outsource graphic design like a pro

How To Outsource Graphic Design Like a Pro

Outsourcing any part of your business can be challenging - even more so for a skilled role like a creative where it might not your strongest area. In this article, I explain the steps to take to successfully outsource your graphic design tasks, including when the right time to do it is and how to build a process for it.

How efficiently do you manage your creative tasks?

Many business owners will take the time to produce graphics themselves.

At the start that’s okay. If you don’t have the money coming in you shouldn’t have money going out – unless your long term budget permits that.

But for most business owners, their DIY approach is not scalable.

Ideally you need a designer on hand to take on your creative needs.

That’s where outsourcing comes in.

In business, there are two reasons why you should outsource:

  1. It needs to be done, and
  2. You can’t or shouldn’t do it yourself

Let’s take a closer look at these in relation to creative tasks.

It needs to be done

A lot of the time graphics end up being overlooked – either by way of their standard or just altogether.

And I get it. If you’re not a creative type it’s very hard to produce them yourself. From a quality or a time standpoint – or both – it can just end up falling off your todo list. You move on to the next piece of content and it’s forgotten about.

But here’s the thing: graphics and visuals are super important.

Not just from a branding perspective but also from a psychological one. They will help your content stand out from the hundreds if not thousands of other pieces out there.

They will help build engagement and ultimately generate leads and customers.

Now this doesn’t mean you should suddenly go and produce all your blog posts as infographics, pump out new Pinterest content three times day and post 10 times a day on Instagram (unless of course, that is part of your content and social media strategies).

But it does mean that visual elements play a significant role in how engaged your potential customers become with your content.

Trends are always changing, but the stats speak for themselves.

Unlimitly RecreateGraphic Concept1

The bottom line is this: if you include visual elements in your marketing that are congruent with your brand, that will show a professionalism that most if not all of your competitors don’t have.

In the long run that also allows you to become recognisable faster and ultimately charge more for what you do.

You can’t or shouldn’t do it yourself

This is where a lot of marketers and business owners get stuck.

They are comfortable with their current process. Even if you have started to outsource to a freelancer to help out the process, it is likely still not efficient or scalable.

This is why it’s important to take the time to figure out what your requirements are.

Once you have that solid idea of what design work is required, you’re armed with the right information to find the best solution.

Maybe a service such as Unlimitly will be right for you – or maybe it won’t.

The point is once you are at a point where your time is better spent doing other things, outsource! Just don’t skimp on the quality and quantity. Follow your plan and integrate design with your marketing process and the goals of your marketing team!

Build a Process

Now let’s take a look at what sort of process is required to be successful outsourcing designs.

Step 1. Understand what information your designer needs

This might seem obvious. But I’m talking about details you might not immediately think of.

Here’s a list of what details to have prepared for your designer:

  • Text content that is finalised. That is, proofread and fixed – designers are not editors/copywriters.
  • Size requirements. If different dimensions are needed for various platforms or versions.
  • Print settings. Is it going to print and if so are bleed and/or crop marks needed? This information is normally a quick phone call or Google search away.
  • Inspiration. If you have seen something that you want your design to follow the direction of, save a copy and include it for them.
  • Specifics. Don’t be afraid to get precise with your instructions if that’s what the project needs. Otherwise let the designer use their creativity.
  • Attachments. Ensure all other materials you want to provide are suitable – size, scale, quality, etc. and zipped up for easy sharing.

Collate this information and in one place for your own records.

This leads us to the next step.

Step 2. Set up your design workflow

The best place to keep your task information is in a project management tool. This is for team accessibility – so anyone who needs to contribute information and feedback can, and also for security.

For these examples I use Trello and Asana to show a kanban and a list style of setting up the workflow. So if you use a different tool it should be simple enough to adapt the workflow for your chosen platform that best matches either.

An example Trello card:

trello task card

A typical Trello card to use to collect information and check them off as you go.

An example Asana task:

asana task card

How you can set up an Asana Project for your design requests.

