6 Things to Research Before Hiring a Designer

What’s the first thought that pops in your head when you’re considering hiring a designer? Are you excited to have a professional bring your vision to life? Maybe you feel anxious about making a big investment and handing the reins over to someone else (afterall, your business is your baby!)? Or maybe you're uncertain because you’ve never worked with a designer or you’ve had a negative experience in the past?

Friend, I get it. At the moment I haven’t starting outsourcing any parts of my business, but the thought of bringing someone onboard makes me nervous! What if they don’t get my brand? What if it all goes terribly wrong? What if they don’t understand my goals and vision? If I feel this way about bringing someone into my business, then I’m sure you may have reservations, too.

However, there’s a reason why outsourcing is a healthy, necessary step for each business to take at some point: doing #allthethings isn’t sustainable and there are people out there who are trustworthy experts. You just need to know how to find them! In today’s post, I want to give some insight on how you can find the perfect design expert for your project.

Side note: Design is a very broad industry, and today’s post can apply to just about any kind of designer. However, in most cases I’ll be addressing these situations in terms of a branding or web designer.

Without further ado, here are six things you should research and know about before hiring a designer:

Things to Research Before Hiring a Designer - Gillian Tracey Design blog


1 | What services do they offer?

First and foremost, before you hire a designer you should know what kind design work you need done, and then find a designer whose service offerings match your need. Services will usually be clearly outlined on a designer’s site and are sometimes listed in packages. Do they have a package that fits your project needs? If not, do they offer custom quotes? These are both good things to consider and look into. 

Here’s an example of finding a designer whose services match your project: If you’re in need of a brand identity and a website, it would be ideal to find a designer who offers both of those services so you know the vision and design style will stay consistent across the board. In the case of hiring a web designer, make sure you find someone who can work on the platform you’re using for your site (or if you're starting from scratch, figure out which platform you want to use first). Some web designers can work on multiple types of platforms, while others specialize in just one kind (like Squarespace, WordPress, Showit 5, etc.). 


2 | Do they have a clearcut process?

Once you’ve found a designer who offers the kinds of services you need to hire out for, now it’s time to dig a little deeper. Process is a big indicator of the designer’s organization, experience, and ability to keep projects on schedule. 

There’s not one perfect process either—each designer has their own unique approach that’s been honed and refined over time to make sure each project runs smoothly and efficiently while still delivering top-notch results. If a designer you’re interested in hiring doesn’t have their process outlined on their site, just reach out and ask them! The key is to make sure they have a structured process outline so you can be prepared and informed every step of the way.


3 | Does their design style align with your vision?

Even if you’re enlisting the help of a designer to bring your vision to life, I’m sure you have an idea of what kind of style you like, what aesthetic pairs well with your brand, etc. Feeling confident that your designer can deliver the kind of style you’re seeking is important. Many designers are able to tailor their style each project, while others have a speciality and stick to it. Take a look at their portfolio to get a feel for their style and what the connecting thread is in their work (perhaps all their projects have a minimalistic look, or maybe their projects have some kind of hand-lettering incorporated). 

While their style should be evident, each project should be unique from each other. You don’t want your project to be one of many similar-looking design pieces out there. So, when looking through portfolios, do all of their projects look the same and blend together? Or do they look like a nice collection full of one-of-kind pieces?


4 | How do they handle payments?

Since design is usually a big business investment, it’s important to know exactly how money will be handled during your project. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • Do you have payment plans or is the full fee due upfront?
  • Do you require a deposit? 
  • If so, how much is the deposit? And is it refundable? (Designers will typically require a 25-50% nonrefundable deposit to secure a spot in their design queue, much like a venue requires a nonrefundable deposit to book an event.)
  • How to you accept payments? (Credit card, Paypal, mailed check, etc.)


5 | What deliverables do you receive?

Know upfront exactly what files you’re going to receive at the end of the project so you can know for sure you’ll be getting everything you need. Just as each designer’s process is different, each designer handles deliverables differently. Some designers may only deliver a jpeg of your logo, while others will offer you several different file types (jpeg, png, eps) that will give you the flexibility you need from a brand identity. In addition to knowing file types you’ll be receiving, ask the designer who will have copyrights to the designs once the project is complete since this varies as well.


