Hiring a Freelance Web Designer – A Guide for Small Business Owners


Table of Contents

The search begins, a man’s lost at sea and it’s your job to command the search party. You have little key information and this is your first time in this position.

What do you do?

You might go out alone, ignore the resources you have at your disposal and begin swimming. Would that be the wisest course of action?

Probably not.

Your best course of action is to ask someone who has conducted a search party, someone with skills and experience you don’t have yet.

That brings us here.

Your immediate situation might not be as dramatic as having someone lost at sea, but you’re looking for a web design freelancer in the vast sea of the internet.

There’s enough similarities here.

You want someone that won’t break the bank, creates stunning designs and turns projects around in jaw dropping time.

Have you heard of the Triple Constraint? It has a few names, but basically it’s the balance between project price, quality and speed.

Those are the three areas you’re trying to identify when working with a web design freelancer.

Disclaimer, there’s no perfect process to know all three from a few back-and-forth emails and a zoom call. But there are key areas you can look for to narrow the gap.

Knowing What You Need BEFORE Your Search

Before you start googling designers in your area or scroll through a listing website like Fivrr, you must understand the project you’re tasking a designer to do.

So, do you know what project you need completed?

Projects can be anything from a complete website revamp to just a single sales page. This is the scope of what you need which indicates how much time it can take.

Also know your budget, don’t say, “I don’t have a budget”, you do, there’s always a budget. Ask yourself:

What’s the most I want to spend on my web design project? And what’s the least I want to spend? Find the balance between those two numbers.

Understand the value good web design can bring your business. A lot of newer small business owners do not evaluate decision making with value in mind, rather focus on pure cost.

Do you value good web design skills and understand the benefits?

If not, this can be a big mistake and cause problems down the track; conflicts and constant disagreements can take place.

I’ve been on the receiving end of it, not being valued for your work is awful.

Assess The Portfolio

You’re after the work the web designer produces, so look at their recent work first. Their portfolio will typically be found on the designer’s website. If they don’t have their own portfolio, this is a big red flag.

A lot of web designers are using Behance and Dribbble to display and share their work. If their website looks a bit bare, take a look at those platforms before you cut them from the list.

Wherever their portfolio is, look for similar web design projects that you would want for your business.

  • What draws your eye?
  • Do they produce designs according to your style?

If you have no clue about what looks good, read comments from others and see how liked their portfolio is. Or send the designers portfolio to a trusted friend or colleague to get their opinion.

Take note of the last uploaded portfolio entry, two days ago or two years ago? This tells the difference between someone regularly working in the industry or someone lazy with their portfolio. Getting to know the designer will show if it’s their lack of skills not landing them more jobs, or they just don’t have time for their portfolio.

Read Recent Reviews

Reviews are great ways to see what past clients are saying. Find reviews, a.k.a testimonials, on the designers website, Facebook, Google My Business or via comments on their portfolio.

You want to see what people are saying about their experience with the designer.

  • Was it a positive experience?
  • Did they get the result they expected?

You may find star rating systems helpful, quickly see the average of all reviews in a nice 1 – 5 system.

Order the reviews once by best, and once by worst to see the variety of feedback. Even good designers have negative experiences.

Price Matters Most… ?

There’s no fixed system for how web designers price and invoice clients. However, there are two main ways:

  • Hourly Rate
  • Fixed Rate (calculated per project)

The hourly rate would work if cashflow is currently light or you’re unsure of the designer, giving them smaller tasks to see their ability. Fixed-rate will most likely be more investment upfront and is a good option to know what you’re going to get.

Be aware that a fixed-rate project doesn’t run into ongoing hourly rates, if projects go over scope this can happen. To avoid this, make sure you’re having regular, effective communication with your designer.

The actual dollar amount you’ll be charged depends on the designer, some start as low as a few dollars and you can find some who cost hundreds per hour. A lot of the time it’s as simple as, ‘you get what you pay for’.

I’d recommend not ‘cheaping out’ on a budget web designer and begin in the mid-range, around $50-80/hour. You’ll find more experienced designers who will deliver on the three factors of quality, price and speed.

Book A Meeting & Use A Score Card

Get in a room with the designer you like or hop on a Zoom call and rank the web designer by the following criteria:

  1. Do they understand my business and the project I’m asking?
  2. Will they help grow my business by adding value?
  3. Are they listening to my needs and giving me reassuring feedback?
  4. Do they understand the goals of the project and are they well organised?
  5. Do they communicate deadlines and project timelines?
  6. Are they comfortable communicating pricing and are the requests clear?
  7. What does my gut say?

Make them understand your business by asking about their portfolio, past clients and general knowledge about your industry. If they haven’t worked with other businesses in your specific industry, that doesn’t mean they’re not a good fit, but it is a good aspect to have.

Take note of how they’re responding to your questions, are they really listening and taking what you’re saying on board? Are they confident in discussing project tasks and prices? If not, this may be due to lack of experience and can be a possible problem moving forward.

No matter how well they do in the meeting, look inward and really trust what your gut says. It’s so important to trust yourself as a small business owner. If you’re still in doubt, reach out to a trusted friend or colleague for a second opinion.

Making A Decision

Take all of your research and organise it in your chosen way, either a spread sheet, google doc or a pros/cons list in your note book, what ever works for you.

By evaluating a freelance web designer’s portfolio, past reviews, pricing and their score card, you’ll have the best chance finding a great fit for your business.

If this was helpful, you’re in luck as I’m a freelance web designer and would love to chat! Email me and we can talk about what you need and how I can help.

If you’d like to get to know me more, follow me on Twitter or sign up for my letters by entering your info on this website.

You might want to read more about the benefits of having your own website. Here’s my article explaining how a website can save you time and money.

Another option is to read my step by step guide for yourself to setup your own website. Read the article here showing you the entire process.

About The Author
Mr Ash

Mr Ash

“Learn, create, share, repeat.” • IT teacher, former web designer, learning CyberSec • Road to #100DaysOfHacking on Hackers Learning Path.
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