For PDF documents like worksheets or eBooks it’s best to use a document and send that. Just like you would to an editor.

An example Google document can be found here. Go to File > Make a copy if you want to use that template internally.

Then add your completed document as an attachment or link.

You can set it up to have a Design task for each project. This will work however you have your content marketing board set up.

Or have a dedicated Design board, which could look like this:

trello design board

asana design project

Set up a dedicated Design board or list.

You may notice the first list is for your branding files. This is where to put your brand assets, ideally with all of the following attached:

  • Logo files in various formats – ideally AI, JPEG, PNG, SVG and PDF
  • Fonts – both the logo if it has one and those used with your website
  • Styleguide

The last one is our next step: have a styleguide!

Step 3. Get your styleguide

First of all, don’t stress if you don’t have one. In fact, sadly most do not.

But having one ahead of time will help your designer get to grips with your brand sooner. If you need to, ask them to create one first.

Finally if you submit design requests for your own clients, ensure you have their styleguides too. Or again, send a request to do one first as part of your onboarding with them.

Once you have it, save it to their files and attach to their client board/task. Remember to refer back to this yourself to double check designs before sending on to your client.

Think of a styleguide as a checklist. One that you can check off the logo, colours, fonts and feel of a design to.

Step 4. Submit Your Design Request

Finally made it!

And now that you are here, the process will be much smoother.

Go ahead and submit the details you compiled in step 1 to your designer. If they have a design brief, it should be laid out well enough for you to provide the details accordingly.

Then update your due date for the task, and wait for the concept to come in.

Allow at least 3 business days to get a final outcome. Depending on the task of course, this can vary. Larger tasks could take a few days to get a concept and require further days for revisions. So plan accordingly.

Step 5. Designer communications (feedback)

Positive communication with your designer is very important. Being outsourced you don’t have a face to face experience with them to rely on so it’s especially important to be honest and succinct with feedback.

When you get a concept from your designer, it’s either going to be on the right track or it’s not.

If it is, that’s great! All you need to do is list out what tweaks to make or parts to update.

If you’re really lucky you could even approve the design then. Hopefully as your relationship develops with your designer this will happen more often.

But it will take some time for a designer to learn what works for your brand.

So with that in mind here is a concise method for liaising with them once you have your feedback ready.

State what you think of the design.

Thanks for the concept! I like the direction of this.

Then follow with some dot points for them to follow outlining specifics. 

 

A couple of changes if we can please:

Place the logo in the top right corner instead

Make the date larger and bolder, shift the background around so there’s more whitespace around it or come up with something different. We really need the dates to stand out

There’s a couple of grammatical errors to fix, please see the notes in the PDF I attached

 

Don’t stress if the first concept is not to your satisfaction. See if you can find out if there was a misunderstanding of the brief.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a misinterpretation of a particular instruction.

If the direction is not to your liking let them know.

 

Thanks for the concept, to be honest I don’t like this style.

Can you try a new idea with a more [photographic / modern / feminine] approach?

 

They should expedite your task now in order to get it back on track.

Finally if the design is a document with many pages, or it’s hard to explain with text, use the Sticky notes feature in Adobe Acrobat.

This is perfect to place them at the exact spot where you want something fixed. Much easier than explaining with text.

sticky note pdf feedback

You can even do this with Google Slides and Word docs – just save a copy as PDF and add -feedback to the name. Then go through and add the feedback notes. You can also use the highlight tool to specify text sections (as shown above).

It’s good practice to keep records of communication throughout the project so add all concepts, revisions and your own feedback notes to the project where possible. That way if you need to refer to something earlier it’s easy to pinpoint.

Conclusion

Outsourcing to a graphic designer is daunting when you haven’t done it before and are not sure where to start. But if you follow the steps outlined here you are well on your way to developing an efficient workflow with  your team and designer.

As is the case with any outsourcing, communication is key. With the right prep work you will have a healthy and productive relationship with a designer who fits right in with you and your team.

Have you outsourced before? What tips or strategies have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.