If it has ever crossed your mind that a certain element of a design project would be better if you had help, then outsourcing work could be a viable option.
Design agencies, small shops, and freelancers can all benefit from having a bench of partners that can help with projects. Successful outsourcing is based on a mutual relationship between parties that have a similar design style and work ethic.
This guide will take you through everything you need to know about outsourcing graphic design work.
Outsourcing design work is pretty simple as a core concept – you pay someone else to perform a certain design project or task.
It’s a practice that many agencies have employed for years, giving them the ability to expand their menu of service offerings. The biggest challenges are that you need to account for the cost of outsourcing in price quotes and estimates and the work has to be performed on time and to your standards.
With a consistent pool of outsourcing talent, it isn’t that hard to distribute work as you may need it. The busier you are, the more outsourcing can help.
In the design space, there are typically two types of outsourcing:
There are amazing stories of outsourced design success and some tales of horror as well. It’s important to know what you are getting into if this is your first foray into outsourcing.
Our best advice is to vet anyone who may be outsourcing in almost the same way you would if you were hiring them for a full-time job. Their work should be in alignment with yours with references that check out and can attest to the quality of the work and deadline performance.
There are certain times when outsourcing design work just makes sense. You are probably already outsourcing some other elements of your design business – taxes, payroll, or accounting – and have a good idea of how it should work.
Most designers consider outsourcing in times of rapid growth or if their business gets an influx of work that deadlines at similar times. This could be intentional or happen by chance as new projects get rolling and projects that have been in progress take a little longer than anticipated.
Consider outsourcing design work if any of the following apply to you:
Finding someone to do your outsourced design work might be the most complicated part of the process if you don’t have someone in mind already.
For most agencies and design freelancers looking for a little help, the best place to start is within your local network. Agencies, small shops, and freelancers can rely on other designers and freelancers they know and have a connection with. Working with someone you already know and trust can create the most workable and reliable outsourcing arrangement.
Leverage professional development organizations where you are to find talent that’s nearby and ready to work.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have a local pool, you can post projects on online boards and accept applications for projects. While you can find success in this area, take care with where you post – use a reputable service – and pay close attention to the fine print and deliverables. (Sometimes the cost seems exceptionally low until you add on all the elements you will actually need.)
When using an online service, look for designers that have a solid portfolio, have been working with the network you are using for a while, and have high ratings.
When you are ready to start outsourcing projects, preparation is key. You’ll want to have a style guide, brand resources, and outline of the project ready each and every time you outsource design work.
The more information you provide, the more likely it is you will get the right design work back with minimal revisions. Using the same few people when you outsource projects can also make these tasks run more quickly and smoothly.
To make the most of a successful outsourcing design opportunity, follow this model:
I have worked on both sides of design outsourcing – as the provider for someone else and by hiring someone to help me with projects. The ability to effectively outsource projects has contributed to my success and has made client projects even better. With the right partner, it can be worthwhile.
Before hiring someone to help you, make sure you understand the costs, contracts, and needs of the arrangement. Don’t be shy about saying exactly what you need and what you can pay. It will avoid future snags or consternation and help make the relationship mutually agreeable.