1)  Where are you looking for designers?

Some places look good, but its always better to look for ones in the same country as you.  Posting in forums is always good because you can look up a users profile to see their post content – which usually reflects their experience, knowledge and communication skills!  If you’ve not been already, try Web Designer Forum who have a Looking to Hire board where you can advertise your job for free!

2) Do you know what you want?

The more information you give the better – the more details you give means that it’s easier for a designer/developer to estimate the total time required and give you a more accurate quote.

If you miss out something in your initial request, chances are there’ll be additional costs during development.  There’s a lot of features in websites which might just look “standard” or as if “the software” might just make it for them but in fact it’s a lot of work for designers.

3) Do they have experience?

Obviously someone with experience is better than someone with no experience – but even the guy with no experience has to start somewhere! Generally designers tend to do small jobs for friends/family/local businesses to build up a bit of a portfolio and will then offer their services elsewhere. Personally I think when looking at experience, you should look at how much work they’ve done, and the quality of it rather than just numbers such as “10 years web experience” – which could just mean having a personal website for 10 years and nothing else!
Try to find someone who has a bit of experience at least as they’ll be able to quote you from experience, know what they’re doing, and most likely complete your site quicker as well.

4)  Things to look for

A portfolio is always one of the first things to look at. Make sure they accept a payment method you want to use. See where they’re based – it’s easier to deal with ones that are national rather than international. Checkout their homepage – if someone claims they’re a designer, they should have a decent website as proof. Validate their site – use the W3C Validator to validate the designers website – many claim to make standards compliant sites yet even their own homepage isn’t valid! Looking at experience and establishment – in a few months or even years you might want to go back to the designer to get more work done, what are the chances they’ll still be around?

5)  Is it safe to request services from someone online?

As a designer/developer, my experience has only been doing jobs requested online. Generally I’m able to pick out the ones that won’t be a nuisance. Seeing as websites are a web-based product, and most designers advertise their services online anyway I see no harm in getting work done via their website, or a forum or job site. It would be advisable to go for the designer with the portfolio and decent site so you know they can be trusted.

6)  Are you prepared to pay?

Just because you have a new idea and want to go online doesn’t mean that designers will lower their prices for you.  Designers tend to charge a fixed hourly rate whether it’s David Beckham that wants a site, or just your average Joe Bloggs who has some shoes to sell.

Most designers will charge a deposit upfront (amount varies) to protect themselves. The remainder of the cost is charged on completion.

7)  Signing contracts

Try to get a contract signed once you and the designer have made agreed on price and requirements.  A contract is good for both parties as it makes everything more “official” and gives you more protection if something does happen to go wrong.

Most contracts are agreements that the designer is willing to provide their service to you for X amount and that you agree to pay the amount on completion.  When the work is done, it should belong to you – but make sure the contract says so.