What to Expect When Working With a Designer

If you haven't worked with a designer before, you may have no idea what you should ask or how to pick someone to work with. You may be nervous because you're making an investment, but you're not really sure if you'll be able to communicate your ideas and get what you want. My goal is to quiet those fears and tell you what you need to know to have a successful outcome with no surprises when working with a designer.

what to expect when working with a designer

Finding a Designer

When searching for a designer, look for portfolios. Portfolios show a designer's past work and are representative of their capabilities. Keep in mind that every project is unique, so you may not find work that looks exactly like the design you want, but you should see examples of the type of design you are looking to commission. For example, if you're looking for a package design, the designer you hire should be able to show you examples of package designs they have previously produced.

Inquiry & Response

Once you've found a designer you're interested in working with, you'll need to send them an inquiry. Some designers post their packages and pricing on their website, while others require you to contact them with project details so that they can give you an estimate. This is usually because of the custom nature of design work and rather than mislead you with a general cost, they'd rather get the specific details of your project and write up an estimate that's accurate for your needs.

Be specific in your inquiry. The details you provide will affect the cost of your design. Depending on the type of design project, you may receive a simple estimate or a full proposal.

Proposals and estimates should include:

  • Exactly what work the designer will do
  • How much that work will cost
  • The payment schedule
  • A project timeline
  • What your final deliverables with be (note: deliverables are what you're paying for and the files or products you can expect to receive at the end of the project)


Once you agree to work with the designer and approve the estimate or proposal, the designer will send you a contract. Contracts are an industry standard and are designed to spell out the details of your working agreement with the designer. This includes all the nitty-gritty stuff like fee schedules, intellectual property rights, liabilities, what will happen if something goes wrong during a project and more. This is all information you need to know before starting a project, so review the contract thoroughly.

The Process

The design process may vary slightly among designers. I always start my projects with a Discovery Phase. This is where I ask a variety of questions to gather the information needed to lay the groundwork for the project. No matter which designer you work with, you should always have the opportunity to communicate all your ideas at the start of the project.

If project changes are needed or you have new ideas for the design after the design process has started, be sure to let the designer know as soon as possible. If the change is simple, the designer may be able to seamlessly incorporate it into the project. However, if the change is large it could potentially affect the project deadline or even cause you to incur additional design fees. Policies on changes can vary between designers. Refer to your contract for additional information or consult with the designer to work out how the changes can be integrated.

Project Completion

Before approving final designs take the time to proof them thoroughly. If everything looks good, the designer will begin preparing your deliverables.

Sometimes final payment must be submitted before the deliverables are handed off. Depending on your project, you may receive your deliverable as an email attachment or through a download link for larger files.

Still have questions?

Feel free to ask me any questions or express the concerns you have about working with a designer.

CreativeKiah SmithComment