Hiring a Web Design Agency without Getting Burned
You’ve done it! You’re finally ready to take that next big step with your business or hobby: getting a website designed.
But what do you do now? What’s the next step?
First, let’s skip the obvious and assume you’ve already established your business plan, market strategy, and the like, and are now ready to make this vision become reality.
As a business owner, you don’t have time to mess around with learning a new skill like web design, and neither does your competition, 54% of which report outsourcing their graphic and web design tasks to outside agencies (State of Small Business Report, WASP Barcode. 2016.).
Ok so we’ve established outsourcing is likely your best route. But how do you go about finding and vetting a web design agency? After all, this is your baby we’re talking about. You can’t just leave your business design to the hands of some stranger, can you?
The fact is, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed with the prospect of sorting thru the MILLIONS of websites that advertise design services online, and might even be frightened at the prospect of getting scammed or ending up with a design that you hate (we’ve all heard of horror stories).
Well, good thing we’re here to help. Let’s break this process down into some actionable steps:
- Defining what you need to have done
- Establishing a budget / determining cost
- Actually finding an affordable web designer
- Vetting their quality / determining their skill level
Defining what you need to have Done
When it comes to design work, making sure you can get the project completed at an affordable price, on budget, and on time means working out ALL of the little details in advance.
Remember, once a project is submitted for work, every little change you make from that point onward can mean additional costs and wasted time.
Basic pages to consider should include (at the very least):
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Terms of Service (optional but protects you)
- Sales / Landing Page
- Testimonials / Reviews / Why Us
If you are a small business just getting started, those pages will provide you with a solid foundation upon which to build as you grow and prosper.
Regardless, you’ll want to do the following for each page you desire to have designed:
- Mock the page in wire-frames, paint, or by sketch
- Write all content for each page taking into consideration font size and available space
- Get feedback from peers, family, and friends on your design concept
- Define your color scheme/branding
- Provide your designer with example sites that you like
And most importantly, be VERY specific and detailed. Designers are NOT-minded readers.
Establishing a Budget / Defining Cost
Hourly rates for web design can vary greatly, and finding an affordable web design agency that doesn’t skimp on quality can be a challenge.
Typical rates can range from between $15 – $120+ an hour, but around $35 – $65 is a decent average to shoot for. When vetting prospective agencies, be sure to ask if they charge per page or per hour, and to ask about any additional charges for changes to your design or modifications to your initial proposal.
We suggest getting between 3-5 price quotes, taking the average, and negotiating with each from there to find a fair yet competitive rate for your project.
Locating / Finding an Affordable Web Designer
Remember that list we asked you to make of sites that you “liked” the designs of? Well, pull out that list again and look at the footer of each of those sites. Sometimes the designer will leave a link there that says “designed by XYZ”. If they have one, follow the link. If they don’t, you can email the business/webmaster and simply ask if they would be willing to share with you who built their website.
Ask friends, peers, or colleagues for referrals. Being a small business owner you likely know other business owners as well. Ask your network on social media, Linked In, and other channels for recommendations.
Another route is to roll the dice and simply use Google, perhaps finding someone local that you can meet with in person, or by vetting providers on UpWork or other freelance websites.
A few quick tips:
- Ask what their availability is for work (i.e. is there a waiting period)
- Ask what their work/office hours are
- Ask what forms of communication they use (chat, phone, project management software)
- Make sure there are no hidden costs & that they are within your budget
- Ask about their payment schedule and policy for deadlines
Vetting and Verifying Quality
This one can be tricky, but here are a few quick tips:
- Hire them for your logo first (cheap easy test of their skill set)
- Ask for 2-3 references that you can actually speak with
- Ask for their portfolio so you can visually view recent work
- Check Google and BBB for scam or fraud reports
- Check for customer reviews and testimonials online
After going thru this process a winner will likely emerge. If not, simply rinse and repeat until you find a web design firm that fits your needs and meshes well with you and your company.