If you’re looking to hire a web designer, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. There are millions of websites advertising design services – how do you make sure you don’t get scammed or end up with a designer who sucks?

Armed with a little more information about the qualities you should look for, you’ll be able to find a web designer who can meet your needs without losing your mind in the process.


In general, a web designer is someone who creates the look and feel of your website. A designer will work with you to choose colors, construct branding/logos if needed, discuss layouts for your website’s pages, and create mockups (which are pictures of how the actual website will look). Web design is more than just making pretty pictures; a designer should be knowledgeable about concepts like calls to action, organizing your site’s content, and setting up layouts that will meet your goals for the site.

Why this matters

For example, let’s say I am opening a hair grooming business. I need a website that will do the following:

That’s a pretty average list of needs, and I could choose to work with either a design/development team or an implementer to get the job done. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that allow appointment scheduling, email opt-ins, and contact forms, so it’s unlikely that I need a super custom website.

Another example: I have my hair grooming business, but I’d like to start selling products (shampoo, treatments, hair coloring, etc.) on my website and taking registration for beauty classes. I’ll need to add the following new features:

Suddenly my project has become more complicated. There may be existing solutions that can do the job, but I might also need something created especially for my site. In this case I likely need the services of a developer, and perhaps a designer depending on how the new functionality will integrate with my existing site’s design.

Here is what to look for:

If you’ve read all this and still need someone to create the design for your site, here are five things to consider:

1. Does the designer’s style match the way I’d like my site to look?

Take a stroll through some designers’ portfolios, taking note of things like layouts, colors, and logos. This is kind of like shopping for clothes – some options will catch your eye more than others. If you want a very modern website, it doesn’t make sense to hire someone whose portfolio looks like a flashback to 1995.

2. Who will develop my website once I have the design? Is this included in the pricing?

Many designers partner with a developer so that clients pay one price for both design and development. Others may provide mock ups that need to be taken elsewhere to be coded into an actual site. Either approach is fine, but you’ll want to be aware of the costs involved upfront so you can budget accordingly.

3. What kind of maintenance and upkeep will my site need? Can I do that myself or will I need to hire someone?

Websites are not a one-time cost. Ahem. WEBSITES ARE NOT A ONE-TIME COST. You can’t make a million dollars on the internet (or even a few hundred dollars) without certain ongoing expenses. Websites have to be kept up to date, especially if they require third party plugins or software to function. Your designer may offer maintenance services or may be able to refer you to someone who does, or you can opt to learn how to maintain your site yourself.

4. What kind of design files will I receive?

At a minimum, your designer should provide mock ups. You should also receive an editable version of your logo that is PSD, AI, EPS, or PDF. If any premium fonts or photos/graphics are used in the design, you should have a license for those as well, or permission to use the designer’s license depending on the rules for that particular font/graphic.

5. Is the designer available if I need revisions or changes? What are the costs?

When you hire a web designer, you are hiring him/her for a project as defined in your contract. That doesn’t mean the designer is obligated to provide free services for life. Find out ahead of time what costs you’ll incur if you need changes or new layouts down the road, and keep in mind that rates do change over time – the ballpark rates a designer gives you in 2015 will not be the same if you contact him/her in 2018.

When it comes to searching for a talented and competent website designer, I feel your pain. Been there. Finding an affordable pro who knows what their doing can be terribly difficult.

Web Design Freelancer?

Often the best option (but, the one that requires the most luck) is to hire an independent freelance web designer. If you can find a good one (references, references, references), you should be able to make it through the process of getting a solid website online for $1,000-$5,000.

If you go this route, what you’ll probably end up with is a professional looking, 3 to 8-page online business card.

But, many small businesses have to take things in small steps, and getting a professional small business website online is step one. So, how do you find a freelancer? It could be a friend of a friend or you can find designers through services like ours.

If you don’t have the time to build a website yourself (who does?) and don’t have enough money for a web development agency to do most everything for you (see below), one of our splendid referrals may be just right for you.

Full Service Web Firm/Agency?

If you can go this route, congratulations. Your business should end up with a great web presence, and you’re going to save yourself both time and frustration. But, can you afford it?

There are great design firms in most mid-sized and larger markets. I have no doubt if money weren’t an obstacle, you could set up an appointment with a full service web firm/agency and have them take care of nearly everything for you.

What’s it going to cost? Without knowing your specific requirements, my best guess would be in the range of $5,000-$15,000. Now, if you’ve got the cash, you’re good to go. But, there are still elements of web marketing that you’re going to want to understand yourself.

For many businesses, finding talented freelancers is the best option. Problem is, the search is often filled with disappointment once you’ve hired someone and discover they suck. Most often by producing crappy work or just plain ripping you off.

Do it Yourself?

If you plan on creating or recreating your website yourself, my heart goes out to you. It is a time consuming, frustrating and costly investment. Even with modern website platforms like WordPress.

Taking the time to learn a web creation/editing tool is a nightmare. Believe me, you don’t want to try to build your own website. Unless you have a solid background in design, CSS, and HTML, you’ll never have a finished website that is professional enough to represent your business.

There are services that promote themselves as DIY website builders, such as Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, etc… Unless you’re the smallest of small businesses with no budget, I recommend avoiding them. You will never be able to create a web presence with enough flexibility and professionalism without working with either a professional web designer (a freelancer) or a web design agency.

What to do? Here are my recommendations:

  1. If you can find someone locally who you’re comfortable with, have produced other websites you feel of the quality you need and they have references you respect, use them. It’s always better to have local help.
  2. Ask around. If a friend has a nice website and they have been happy with their designer or developer, consider giving them a shot if they have references.
  3. If you see a website you like, look at the bottom of the page (the footer) and see if the designer/developer has a link.
  4. Contact your local colleges. Find out if there are any working students who are talented and already taking on clients.

If you need some recommendations for redesigning your website so you don’t get ripped off, contact us to see if we can help.