6 | Do they offer continuing services?

If you think you may need additional design help once your initial project is complete, ask if your designer would be available for continued support. Some designers offer retainers or site maintenance packages that guarantee you a set amount of hours each month. These additional services makes it easier than ever to get brand collateral with your new branding, graphics designed for your social media, or content upgrades created for your blog, as well as hassle-free updates to your site as needed. 

Once you’ve researched these six things, also be sure to take a look at testimonials on the designer’s site. Testimonials are a great way to learn more about a designer’s credibility and whether or not they’d be a good fit for your project. Usually they’ll have little nuggets of insight about why each business owner enjoyed working with that particular designer. For example, the client may say that they loved how organized the designer was, which shows the designer most likely has a good, solid process and kept the project on track.

I hope these six questions help you find the perfect designer for your project and make you feel more comfortable about bringing people into your business to help you out! 

If you have any other questions about branding, tips for hiring a designer, or if you want to work together on a project, click the button below to get in touch!

Or, If you want to read more about traits of a great designer, here’s a post all about that!

The Best Place to Put a Contact Form on Your Website

Despite all the different businesses and websites in the world, there are certain pages that are consistent on each website. There’s usually a home page, an about page, and a contact page. So, when building our sites it’s natural to direct people to our contact page form when we want them to get in touch with us about our services, ask for a quote, etc.

Sure, it makes sense to include a call to action and a link to our contact page, but what if there’s a better place to put a form than just on our contact page?




Don’t make them leave the page

I recently revamped my service page to further refine and define my offerings and packages to prospective clients. One of the features I added to my service page has made it faster and easier for potential clients to get in touch with me, and as a result the number of inquiries I received has gone up.

The one feature I added? A lightbox contact form right underneath my service packages information. I put it there so people who are interested in hiring me can fill out a form and check a box for the package they just read about without ever leaving the page. Don’t make people leave your page if they don’t have to. Make it as easy as possible for someone to get in touch with you!


Using a lightbox form

In Squarespace it’s ridiculously easy to build forms, and you also have the option to make it a light box form. This means that instead of having a bulky form taking up room on your page, the form is opened in a lightbox when an interested visitor simply clicks on a button.

Using the lightbox option is great because it:

  • doesn’t clutter the design of your page
  • allows an opportunity for a call-to-action (CTA)
  • people who are truly interested in contacting you are going to click it, and the people who aren’t sure yet can keep on scrolling unhindered by a bulky form 


How to Create a Lightbox Form in Squarespace

If you’ve created a form for your contact page before, then you’re just one step away from knowing how to make it a lightbox. Seriously, it’s so easy! Here are simple instructions on how to take a regular form and turn on the lightbox mode:

  1. On the page you want to add the lightbox form, click the teardrop shaped button to add a form block from the block panel. You’ll find it located under the “More” category.
  2. Once you’ve added a form block, you’ll go into changing the setting to your liking. You’ll start under the “Build” tab and enter the title of the form (ex. Service Inquiry, Package Pricing Request, [Name of Your Content Upgrade] Form, etc.). Then you’ll add different fields that you want people to fill out and mark them as required if desired.
  3. Once you’ve got your form built, you’ll move over to the “Storage” tab. You can either have forms sent directly to your email, which is the option I use for service/pricing inquiries. Or you can connect the form to a MailChimp list and automation series so the freebie gets sent to them as soon as they hit submit on the form.
  4. Under the “Advanced” tab, you can choose the alignment of the button and customize what you want the submit button to say. You can also customize the thank you message and the privacy message if you wish.
  5. You’ll then scroll down to the bottom of the “Advanced” tab and select the option to put the form in “lightbox mode”
  6. Once selected, you’ll customize what you want the button that’ll open the form to say.
TIP:  Instead of just saying “click here” for the button that will open the lightbox form, use this opportunity to create a compelling call-to-action. It’s recommended to write it in first person so the one reading it relates to it most. Examples: "Send Me Pricing Info" or "I Want the Freebie!"


