3 Critical things startups should know when hiring a designer.

Virgil Horghidan
4 min readJan 16, 2020

Choosing a designer for your startup is not just about improving aesthetics. That’s actually a small part of it. At the end of the day, every effort or investment has to grow your business.

To make sure that your prospect designer has your growth as their main goal, you should pay close attention to their process, their questions, and how much they get invested in your professional relationship.

Generally, it’s not easy to understand these things from their portfolio, but in the early meetings, when the stakes are not yet on the table, you can deduce their ways by observing how they interact with you.

The following recommendations will help you choose a highly professional designer that focuses on your growth as a business and not just creating some nice designs.

1. Are they pricing hourly or fixed?


  • A fixed price for finite work like a logo, website, an app, a set package
  • Hourly price on ongoing maintenance, extra features, extra revisions etc

When it comes to finite projects like a website, a logo, an app etc., hourly pricing is not ideal because of the uncertainty it brings with it. Stress can build up and trust issues can appear from both sides while hours are piling up. Clients will often feel more pressure and responsibility and start micromanaging the designer who might start feeling pushed around like a tool. No one wants to become just a pixel mover, taking orders at every step with no understanding of a higher direction or a goal.

Another problem with hourly pricing is that basically, the creatives get rewarded for working more and punished for working faster. That means more experience equals less money unless they charge a very big hourly rate.

On the other side, the fixed price freelancer will generally try to find smarter, more creative ways to reduce the time while delivering their best possible work to minimize revisions. They’ll focus on business goals while keeping clients in the loop, making sure their creative results are approved at every stage of the process.

2. Are they asking profound questions about your project, or are they eager to start designing ASAP?

Recommendation: Go for the ones that ask about your goals, the desired future state etc.

Top designers look for their “ideal client”, and even if this will sound crazy: They will sometimes turn down great-sounding offers. They want to focus their abilities in the right direction and bring maximum possible value to their clients. They seek only win-win business relationships.

To make sure your project is a good fit, the pro designer starts by asking questions about company history, your purpose, your goals, your vision of success, etc. He might even ask: “Why choose me? When you could find someone much cheaper on 99 Designs or Fiver.”

Also, before starting the actual work, they run some diagnostics about your assumptions. For example, you might assume that you need a new website, but after a discovery session, it might turn out the better and cheaper thing to do is update something on your current website where people get stuck or maybe work on a better branding strategy for customers to get the right message.

3. Do they give a guarantee of success?

Recommendation: Choose the one that gives some guarantee and takes some of the risk on themselves.

Designers who take their business very seriously will often offer guarantees like:

  • 100% satisfaction guaranteed or money back
  • Agreed KPI’s guaranteed, assuming your traffic stays the same.

As a client, you might think: How can a designer guarantee KPI’s as long as there are so many variables that are not in their control:

  • It’s my business model
  • I decide the content and copy for the website
  • I set the brief

Well, as I said in point 2, the pro designers are generally picky and will choose projects in which they see high potential. It might seem like they want to take too much control but keep in mind: an experienced designer has seen dozens of startups fail and succeed and they often see young businesses starting with the same mistakes. If your designer passes the above points I say you should take advantage of their process and insights.

Bonus point:

Designers should take the partner role and do whatever it takes to make sure startups have the best possible chance at success and growth.

That means taking the role of a consultant and assess the brief before signing a contract, suggest strategy workshops and work with other specialists like a copywriter, an illustrator, an animator, marketing and SEO guys etc., from their own networks.

In earlier stages, startups don’t have budgets for huge branding and development agencies but choosing the right designer, maybe one that’s surrounded by a network of complementary talents can do an equally effective job or even a better one at a more affordable price.

That’s all folks,


I’m Virgil Horghidan, a full-stack designer based in Barcelona. I help startups add heart and soul to their business ideas through branding and design.

Any questions? Email me at hi@virgilh.com.

If you’re interested in working with me, Schedule A Free Appointment.