Start by browsing the web to finding designs you like, designs you feel are either effective in clearly communicating a message or give someone a quality experience. These designs needn’t be from your industry because an experienced designer will be able to work across sectors.
Save screen captures of the pages you find most interesting, print them if you can and add notes on why you found them compelling.
Find out which agencies designed those websites. You’ll sometimes find links to designers in a website’s footer, so compile a short list of people to contact. Don’t include designers who’ve worked for your competitors and who will have a conflict of interest.
If a designer’s information isn’t listed, call a site’s owner and ask them who they worked with. Most people will be only too pleased to make a recommendation. This is often the best way to learn about the experience of working with a particular designer. Armed with someone’s contact information, get in touch.
When you’re contacting an agency, ask to meet with the owner and their creative director if they have one as it’s important that the chemistry between you is good. After all, you could be working together for years to come. Many small studios have no creative director, so ask to meet with the lead designer instead.
Don’t launch straight in to your requirements, instead ask to see their three best website designs and three best digital product designs if they’re relevant. Once you’ve seen previous designs from every agency on your shortlist, commit to one agency based on the work you like best.
Be an agency’s best client
Ask what the agency charges and offer to pay a good percentage of their fee in advance, followed by regular scheduled amounts. Cashflow is important to every business and it matters that your agency spends their time working to solve your problems, not chasing you for money. Never haggle over the agency’s fee. Remember that you’re buying professional expertise, not a second-hand car.
You wouldn’t negotiate with your accountant or lawyer, so give your creative partner the same respect.
Ask your creative partner to commit to working with you for at least three years—based on performance and results—as this will give them greater security in their business and ensure that they’ll be around to support you in the future.