The five rules of outsourcing graphic design

March 22, 2009

Make sure you choose the right graphic designer to 'hand off' your overflow to with these five rules.

If you're like most graphic designers, you probably loathe the thought of someone else's design bearing your name. Having junior designers working for you is a fact of life for many design firms, however, and one you'll have to get used to if your company is to grow. Other times, you might simply be swamped and need a designer to handle some of your overhead - you don't want to turn down new work, but you need to be able to devote enough time to what you are working on to maintain a high quality level. So how do you balance a high workload with pressure to produce high quality? By outsourcing. Follow these five rules for outsourcing graphic design and you can avoid costly mistakes:

  1. Outsource to a designer with comparable talent. It is imperative that your designer maintains the quality level of your own work.
  2. Don't buy in to bargains. If a graphic designer charges half as much as you do for the same quality work, ask yourself why they charge less. Is their portfolio really theirs? Ideally, your outsourced designers will charge about the same as you do, but essentially offer you a percentage off so you can make a profit. As the adage goes, "buyer beware."
  3. Be open and honest. Let your designers know where they fit in to your business, and let your clients know that you're taking on a partner for their project. All businesses want to grow, and clients will not pull your contract simply because you're going through growing pains of your own (as long as they're still getting good value, meaning high-quality work at a fair price).
  4. Develop a good working relationship with your designer. Carefully plan each project together and be very clear about what you're after. That being said, you must also allow your designer to have creative freedom. Praise good work and be constructively critical of work that doesn't fit your company's mold - and be willing to consider breakthroughs you haven't thought of. You want a long-term partner who is reliable and who you can work with, so make sure you establish ground rules and institute a trial period before contracting for the long haul.
  5. Get it in writing. Not only should you be clear about each project's requirements, you must also be very clear about duties, expectations, deliverables, payments and other policies. Great business relationships have been ruined by ambiguity, and a well-documented agreement can prevent project-ending disagreements down the road. Consider every possible aspect: Is your designer allowed to include the work they do for you in their portfolio, for instance, or does it stay in yours? Do you need an NDA? What are the parameters? Sometimes business relationships just don't work - what's your exit strategy? You would be wise to have a business attorney experienced in outsourcing contracts help you draft a standard version.

Outsourcing sometimes has negative connotations, though they are not deserved. As with any business service, the success of outsourced graphic design depends on the quality of work and the dependability and attitudes of the people performing the work. Have you outsourced graphic design? What were the results? Would you do it again?

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About Brian Morris

Brian Morris serves in various capacities as a freelance writer, content developer and public relations specialist for growing small businesses. When he’s not writing, he can be found on the racquetball court - usually getting his tail kicked by guys 20 years older.

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