How to hire a freelance designer

I’ve had a lot of requests to write a blog post about my experience working with a freelance designer on HuBoard.

Going into the project I only knew one thing, I need a logo and some branding help.

Things I now know after this project:

  1. How much do freelance designers charge?
  2. How do you find an experienced designer?
  3. How do you task designers with work?
  4. What experience should you expect from a designer?

1. How much do freelance designers charge?

This was the first thing that was very hard for me. It seemed clouded in mystery. How much is a brand worth? This is such an ambiguous question, the right brand could be priceless. Your designer might be creating to next Nike, Twitter, or GitHub brand and walking away with $35 has got to suck.

I started asking questions and I contacted the only designer that I know and asked. Here’s what I found out.

Here is a super rough breakdown of time and cost (potential). This will get you to the MVP.

  1. Branding exercise / messaging – 25hrs
  2. Home / marketing page design (no copy writing) – 35hrs
  3. Email templates for MailChimp (2 templates) – 10hrs

Each item will have 2 revisions – First attempt and final. Total time – 70hrs

Rates will vary depending on talent. You can easily find someone with less design experience at a rate of $20 – $40hr but you’ll take a hit on quality. This may not be a problem for an MVP. Startups often make the mistake of thinking things need to be perfect in order to ship. Not true.

On the flip side, you can hire a more experienced designer at a rate of $65 – $85hr. This option puts you in the public eye and creates a buzz around a product. The finer details of the application are precise and user experience is memorable.

Ok, ~70 hrs @ $70/hr = ~$5000 for an experienced designer. I don’t have $5k just laying around to pay a designer, but I really wanted a solid vision and focus moving forward. So I decided to cut back, the most important thing for me was the Brand and logo. 25-30 hours @ $70 = ~$2000 dollars, now I had my budget.

2. How do you find an experienced designer?

Armed with a budget I set out to find my designer. There are some crowd source sites there were recommended to me like elance and 99designs. I have nothing against those sites, but that wasn’t the experience I was looking for. I wanted a more personal experience.

Another option is legit design firms. I inquired with Dog Dive Creative and a few others. I’m sure they are fantastic and professional, unfortunately they were outside of my budget.

I think Andre is fantastic and I have a friendly relationship with him already so I told him what my budget was and asked if he was interested. He was booked up and unavailable so he helped me out by posting my inquiry on juiiicy which is a job posting community for freelance designers.

Their process is described as:

  1. Designers ask for an introduction
  2. Pick the designer you want
  3. Pay them through juiiicy

And my experience was exactly as described. Around 10 designers posted that they were interested and juiiicy provided me links to their portfolios on dribbble. I felt like a a pretty princess, all these amazing designers all asking for my hand in holy freelance-tromony.

It was a tough decision everyone was sooo good, I eventually chose the young and super talented Andrew Colin Beck. A true scholarly gentlemen that was about to graduate from design school at BYU.

3. How do you task designers with work?

My relationship with Andrew started with introductions and messages back a forth with juiiicy. We set a google hangout and had a call to talk about the project. We discussed what my budget was and the scope of work that I needed done.

I came to the meeting prepare with a list of about 8 things I wanted done listed in order of priority.

  1. Logo
  2. Brand guidelines
  3. Recommendations on colors, typography, look and feel
  4. Assets to represent Ready/Blocked/Done states
  5. Home page, pricing page, and error splash pages
  6. Email templates, letter heads, and print based branding

We agreed on the scope of the project and how much work we could get done with the budget that I had. We both agreed that we could get through 1-4.

I learned that standard practice with freelance designers is to pay 50% up front and the final 50% upon delivery. Andrew set me an invoice and things were set in motion.

4. What experience should you expect from a designer?

Once Andrew received payment we had a short brainstorming call so Andrew could what the project was about and what I wanted from the brand. Armed with knowledge Andrew went and brainstormed and came back with some ideas.


We talked about some rough ideas he had for the brand and I narrowed it down to two chooses that I wanted to see fleshed out a little bit more. Number 1 and number 4, an owl mascot or this collaborative logo that he was really excited about. So he went off to explore those ideas further.

option 1

We discussed the option of the owl and I liked it but it was far from original. Having an owl mascot has been done before and its hard to make it “your” brand.

option 2

Option 2 was interesting and Andrew was really excited about it. This idea of people collaborating to create the logo. It was risky but he was really excited so I went with it.

final logo

After deciding to go with option 2 he explored it further and came up with the final version. Overall I’m very happy with the static version of the logo. He still liked this idea of an animated logo and wanted to explore it in different ways.


The concept is to animate an interesting statistic into the logo. Overall I think its a bit risky to mess with your brand in a strange way, but why not I’m ok with a little risk. I don’t expect to get everything right the first time.

Tell me what you think. Love it? Hate it? Similar experiences? Want more posts like this?

EmberJS :: Beyond the tutorials