. I recommend ensuring your designer creates a brand style guide for your business. That way you can refer to it when re-creating a simple design, helping you feel comfortable that what you are doing is consistent with your brand image.

When Trivial Designs are Needed: You Can Do it Yourself!

This one may be obvious, but if you require a simple sign to notify employees that the drinking fountain is out of order, it is typically unwise to hire a designer just for this purpose. Another example could be when putting together a presentation for a team meeting. Yes, ideally, everything about your business should maintain your brand identity, but if the budget is still tight these are the kinds of things to tackle yourself until further notice. Again, referring to the brand style guide provided to you by a professional graphic designer goes a long way!

Conclusion

Hiring a graphic designer at the right time is key to giving your business the right image, but also not always worth investing your resources in when it comes to certain projects. Still unsure about whether to hire or to do it yourself? No problem! Every situation is different and no two businesses are identical. Send me an email or reach out here on LinkedIn. We can chat about your specific situation and find solutions for any design-related problem you’re having.

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