1. How long have they or the company they work for been in business?
Freelancers and small shops come and go at an alarming rate. To prevent getting stranded mid-project, ask how long they have been in business.

2. Who have they done work for?
Do you know any of these past clients? Do they have a complete body of work for these previous clients, or just one job? Most reputable designers have amassed many projects per client. If you only see one project per client, chances are the client wasn’t satisfied and moved on.

3. Portfolio. Portfolio. Portfolio.
Make sure you look through their portfolio. Do you like what you see? Do you like their style? Is it varied and fresh or does everything look the same? If it all looks the same, you are probably working with a designer that designs for themselves and not you. Remember that all clients are different and the work should reflect the client, not the designer.

4. Are you truly getting custom work?
Many “designers” rely on creating work from pre-existing templates. Templates anybody and everybody can buy. This is not design. Design need to come from scratch.

5. Good credentials are a must.
How much professional experience does the designer have?  And more importantly, does this person have a formal degree. Don’t get me wrong. A degree does not automatically equal quality. But having a formal education in graphic design gives a professional designer and edge over the others. This person has learned the important foundational principles of design. There are an overwhelming number of unqualified desktop publishers or people who have certain software skills. Don’t confuse this with creative graphic design skills.

6. Do you like this person?
This sounds simple enough, but the relationship with you designer needs to be close. You need to click and be comfortable talking with your designer. They need to be personable, a good listener, easy to talk to and really get what you are saying. You should feel at ease that you will receive a product you will be happy with. And most importantly, you need to have access to your designer. Make sure they will be doing your work. Your account should not be bounced around from one designer to the next. The work will only suffer.

7. Is your designer timely, quick and responsive?
A designer is inevitably the last person in a long chain of events to make or break a deadline. If they are slow, unresponsive or absentminded you will end up in trouble. More importantly you will end up loosing money. Ask them about specific turnaround times. As for time estimates for the major stages of a project and when and how you will communicate status updates. If you are constantly trying to track down your designer you may want to start looking for a new one.

8. Who really owns the artwork?
This should be a simple question but it often gets overlooked. Do you own the artwork during the process and at the end of the project? Many designers retain the rights to the artwork. Clients find this out the hard way.

9. What do you get in the end?
Make sure you have a clear outline of what you will receive at the end of a project. This helps both you and the designer. You know what to expect without getting nickle and dimed to death and the designer won’t feel like you are trying to get more than you payed for.

10. You get what you pay for.
Beware of lowball pricing. As for most things in life, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Good design takes time and designers should be paid for their creativity and work.