Guest Blog

7 Tips for Effective Graphic Design Outsourcing

By February 22, 2019 No Comments

Whether you’re a freelancer in need of a helping hand or a startup in need of a fully-fledged design team, outsourcing graphic design is a cost-effective way to accelerate your growth.

What was once a difficult and resource-intensive operation, outsourcing talent – whether graphic design, medical or otherwise – has become much easier in years gone by, thanks to an array of specialized recruiters, services & online apps.

Over the last few years, at my company BrandPacks, we’ve capitalized on this trend to expand our design team and grow our products at an exponential rate. As a remote team, outsourcing has also enabled us to grow in a highly cost-effective manner. Operating online, there’s been no need for expensive real estate. Likewise, outsourcing to countries like the Philippines has allowed us to capitalize on the lower cost of labor, without sacrificing highly skilled staff.

But it hasn’t been totally hassle free. We’ve often worked on our own without the expertise of a specialist outsourcing service, so we’ve had to learn from our mistakes, and learn we have.

In this post, I’ll share 7 key lessons we’ve learned over the years so you needn’t make the same mistakes when hiring your own outsourced designers. They may seem trivial, but more often than not, it’s these small tips which are the most overlooked.

Here are our top-tips for effective graphic design outsourcing:

1. Find pre-qualified employees (but don’t neglect the interview process)

Done-for-you services, like here at ClarkOutsourcing, can save you hundreds of hours of time by connecting you with pre-qualified & pre-screened talent. This ROI saving so much time early in the hiring process is insurmountable, especially when compounded as you grow your team further.

Hiring outsourced staff can be a daunting – and timely – task, especially when you’ve never done it before. Sifting through dozens or even hundreds of CVs very quickly eats into your valuable time. Not to mention that many of the qualifications written in an application are typically inflated (or down-right made up).

In years gone by, when we posted new remote positions, we’d spend hours reading through CVs, only to highlight candidates who we later learned were completely under qualified. Even services like UpWork & Freelancer still inundate you with under-qualified workers. It becomes a complete waste of our valuable time and something that puts many off hiring for remote positions.

It’s much better to use a service who’ve already screened the talent for you.

2. Interview multiple designers

You may call this FOMO, but you never know if your perfect employee is just another CV away. It can be tempting to try and get the hiring process wrapped up as quickly as possible, but an extra few hours – or days – can make all the difference when the right employee sticks with you for years.

Rather than eliminate candidates from the hiring process based off CV or cover letter alone, find designers who might just qualify and interview them all. Even if one candidate shines particularly bright on their CV, don’t disregard everyone else.

We’ve been burned in the past by hiring too fast, or not interview multiple designers because it was love-at-first-sight with an individual candidate. Oftentimes it’s turned out that other designers, who on paper were slightly underqualified, were actually a much better fit for the position.

The moral of the story, I suppose, is not to jump to conclusions. Be patient and interview multiple designers, it can pay dividends later down the line.

3. Be Very Clear With Your Brief

Hiring is tiring. As so – and I see this a lot with recruiters – it can be easier to throw up a quick copy & paste job ad with a generalized view of what you’re looking for.

Doing this is bad, and it will only make the hiring process more difficult and tedious for you. The more generalized your ad is, the more generalized the workers who apply.

Instead, spend some extra time to craft a clear & highly specific job brief that details exactly what you expect from your designer.

What tools will they use? What styles should they be comfortable with? How fast do they need to work? What type of computer should they own? Is your work for print, the screen or both?

Consider just how specific you can be and detail as many requirements as possible. It’ll help cut the junk long before you read your first resumé.

4. Don’t just rely on portfolios, give small tasks

Asking freelancers for spec-work is somewhat of a no-no in the graphic design industry. Most graphic designers will be offended if you ask them for free work, however, this doesn’t apply to the interview process.

Rather than relying on someone’s portfolio alone – which could easily screenshot of design templates (I see this a lot with amateur designers looking to get hired) – ask them to complete some small tasks to certify that they are indeed capable.

Don’t try to take advantage and get the freelancer to complete whole projects free of charge; just issue a small design brief that’ll showcase their skills.

5. Agree on a timeline & budget

Graphic design, being such highly subjective and creative work, is difficult to quantify in terms of how much time will be required for completion. For this reason, it’s important to set clear timelines, deadlines and, of course, budgets for each design project.

As Parkinson’s Law states: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, and typically, we find that the shorter the deadline, the more effective the designer works.

Side note on deadlines: When you’re outsourcing to overseas workers, it’s important to be wary of timezones. Mostly, as a Western company, outsourcing to countries like the Philippines actually enables staff to work for you ahead of time. But if you’re outsourcing to those who are behind your timezone, you may need to factor in additional hours/days for job completion.

6. Be clear that questions are better than mistakes

Few things are more frustrating than following up with an employee after a week on a project, only to find they’ve been doing it all wrong.

Oftentimes – at least in my experience – freelancers & outsourced workers can be scared to admit they don’t fully understand what you’re asking them to do. I find this happens a lot with workers from the East; perhaps it’s just a cultural difference.

Nonetheless, to help negate this, and prevent workers wasting time when they’re not entirely sure what to do, I always make it clear that I prefer to be asked questions if they don’t fully understand what’s required.

I explain to the worker that it is better to ask questions than to waste time, and this usually makes them comfortable there’ll be no negative repercussions in doing so. It’s a small quirk, but one as a Westerner that is often overlooked.

7. Utilize collaboration tools

The final tip I have for those looking to build an effective, scalable & outsourced design team is to invest in some proper collaboration tools. Don’t just rely on email alone. There are dozens of professional, real-time collaboration tools specifically built for remote teams.

Some of the apps we use that you may also find useful include:

Most of these tools have free options to get started, but don’t let premium tiers put you off. When you’re saving so much on your workforce anyway, you can afford to invest in some quality collaboration tools. After all, email is so last year.


Jen Smith is a Content Writer and Developer at Brandpacks.

She loves working in the ever-changing world of digital and is fascinated by the role content plays in today’s marketing.

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