Hire and Work Effectively with your Freelance Designer: A Checklist

Avoid hassle, frustration and time by using this checklist of discussion points when working with a graphic designer. 

“I thought I’d have heard back from our freelance designer on this project by now.”
“The colors he used don’t match any of our other brand materials!”
“We have gone way over budget on this design project. It’s beautiful, but I did not think it would take this many hours.”

I’ve heard these kinds of comments more than once. Because I have been a designer for over 10 years, friends ask for my perspective on frustrating situations with their freelance designers. Details have been missed. Projects are held up. One or both parties is agitated.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, many common issues between clients and graphic designers can be avoided before your designer even starts the work.

Most often, issues that arise are due to a lack of communication and clear expectations.

While experienced graphic designers often know to communicate clearly and ask for what they need starting with your very first conversation, some do not. In these cases, you the client can take action.

How can you work effectively with your freelance graphic designer, make the most of everyone’s time, and help your designer produce beautiful deliverables for you? 

You can set mutual expectations, define roles, provide tools up-front and outline specifics for each job. 

Consider using the checklist below to make sure you are on the same page throughout the design process, from hiring and scoping to design and delivery.

Read on for the basic list, and download the single page PDF here. 

Fellow designers, I hope this can also be helpful for you guys! Let me know if you have anything to add to the list. 



Set Mutual Expectations 

  • Set Mutual Expectations 

  • Create contract, including scope of work [length of engagement, overview of projects]
  • List platforms you’ll expect them to work on, assess their comfort level with each. Include company-specific platforms (communication, Mac or PC, PowerPoint or Keynote, Time tracking/reporting, etc.) and design industry standard platforms: Layout and Design: Adobe InDesign; Design and Illustration: Adobe Illustrator; Design and Photo Manipulation: Adobe Photoshop
  • List added helpful skills that you hope they’ll apply to the job: ie. Proofreading
  • Define their work style: Will you provide all the copy/details for every project or would you expect them to take a little info and own it? Are they deadline-driven? Feedback-driven? How can you help them to succeed?
  • Establish communication style: Will you check in frequently or sporadically? Will you use phone, email or Slack?
  • Ascertain their rate, payment frequency, your method of payment


Define Roles

  • Are you ultimately art director, approving all designs, or do you want the designer to take creative lead?
  • Alternative contacts: Who else might they receive direction from? Who should they listen to, who should they ignore?

Provide Tools for the Job

  • Identify contact information for key team members: draft approver(s), HR contact for reporting time
  • Provide your brand style guide (font usage, colors and color pairings, type hierarchy, photo examples, logo usage, dimension guidelines)
  • Provision access/permissions to Slack channels, asset folders they’ll need (logo files, brand-specific fonts, example layouts, photo directories, and/or access to stock photo account), etc.

For Each Project

Define Project Specifics

  • Outline the deliverables needed
  • Set due date(s)
  • Provide all content when possible: written copy, graphics, photos
  • Identify file types needed
  • Provide directory for uploading deliverables