If you’re planning a product development cycle and in need of a designer, it can be difficult to know where to look. The internet is swamped with directories, freelance platforms and middlemen. Amongst whom, it is hard for a single designer to compete with in terms of SEO prowess. Knowing where to look can be half the battle, so allow me to highlight the top places you might search from a designer’s perspective, and why.
Design Brief Compiling your requirements into a concise design brief, is certainly worth doing before you start reaching out to people. It will not only help you to identify the right designer with the right skillset, but allow for a focused working cooperation. Speaking from the shoes of a designer, I can attest to the headache of distilling clients lofty ambitions into hard requirements. Not easy!
Scope After developing the brief, you should try to determine whether your workload is fit for a freelancer or substantial enough for an agency/studio. This depends on many things, like the project complexity, timeline, breadth of expertise required etc. If you aren’t confident about this distinction, get some advice from a 3rd party. You could end up paying over the odds for an agency’s help, or conversely expect far too much from an enthusiastic design graduate.
Direct The advantage of using any of my top 3 sources, is that you are approaching the designer directly. There is no platform or agency in the middle who is taking a cut. While this is usually the best approach, it does carry an element of risk. For those more cautious of who they hire, may want the security that a page like Upwork provides.
1. Personal network
It goes without saying, that the best connections are those made in real life. Commonly the most efficient and the most authentic. Asking within your personal network is the best chance you have, supposing you know other businesses or people within the field. If you have a presence in this space, why not try reaching out on social media for leads?
If your buddies let you down, the next pool to try would be LinkedIn. It’s a vast resource of professionals, which are only a message away. As of Jan 2022, there are 618,000 results for ‘people’ under ‘industrial designer’. How many designers do you need?
It’s worth noting that the majority of these results, will be designers who are already employed, full-time though. The best way to find the most applicable results would be the following:
1. Head to LinkedIn and search for ‘product designer freelance’ or ‘industrial designer freelance’.
2. Select the People filter.
3. If location is important, insert a location filter either using country or city – or multiple places.
4. You can narrow down even further, by using the all filters option.
Once you filter your search results, it’s a simple case of reading the profile preview, and taking a look at any individuals that resonate with you. If you struggle to find any relevant results, then consider omitting your location filter – it’s amazing what can be achieve remotely nowadays!
Instead of approaching people yourself, why not bring them to you? You could write a post on LinkedIn, inviting freelance designers to get in touch with you. By adding relevant hashtags, you can ensure you reach the right people – and it’s surprising how broad an audience these simple posts on LinkedIn can reach. Even with a modest number of connections, your inquiry could easily hit 300+ people. Try something along the lines of:
“We having some exciting product development upcoming at Company X. As such, we’re on the lookout for a freelance product designer based in London during May-July. Get in touch if you’re that gal or guy we’re looking for!”
Next, I would really recommend checking out Behance.net. It’s an online portfolio platform, featuring tons of people across all creative fields. Using a similar process, you can search for specific designers using filters:
1. Hit the search button on Behance, and enter any keywords if necessary. If you are working in the healthcare sector, try ‘medical’.
2. Select the Creative Fields filter, and choose Industrial Design or Product Design in a separate search.
3. If you’re after someone local, insert a location filter using country or city.
4. You can parse further, by using the other filters. If you’re really looking for the crème-de-la-crème, use the Sort by: Most appreciated or Most viewed feature.
The benefit of using Behance, is that you can stalk designers quietly, comparing their portfolios and design styles before you even engage in conversation. You’re able to specifically target people who have great, applicable project examples. Once you have built a shortlist, you can message people directly within the platform, or head straight to their LinkedIn profile.
While I was previously opposed to freelancing sites like Upwork, I have come to acknowledge they do have a number of advantages compared to working with people directly. In this article, I will focus on the benefits to the hirer.
Upwork and similar platforms do give the hirer an excellent method to validate the capability of people in advance. You can see how much people have earned, study their job success score, view their portfolio and analyse reviews from clients. With all previous methods, you can only judge based on their portfolio and their word at best.
It's also a pool of thousands of relevant professional freelancers, waiting to be hired for your project. It's probably the fastest way to find someone. In addition, the payment and billing stuff is quite well designed. It offers convenience and security to both parties. For this service Upwork charge 20% on the first $500 worth of a project, and 10% thereafter - which is a fairly modest rate.
There are two ways of finding a designer (or any professional for that matter) through Upwork – browsing a list of profiles or posting a job. In either case, you will have to sign up to the site first. Once you do that, consider finding people using these two methods:
1. In the search bar on the Upwork homepage, select Talent, then input ‘industrial designer’ or ‘product designer’.
2. You will be presented with a significant list of relevant professionals. As with other platforms, you can filter these results.
Post a job:
1. After creating an account, head to Jobs > Create a Job.
2. Follow the process, or get guidance from the help article on this topic.
The advantage to posting a job on Upwork, is the sheer lack of effort it takes! Within 24hrs you will probably receive 30+ proposals from designers from around the world, willing to support you on your project.
Another platform worth mentioning, is Coroflot. Similar to Behance, this is a platform where creatives display their work. By simply choosing ‘Designers’, then ‘industrial designer’, you can search through a range of portfolios until you come across someone with relevant work examples.
The way in which designers are shown, is quite effective to fast filtering of relevant candidates. The reason for this being less-recommended than Behance, is simply due to the smaller number of profiles you can find there.
If you are still struggling to find someone after exhausting these methods, it might be worth revisiting your proposal! There are so many options at your fingertips, you are pretty sure to find someone quickly - unless you're in need of really specialised skills or have tough requirements. You can use these same sources to search for other creatives, if you also need a website designed or branding developed.
Have you found another good way to scope out designers? let me know!