Some of my clients come to me shellshocked by the non-professional treatment they’ve received from their former graphic designer or web site builder. When I hear their stories it’s all I can do to not interject vehemently about the non-professionalism of these amateur hacks.

Mind you, their design work may have been brilliant (though usually it’s only been competent or worse) but that doesn’t excuse the bad treatment. I wish I could pass it all off by saying something glib like “You get what you pay for.” to help warn people off of inept assistance, but it doesn’t always work that way. These folks are usually professionally priced so until you’re actually experiencing their improper work ethic for yourself you haven’t got much in the of warning. Until now.

I’ll describe what constitutes correct professional behavior in a design professional and some blatant warning signs for you to see if it’s time for you to bail!

Traits of the Professional Designer
(Graphic, Web, Etc)

1. Has a portfolio that’s:

  • Accessible so you can actually see it – probably online, though print or originals are fine too in a face-to-face meeting, especially if you’re looking for print design.
  • High Quality showing the type of work you’re looking for.
  • Their own work – oh yes, it happens, if there’s something that’s included that stands out or somehow looks way beyond the standards of what else is included – ask questions about it. You’re looking to ascertain if they’re comfortable talking about how the piece was constructed, the challenges overcome, etc so authorship is established.

2. Has recommendations

or testimonials from satisfied, even delighted clients. If they offer references, check them!

3. Is Willing to Work Contractually

Professionals don’t fear contracts, in fact we love well written ones because they’re beneficial to both sides of the deal especially if something goes wrong. I almost always work with a contract for any initial job – though I have been to known to get lax about this once we’ve established a nice comfortable work relationship.

4. Gets the job done…

to specifications and on time. Aside: If your deadline is unreasonable a professional will recognize that and mention it upfront. Pros will have a standard way to cope with last minute must-do deadlines, many of us offer a more expensive compensation option for such occasions. It’s not because we don’t love you, it’s because many of us are self-employed and will have other commitments for the time your last minute project needs. We may use the extra money to pay for childcare, or cancel events or some such. 

A Professional Also:

Click on each topic above for a separate pop out post on each these hugely important traits.

Final Thoughts

A professional designer isn’t a Master and we’re not meant to be moody artistes either. We’re meant to be a cooperative member of your project’s team that bring special skills with us.

A professional designer takes into account your whole project, your goals with it and your budget. She may hold private space for her own creative process but allows full access to her share of the project as things progress firm up.

Secrecy is Probably Masking Incompetency.

A professional designer likely has invested in and uses professional tools. When requested he provides a Master file and converted multi-use files (pdfs, jpgs, gifs, etc) upon completion of a graphic or similar project.

A good designer checks her Ego at the door providing her creative solutions and suggestions with minimal baggage. Her ‘artistic license’ will serve you best the clearer you can be in the initial stages of your project with what challenges her work is meant to overcome. With these things in mind on both sides of the professional creative process any detrimental effect of Ego is minimized.

Finally, a good Contract is a great steward in a new business relationship. It helps establish:

  • Trust
  • Competency
  • Expectations and
  • Project Milestones.

Don’t let incompetency or inexperience bully your project!

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One Response to Don’t Let Designers Bully You!

  1. […] that always just blows me away when I hear about designers behaving this way. We started our series here, by the […]

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