The abundant amount of graphic designers, social media whizzes and other artists and technicians selling in these online spaces can be overwhelming. Whether you are looking to hire a branding agency or just someone to whip out 10 social media graphics for you, how do you sort through the gazillions of options available?
The first, and most important advice I have for you:
Understand that while some people are great at making beautiful, standout images --
and others may be good at really understanding who you and your business are --
a more rare breed is the person who can connect the dots between the two.
In other words, good looking images arent enough.
Your images need to work BEYOND simply stopping people to look. They should express something that is truly unique and true to the transformation that YOUR work provides, and this takes someone who is skilled at translating your abstract ideas and spoken/written language into a visual language. This takes skill and development. It usually can't come from someone who just learned Canva, signed up with some stock sites and started a business, without a background in visual thinking and visual language (either through higher ed or through their own self-taught creative process and development.)
What you are responsible for in this process is to get clear on the values at the foundation of your brand, and your position in your market. If you don’t already have this foundation, make sure that the branding specialists you find are really good at asking you penetrating questions that get you thinking more deeply about what is at the heart of your work. And that they are listening closely.
Then, ask them how they will help you translate the content of those conversations into visual terms. If they can’t articulate that, its likely that they don’t know how (its shocking, but there are a lot of those folks out there - they get by on the beauty of the images they make, but don’t make images that are truly responsive to your business’ needs).
You dont want to lure someone in with your beautiful images but leave them unclear on who you really are. They may OOH and AHH but if your images dont FEEL like you, or the transformation your work provides, it will take them longer to stick around and learn, if they stay at all.
Here are some parameters to get you started:
- Look for work you like, but with a caveat: don’t stop there. You have to like the work of the person/agency you chose, but not everyone with work you like is the provider for you. “Like” is only the first step in your discernment process.
- Look for originality. We like a lot of things that we see over and over out there - the reason some types of images become popular is that they are awesome, right? This is another place where your “liking” something is not a key to action. If its already being said, don’t say it again or you will blend in. Find a designer or artist who can make things that look totally unique.
- Look for range. In other words, when you see examples of this person’s work, do they look like they could all be for one person’s business? Then walk away. One of the best ways to tell if someone is listening to their clients is if their portfolio has collection of projects that each have their own, distinct identity and voice.
- Avoid the discounters - while its tempting to save money by hiring someone who will make you 30 images for $99 (I’ve seen this, for real!), this can only mean that 1) their business is 10 minutes away from closing; or 2) they are scamming people. Period. Good art and design takes depth, time, care, skill. And those who can provide it will charge enough to make their own business sustainable, and to give them the time and leeway to be truly creative with you. Your images can make or break your visibility in the marketplace. Don’t skimp.
And a bonus:
- Special skills: Does the artist/designer have the ability to bring types of craftsmanship into the process that extend beyond photoshop or canva - hand lettering, sculpture, drawing, skilled photographic techniques, etc? You can get great benefit from those whose design chops are built on a foundation of artistry - in the form of substantial experience as a designer, or in some other visual art form.
Hope this helps. Ask your questions in the comments!