How to Use Forms Besides Your Contact Page

  • opt-in or content upgrades in blog posts
  • on your shop/product page, include a lightbox form with a CTA for wholesalers
  • schedule a free consultation
  • requesting price information

There are a lot of ways to get creative with Squarespace’s forms and use them to make your website more efficient and user friendly. Adding a lightbox form to your service page is just one of many ways!

What are your favorite Squarespace features, and how have you used them to make your site more efficient?

Year in Review: Biggest Successes and Mistakes from 2016

2017 has started fast and furious with client work and projects I’m really excited to be a part of! However, the jam-packed schedule hasn’t left much time to fully reflect on everything that happened in 2016, both the wonderful and the, well, not-so-wonderful. So, writing this blog post is the perfect excuse to sit and reflect on all that's changed within the last 365 days or so. 😊

Last year marked the first full calendar year that I’ve been running my business full-time. Woohoo! No 9-5 office job to work around, no side-hustling after work/on lunch breaks/on the weekends, no being held accountable by a supervisor—just me making things happen. Definitely a little (okay, a lot) scary, and certainly very revealing about personal strengths and weaknesses. In an effort to take the time to reflect on things I learned, and share them with others who are still fairly new to the entrepreneurial journey, here’s a compilation of what I consider my biggest successes and mistakes of 2016. 


2016 Year in Review from Gillian Tracey Design



Starting on a high-note, let’s talk about wins from 2016!

1 | Took the time to develop my brand and branding. 

As a designer, I knew I needed my personal branding to be an accurate reflection of my style, my skills, and my expertise. It took awhile to finesse and refine my branding to get it where it is today (designing for your self is SO HARD, you guys!), but I am so happy I took my time. I’ve had many clients say they were interested in hiring me because they loved my branding, the attention to detail, and how easy my site is to navigate. That makes the time investment so worth it! Many business owners get so bogged down in their daily tasks or building their client list that they often neglect themselves.  If you’re running a service-based business, make sure you’re leveraging those amazing skills starting with your own business. What you create for yourself can be the crowning jewel for your portfolio or help build your credibility!

Read more about leveraging your skills within your service-based business here. Or if you're a designer struggling to create your business branding, this post could help you out!


2 | Refined my process and procedure. 

I remember booking my first big client in 2015, and scrambling to get things together so I seemed professional and organized. Things have come a long way since then! I spent a lot of last year focusing on refining my process to include steps that would give me all the tools I needed to create a successful end product and that would give my clients an enjoyable experience. I took the time to create several in-house documents to use when I got an inquiry, when I was on-boarding a client, etc. Having those pieces ready to go makes it super easy to send information in a concise, professional way that’s sure to make a positive impression.

I also built templates in 17hats to help streamline and automate my process, as well as create workflows in Asana. Your process doesn’t have to be perfect when you first start out, but it’s certainly something to pay close attention to as time goes on. Keep what works, get rid of what doesn’t, and add things that will benefit both you and your client. The goal is to always make things as easy as you can for yourself and as stress-free and enjoyable as possible for your client.


3 | Carefully invested time and money in education and resources.

When I was first starting my business in 2015, I was trying to absorb as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. Blog posts? I read them—a lot of them. E-books? I downloaded them. Webinars? I watched them. However, there comes a point where the consumption of so much information stops being helpful and starts being overwhelming. There’s a time when you need to stop researching and start doing

This year, I noticed a big difference in how much information I was consuming. Time is a precious commodity, so I only invested it in reading content that truly benefited me and aligned with the goals I had for my business. That meant unsubscribing from several newsletters and being picky about which blogs I read.

Besides wisely investing in time, I also made sure to wisely invest in the education I wanted to receive. As a new business owner I think there’s a pressure to take XYZ course because it’ll teach you to do this one thing you absolutely *must* know to be successful. Online courses are a wonderful way to learn, and there are so many options to choose from!

However, taking every course under the sun about marketing, building your email list, creating passive income, etc. is not going to guarantee success. Getting out there, putting in the hours and elbow grease, and being smart about how you run your business is what makes you successful (in whatever way you choose to define success). So, be picky about education you invest in! I’m all about bootstrapping and DIYing, but there does come a point when it’s a better use of your time to invest in learning from an expert than figuring it out on your own.

