Seeking advice on how to contract with a freelance photoshop designer
January 22, 2007 11:17 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to find a few photoshop designers that will design website mockups for me. (I'm a freelance website developer. I prefer coding to designing.) How would you go about finding the right person?

I would probably choose three different designers for each projects and ask that they create a website mockup based on the input and inspirations provided by my client. Hopefully the client will like one of the designs and I'll use it as the basis for constructing the site (in xhtml and css).

I've never outsourced, so I'm looking for advice...

How can I find the freelancers? I've used my Google-Fu and found a bunch of freelancer websites. I have no idea which to choose or even if this is the best approach. Maybe posting on a leading photoshop forum is a better idea because these will be very simple projects?

I was hoping to pay about $50-$75 for each mockup. Is this at all reasonable for creative and thoughtful designs?

One fear I have is that a lazy designer will just copy an existing website design and I'll never know that until my clients finds another website out there that look almost exactly like theirs.

Any advice for your experience?
posted by namith to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"I was hoping to pay about $50-$75 for each mockup. Is this at all reasonable for creative and thoughtful designs?"

Thats scraping the bottom of the barrel of the talent pool. A good designer (who is located in the USA, and speaks the English) is going to cost that per hour.

You get what you pay for. If you want to be another cookie cutter website developer, $50-$75 is about right.

If you want a good quality template that is "creative and thoughtful", with revisions, expect 4-6 hours @$100/hr.
posted by SirStan at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2007

I think it would be more effective to find one or two web designers who focus more on the design aspect and understand how web sites are structured and how graphics work in the web environment, and then ask them for a quote for handling the design aspect of the job, the cost of which would be added to the overall quote for the job itself.

This way you avoid working with inexperienced designers who will be willing to work for a cheaper rate, and be able to communicate more effectively the needs of the client. If revisions are factored in from the word go then it makes your relationship with the other designer easier too.

To be honest I am not an advocate of the mockup in Photoshop way to present a potential design, as it doesn't convey effectively how the site will work.

The best place to look for designers is to think of some site designs you like and then find out who designed them. Hopefully they can present you with a portfolio of work and you can move on from there.
posted by gomichild at 12:07 PM on January 22, 2007

Go to a design school. Let them use it as a portfolio project. SirStan is right as far as what an experienced professional would charge. A student will be green & so it'll be a different experience than hiring a professional, but you'll get a discount because of their inexperience. Ask to see their work first, and if you find a student with a good work ethic, some interesting ideas, and a little natural talent you might get something cool.

All future professional designers have to start out that way...
posted by miss lynnster at 12:09 PM on January 22, 2007

The preferred method is to ask one or more designers to bid for the time necessary to perform an assignment. Choose them based on their portfolios and business references. Making them work on spec -- $50 is nothing but a token payment to anybody who's not doing this as a hobby -- wastes their time.

The winning bid then submits a couple designs and is paid for their time according to contract. (Very broadly: An hourly rate times (the estimated time to deliver N comps plus the time necessary to revise the initially approved comp to meet final approval, plus further time for other design elements and concepts)). This is true whether the design budget is a hundred bucks or several thousand.

If you can only budget $200 total for a site design, spreading that among several designers in the hope that one comp is passable is the worst strategy of all.

Eventually you'll build a short list of designers you'll frequently tap for work. And if you treat them as fellow professionals, they'll probably forward jobs your way too -- they don't necessarily want to hack through Dreamweaver or GoLive when they'd rather be doing comps.
posted by ardgedee at 12:09 PM on January 22, 2007

There are websites that offer the purchase of psd shake-and-bake templates for around the range of your budget. Please don't waste anyone's time by offering pennies for professional services. It's insulting to (real) designers and you'll likely end up with a product that won't work for you anyway.
posted by quadog at 12:16 PM on January 22, 2007

Sorry for ranting.

Think about this strategically: If you want short-order work rapidly turned around, you need talents who come with reputations for quick, clean work. Tap former coworkers and colleagues. You probably don't know any designers, but you definitely know people who know web designers.

You'll have to spend a couple hours on the phone, but working your network and tracking people down will have a better success rate than putting up flags and hoping the right people come to you.
posted by ardgedee at 12:16 PM on January 22, 2007

Thanks so much for the advice so far. I think I have bigger problems... maybe I need a freelance MBA to better help be price my services.

Most of my clients are new businesses. They want nice 'brochure' website for not so much money. Maybe in two weeks, my next MeFi question will be how much to charge for a website.

Thanks. I'll keep watching for the photoshop advice.
posted by namith at 12:17 PM on January 22, 2007

Here's what I do because I prefer coding to designing as well.

