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Get the most value out of your graphic designer

A good business owner knows when to DIY, and when to delegate. There’s a lot of design you can do yourself, but when it comes to the really important stuff – branding, logos, print collateral, etc – it’s time to call in the experts.

But what if your budget is tight?

Read on for some designer-approved ways to get the most bang for your marketing buck.

1. Write a detailed brief

Ask your graphic designer if they have a brief document. If not, provide your graphic designer with all of the following information:

  • The format (e.g. business cards, A4 portrait flyer, square 6-inch booklet with 12 pages, etc)
  • The size and shape – so many clients forget this! If you want a graphic to use on your website or in a CMS, don’t forget to tell the designer what size it needs to be. If you don’t know (e.g. if you’re uploading an image to a CMS such as a booking platform), take a screenshot of the placeholder image and send that to your designer.
  • Whether the item is for digital use, print use, or both. This is vitally important – our entire workflow changes when something needs to be printed.
  • Some information about who you are and who you’re selling to. If a designer knows what you do (e.g. selling luxury nappy bags) and who you target (e.g. wealthy, stylish mums aged 25-35), they’ll be able to design with your audience in mind.
  • All the information you have so far – your logo, any photography, any copy.
  • Your brand guidelines, if you have them. If you have any existing collateral you want to follow the look of, send that through too.
  • Any thoughts on the look and feel of your project – this might be in the form of a Pinterest moodboard, a sketch, or a description in words (“I want it to feel elegant and luxurious”)
  • All the details you’ll need on it – don’t make your graphic designer Google your address and phone number! Provide it.
  • Finally, the deadline, and whether it’s soft or firm. If you need to get your project to the printer by April 12, say so! If you’d like to have the project this month but you can be flexible, say so. Many designers charge a rush fee, so don’t stick to an unrealistic deadline if your budget is tight.


An example brief:

“Hi designer! I need an A5 landscape flyer to promote my pop-up shop. I need to send these to the printer by July 9, so I’m hoping to finalise the design by the 8th.

I sell luxury nappy bags to wealthy, stylish mums aged 25-35. The pop-up shop’s in Manly and it will have a beachy vibe. I’ve provided my logo, the product photography I want on the flyer (I really like Image 6 but feel free to choose from the folder for the others).

I’ve also attached a Word doc with the text for the flyer, including the dates and times, the address, and the contact details.

I’m not too wedded to the design or layout but here’s a link to a Pinterest moodboard. You can look at my website (link) and socials (link) for a sense of my brand/style. I don’t have any brand documents, but I mostly use the fonts (font name) for headings and (font name) for body text. I use the colours from my logo.”


By providing as much as you can to your designer, you’ll ensure a faster project timeline and fewer delays when the designer is waiting on items for you. This also ensures your designer won’t have to guess, make assumptions, or write sample copy to coax the right information out of you – all of which take time and may add to the bill.

With a brief like the above, a designer’s first draft is much more likely to be close to your vision. If your designer’s billing hourly, fewer rounds of changes mean a more affordable product.


2. Be open about your budget, but value your designer’s time

If you can only afford to spend $150 on your flyer, say so. A good designer won’t reduce their rate to meet your budget, but they will advise ways to come in within your scope. And if it’s just not possible to do the work within your budget, you’ll know upfront, and you can either source another designer, work on adjusting the budget, or rethink the project.

If you’ve stated a budget and the designer has responded “ooh, that’s a bit tight but I’ll do what I can,” please remember they’re doing you a favour that they’re under no obligation to do. Roping the designer into long phone calls or lots of rounds of changes after they’ve come to the table on budget is a surefire way to get yourself on the client blacklist! A client who states a budget and then helps the designer stick to it – clear feedback, communication in the designer’s preferred style, and minimal changes – will create a good relationship and might just get you high-value work for a long time.


3. Become a feedback master

Designers literally have memes and jokes about the phrase “make it pop”. When you see the first draft, if your initial reaction is “hmm, it’s not quite there,” first think of why.

  • “I don’t like the font.” – unhelpful. “I don’t like the font because it’s too blocky. Can we try something thinner?” – better!
  • “The colours don’t work.” – unhelpful. “I’m not a fan of the dark green – can we trade that out for something lighter?” (or) “- can we try a greeny-blue instead?” – better!
  • “Can you make it pop?” – don’t do this, I’m begging you! “Can we make the colours brighter, make that photo bigger, and overall try to make it more playful?” – better!

If you really can’t identify what you want to change about the project, that’s okay. The important part is to make your feedback actionable. “The font is too blocky and masculine” is a much more usable piece of feedback than “The font doesn’t work”. Give your designer a direction to go in, or at least let them know what direction to avoid.

A works-every-time feedback hack: wait. Don’t reply to your designer immediately. Wait overnight if you can, or at least an hour if the project’s time-sensitive.

By waiting just an hour before giving feedback:

  • You’ll avoid thinking of one thing now and then more feedback later after the designer’s actioned that first thing, resulting in more rounds of changes (and therefore costing more)
  • You’ll avoid sending the designer six emails in a row, or conflicting feedback that confuses them
  • You’ll have time to get opinions on the draft, if you wish – e.g. from a business partner, family member or friend
  • Things will come to you if you walk away and come back. If your first impression is “I don’t like it but I don’t know why,” after you sleep on it and look at it with fresh eyes, I guarantee you’ll find clarity and be able to better identify what you want to change.

Look at the draft, then put it down and walk away. When you come back to it, you’ll be much better equipped to write a concise, actionable list of feedback that your designer will do a little happy dance over. 🙂


4. Leverage their network

If you’re printing or otherwise producing your project, ask your designer for their recommendations on who to go with. Designers often have trade discounts with local printers and can pass on some significant savings. Similarly, they’ll be the ones with horror stories on those too-good-to-be-true production companies, and can help you dodge a bullet. Worst case scenario, the printer you found is cheaper than the printer they recommend, and you know you’re getting good value with your own choice. There’s nothing to lose.


The TL;DR:

  • Be clear and detailed upfront about what you want, and open about the budget
  • Aim for as few rounds of changes as you can with clear and actionable feedback
  • See if your designer’s print or production contacts are better value than yours
  • Being a dream client will result in a great relationship with your designer, and better quality/better value work in future!