Learn to tell the difference and invest in education that will help save you valuable time, will give you good results, and comes from a reputable source.


4 | Pared down service listings and restructured services page. 

As a creative who enjoys dabbling in a lot of different areas of art and design, it took me longer than it should have to pare down my services, create packages, and revamp my services page. But in 2016 I finally did it! I think there’s still some refinement that needs to happen in this area for 2017, but for the time being, I’m satisfied with the progress I’ve made. 

Being known for one thing is important for gaining traction for your business and booking clients, and paring down my service listings and making them very clear on my site has been paying off. And if you're still figuring out what services you want to offer, don’t feel like you’re putting yourself in a box. You can always evolve and adjust over time!




1 | Not setting specific goals.

I’m a big picture/dreamer/always has too many ideas kind of person, so when it comes to day-to-day things and planning out precise steps sometimes I prefer to wing it. Taking the time to plan specifics isn’t easy for me, and that’s something that didn’t work for my benefit in 2016. When you don’t have specific goals, whether it’s steps to launch a new product/service or setting yearly, quarterly, and monthly financial benchmarks, you’re going to spin your wheels and wander through your week in a daze. So, with that lesson firmly planted in my head, I wanted to start 2017 with an intentional plan and actionable goals that I write down and stick to throughout the year.

The tool that’s helped me buckle in and focus is Lara Casey’s PowerSheets. They really made me be still, exercise some self-discipline, and reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and how I want the new year to look like from a business and personal perspective. (I will definitely be using these each year, and I highly recommend them if you need help setting good, thoughtful goals!)

It’s only a couple weeks into the new year, and the simple act of writing something down and making the idea concrete has paid off. Things I’ve said I wanted to do this year while brainstorming in my PowerSheets have come to fruition. Whether you want to think of it as making room in the universe or planting the idea in your subconscious, it works. So, write your goals down, and not just at the beginning of the year. Write them down continually. Tell yourself what you want to happen this year, and be specific. Knowing exactly what you want and need is the first step to making it happen.


2 | Inconsistency.

While one of my successes in 2016 was taking the time to create a consistent and cohesive brand, the area where consistency took a turn for the worse was in my scheduling. There were points throughout the year where I had a really good schedule down, but when I got really busy, that was usually the first thing to go. Being inconsistent with my social media presence and creating new content for my blog was certainly a weak point that I think hurt my potential for growth. One of my biggest goals for 2017 is to establish regularity and rhythm to my life so there’s less stress and more balance. I’m going to be re-instating weekly planning, begin batching more social media and blog posts, and working to book out further in advance so I know exactly what to expect from week to week.


3 | Putting my business on the back burner when I got busy with client work.

As I alluded to in the previous point, one of my mistakes last year was shoving my business to the bottom of my priority list when things got busy. In part, that was because I didn’t always plan well, and other times it was because I took on too much work at once. Even though I was working on project for my clients and bringing in money, I was hurting my business by putting it on the back burner again and again. I think have a consistent and sustainable schedule will really help me keep my business a priority, even in the midst of deadlines and projects. 


4 | Not taking myself seriously. 

This is maybe the biggest epiphany I had coming into this new year, and it's something I regard as my biggest mistake of 2016 and the biggest thing I'm changing in 2017. Basically, by telling myself that the first year as a business owner would be hard, it almost acted as an excuse not to thrive. Yes, starting a business certainly has it’s challenges but being the new kid on the block doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, make beautiful things, and help others.

Take yourself seriously, my friend! Give yourself permission to thrive and be bold in the pursuit of what you’re passionate about building and creating.

Of course there are going to be mess ups, trial and error, and room for growth (especially in your first year of business!), but where there are mistakes, you can still find plenty of successes to be celebrated. Looking at the growth and insight I gained last year makes me even more excited about all the possibilities this year has to offer!

If you’re a new business owner, I hope you found some of these points helpful or encouraging as you build you business. Just remember that your story is unique. Your journey and your definition of success isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. And that’s a good thing! Take the mistakes in your stride, and remember to celebrate your victories, even the small ones.