How to Hire for Design

Designers can help bring your vision to life so it’s no question why people are willing to reach deep into their pockets to see this being executed. First impressions matter and your company’s visual identity enhances how you attract prospective clients. A good design creates brand recognition so people are able to quickly recall what your brand is and what you stand for. The role of a professional designer is to be able to take your idea and create a design that transcends from online to offline seamlessly. 

Business owners commonly wonder who they should hire as their design partner and why the fees can vary so much. In this post, we will be explaining the differences between freelance graphic designers, graphic design agencies, and in-house graphic designers to help you understand the variations in experience, expectations and costs for your business. 


Freelance graphic designer

The cost of hiring a freelance graphic designer depends on a variety of factors including the type of project, design elements, experience level, revision process and location. The budget is fairly flexible for these designers with hourly rates ranging from $30 to $100. However these numbers don’t include bonuses, overtime or the revision process that some designers may choose to charge a different price on. Keep in mind that hiring an entry-level designer with a low hourly fee can mean a project will take longer and rack up more hours, so you may end up paying the same or more than you would from hiring a more senior designer. Freelance designers may also charge a flat fee instead to simplify the payment process. The price to create one brochure; for example, could range anywhere from $50-$500 depending on how well your designer communicates and how much preparation is done prior to any design happening. Hiring a freelance graphic designer may be a good option for a quick, one-time project you need done on a budget.

*Hiring Tip: Experience levels vary greatly when it comes to freelance designers. Review their portfolios and see if you like their style and previous work, rather than hiring on price tag alone. You may also consider asking for references to get a sense of the designer’s professionalism, communication and turnaround time.


Graphic design agency

A design agency consists of a team of professionals that work together to provide design services. In this model, you can expect a greater deal of structure and organization, as any professional design team should have a streamlined sales and onboarding process, a written contract and clear expectations for budget and timeline. Rather than dealing with one freelance designer, you may be in touch with an account manager or project manager who can relay your project information and feedback. In addition to providing great design work, a studio or agency will offer more strategic planning and thinking on how to execute your project. Since agencies are usually expected to deliver high quality of service and results, they deal with larger budgets. The old adage is true that you get what you pay for and the hourly rate could range anywhere from $100-$200, depending on the scope of work. Agencies may also charge flat rates or monthly retainers that should all be written out in a service agreement. Graphic design agencies are great for large-scale projects which require strategic thinking, and for an overall higher calibre of service for greater results. Compared to the cost of hiring a full time designer, outsourcing to an agency partner can enable a small business to “pay as they go” and only spend money on services they need, rather than budgeting for an annual salary.

*Hiring Tip: There are many many types of agencies, from branding and design focused, to full service marketing companies. Depending on what you are looking for, you may consider choosing a firm that has a specialty in one area. However, if a company seems to be too focused on one niche (ie. real estate), it might be wise to consider another option so that you can avoid preconceived ideas. In addition to reviewing portfolio, the best way to hire an agency is to ask trusted contacts for a referral or check out their Google reviews or testimonials. 


In-house graphic designer

Hiring a full-time graphic designer for all your project needs is always an option. Salary costs vary depending on where in the world you’re located and the average salary in Canada would be $45,000-$70,000 per year depending on experience.  Other costs to consider are the costs of computers and software which can cost at least $50 per month per user. Hiring a full time designer is a good option if your business has enough volume and ongoing work to support a full time employee. Often times, employers seek designers who are skilled in graphics and websites to fulfill multiple needs with one candidate. If your business doesn’t need an in-house designer just yet, you may consider outsourcing to an agency and simply pay for the work you need.

*Hiring Tip: Graphic design is a skill that can be learned fairly easily with the right training. Whether someone is self-taught or has enrolled in a program is perhaps less important in this industry than some other professions. Other priorities to consider when hiring in house is the style and quality of work in the designer’s portfolio, their ability to communicate via email and in an interview (spelling and grammar are huge!) and any other work experience they have which may bring a more diverse skill set. Beyond design taste and talent, the most successful designers are observers of business and various industries, so they can ground their design work from a more well-rounded perspective.


Depending on what you are looking for, there will be a designer or design team who can meet those expectations and deliver the vision you have in mind. Globally, there are millions of designers to choose from, so beyond looking at the obvious visual work or rates, we encourage you to think about the type of experience you want to have, and return on your investment. Keeping this in mind, we hope this post provided clarity on what to consider as you consider your own design needs!

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