A few years ago, I created a basic WordPress site to support the launch of my book, Courting Your Career. And as much as I’d love to say I have robust graphic design skills, I don’t.
I cobbled a site together incorporating free technical and layout advice from a few friends, a colleague who worked in marketing at Burt’s Bees, and an MBA student who had experience as both a blogger and working as a product manager for a software company. And that was about the extent of it.
Since then, I’ve toggled back and forth between actively and passively looking for someone to upgrade my site, brand identity, business cards—the whole shebang.
Surprising to me, it was much harder to pick someone who 1) I could afford 2) had the requisite technical skills and artistic eye and 3) whose style is a match for my vision for the site and how I want to position myself as a brand.
Finding a rock star web site designer/brand builder takes time, a little elbow grease, and requires the following strategies and tactics:
Have your ducks in a row. Spend time (a lot of time) evaluating your web site, business cards, and brand. Get feedback from current or potential clients, friends, family, and/or random strangers to determine whether or not they are meeting your needs. The more time you spend on a situational analysis on the front end, the easier it will be once you find the right web site designer/brand builder—something I totally underestimated as I went through the process.
Ask around. Instead of trying to navigate a seemingly endless sea of freelancers, ask friends who have sites you like who they used. This will almost certainly save you a lot of time and wasted effort. At the same time, make sure you still go through a thorough vetting process. Just because they did nice work for someone you know doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results.
Don’t hire a painter whose house has a terrible paint job. Or in this case, don’t hire a designer whose web site or portfolio is a total mess. If you don’t like their logo, layout, or graphic design skills—move on. If you like their work, you also want to spend a lot of time looking at their entire portfolio. If they don’t have a portfolio, move on.
They need to be busy, but not too busy. Typically, you don’t want to hire someone who is starring at the phone hoping to use advanced telepathy to make it ring. But at the same time, you don’t want someone who is so busy that they don’t have time for you (something you can be on the lookout for when you’re asking friends and colleagues for referrals).
There are a ton of entrepreneurs out there with bad looking web sites, business cards, brochures, etc. Just because you have a mouse and a printer and know some basic html doesn’t mean you should be solely responsible for defining your brand, creating your web site, or generating web content.
Know what good looks like or find a rock star web site developer/art director to help. You might not want to spend the money now, but your brand identity and equity will thank you later.
By: Shawn Graham
[Image: Flickr user Jeffrey]