I send clients to Template Kingdom or Template Monster to look over the designs there and tell me what they like if they don't have a design in mind. This takes the pressure off of me to come up with three "new" designs, esp. if the client doesn't have something concrete in mind.

Then, regardless the inspiration for the design, I prepare a mockup in Photoshop using the elements from the chosen design (they may like the arrangement of information, the types of images, etc).

Let me stress at this point, I do not copy the designs from the Template sites, unless the client has purchased one of them.

After I create the layout I want in Photoshop, I give the Photoshop file to a CSS/HTML developer to convert with instructions for widths, footer stick, behaviors, etc.

This process works well for me and keeps my costs reasonable.
posted by elle.jeezy at 1:20 PM on January 22, 2007

Followup. If the client has concrete ideas of what they want, etc. then the template sites aren't necessary and I follow their instructions, etc. for the layout.

Wanted to be clear on that.
posted by elle.jeezy at 1:23 PM on January 22, 2007

• Find a local graphic designer. Sure it’s a global village, but nothing beats face-to-face: find a designer who can see your gestures in person. Any decent outfit will be on the web, so search for “[mytown] + graphic design”

• SirStan is right: $50 - $75 is a low hourly rate, not a finished product. Expect at least 4 hours per page.

• Don’t narrow your needs down to Photoshop. Many web designers work will Illustrator instead, because vector graphics are much more suited to attractive, fast-loading websites.

• Find a small design company whose portfolio you agree with. No need to narrow it down to “visual-only” specialists: a good designer that knows how to do Photoshop mockups for the web should have some experience with web coding, too. A designer who dabbles in code will be easier to explain yourself to, as well.

• Hiring a student is a risk, but can benefit the student immensely. If you’re looking for cheap labour, that’s the route to take. Just make sure you review their portfolio first, even if it’s sparse.

• Pursue word of mouth referrals. Talk to people who have hired designers, and research the names and companies spoken. It’s the strongest type of reference in the design field.

That being said, I work for Elbowroom Design. We’re a Calgary based design studio that loves making contacts with coders and developers, and we might be able to provide some useful support.
posted by Milkman Dan at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2007

"Most of my clients are new businesses. They want nice 'brochure' website for not so much money. Maybe in two weeks, my next MeFi question will be how much to charge for a website."

These are the type of client who will suck up all your time, energy and resources. The won't stop harassing you. If you are a good designer you should be aiming for contract work. The money you make from these smaller clients will be peanuts because they simply don't have budget for it.

If you are good enough, set yourself up as a contractor, register with an agency then pick and choose who you want to work with. This is a far more enjoyable, professional and lucrative path to follow if you ever want to build a reputation as a quality web designer and, ultimately, make some good money.

If you're just starting out, well, good luck. It's a tough business and goes way beyond having knowing HTML and a bit of photoshop.
posted by ReiToei at 1:57 PM on January 22, 2007

Just realized I worded my post above incorrectly.

When I said to let them use it as a project, I didn't mean the design school themselves. I meant go to a design school to find designers & then hire them on the basis that they can use it as a project & put it into their portfolio that they're trying to build. A lot of design schools have a job board where they post freelance projects, that's how I got a lot of work when I was starting out. The projects didn't pay well but I got experience & portfolio pieces.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:30 PM on January 22, 2007

>>If you are a good designer you should be aiming for contract work...

Dude, the OP is a programmer looking to hire a designer.
posted by !Jim at 2:37 PM on January 22, 2007

>> Dude, the OP is a programmer looking to hire a designer.

If you are writing HTML and CSS you're a web designer, not a programmer.

The person making the request is a web designer looking for a graphic designer to create a visual from which the web designer will 'chop' into a xhtml/css web page layout.
posted by ReiToei at 3:02 PM on January 22, 2007

Talent pool at

Any designer that takes pride in their work won't stoop to copying another site.
posted by idiotfactory at 7:45 PM on January 22, 2007

I'm a web designer who loves writing clean XHTML and CSS for my own design work. Sometimes, however, I need some help implementing backend programming, open source shopping carts, etc. While I can hack away at PHP and MySQL, I'm not a programer.

So I've found myself in a situation similar to yours more than once. I've had some great responses to clearly written classifieds posted to craigslist. Just make sure you check people out and actually meet with them before starting work.

You can probably find someone willing to work at the rate you're offering; but, as already mentioned, you'll definitely be at the bottom of the ladder. But you might find a student or someone just starting out who wants to build up a portfolio.
posted by aladfar at 7:59 PM on January 22, 2007

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