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    How to hire a magazine designer (freelancer or agency)

    at hiring, Magazine designer

    For many magazine publishers just starting out, it’s common to hire a magazine designer from outside the organization. Whether you decide to hire a freelance graphic layout artist, a periodical layout specialist, or opt to hire a magazine design agency, it can be tough to create that first issue. All of these during options can help, but you should know the difference between what these different types of designers can actually do for you. This post will explore how to hire a magazine designer or magazine design agency and get what you actually need, as well as help you to know what to expect in advance.

    Magazine designer new hire at work in the office

    How to hire a freelance magazine designer or magazine design agency

    When hiring a freelance specialist with a magazine layout focus, you can be more certain you’re getting someone with specific experience with periodical layout if they show a work history in that area. The same goes for an agency. Select based on experience with your niche if possible.

    Look at past reviews

    Try to imagine what can go wrong with your project. If vetting a freelancer, ask what went wrong with a past project in their work history? Did it go wrong often? Imagine what the freelancer had to go through by examining the other past freelancer reviews of a particularly harsh client, if possible. If vetting an agency, look at testimonials. Ask for their portfolio and past client references.

    Be upfront about budget, copyright issues and deadlines

    If you don’t actually have a hard deadline, don’t push one. Simply project a nice-to-have soft target. Better yet, consider the internal motivations for the freelancer or agency if they finish as quickly as quality assurance will comfortably allow.

    Prepare

    Try not to waste the freelancer’s or agency’s time and patience. Take a moment to organize your project in your own mind. Present your idea of the plan to the freelancer, if using one. Ask them for feedback on your plan before starting the project or any intensive time investment. If working with an agency, you’ll be led through this process. Provide examples upfront of what you like and why. Also, know the industry standards and tools. Using the wrong tool or file format can be a costly mistake that can set you back big bucks and precious time.

    Factor in worst-case scenarios

    Rushing ahead of caution is the enemy of any delicate process. Try not to rush your project. Give yourself enough cushion to foresee, discover and fix any issues that will arise in the course of any project. Trust in the process of your agency or experienced designer. Consider the agency’s motivations. Would you take on your project for that period of time rather than someone else’s? If so, why?

    A top reason some design projects go awry is the client wasting an experienced freelancer’s or agency’s time. The designer or agency makes a cost analysis of doing business with the problematic, disorganized client. A freelancer may even cut the client loose at some point when it becomes clear the project is doomed to fail. The agency is more likely to take the long view and try to build a bridge to a permanent relationship.

    Align with designer’s PM tools

    Plug into your designer’s or agency’s PM tools. They should know best on this part. An agency’s judgment should be best.

    Provide necessary starting project materials

    Which design formats do you need to be prepared to work with for the review process? Do you have the right logo file format, size and resolution? Is your web color info at the ready? Provide examples of key aspects you’re looking for during the planning process.

    Cultivate patient communication

    How good are you at suspending judgment and organizing your questions? Q&A is an important upfront process before drawing up a contract or agreement.It also impacts the deliverable review and revision stages.

    Establish an open dialogue

    How’s your org’s Zoom skillset? How available can you be during office hours? Can you provide a contact for each aspect of the magazine production, like content, design, advertising and branding? It’s good to provide more than one mobile number and email address for each contact. Zoom or a simple video can be way faster than email for wrapping your head about a visual or a process than a purely verbal explanation.

    Establish a solid plan agreement before project start

    Determine with your account manager and any key stakeholders whether or not your needs are likely to be met.  Determine whether the design team can offer any guarantees on service and other elastic assets they bring to the table. For instance, are you assured of getting certain items right before they sign off? Get it in writing with a contract. That way everyone can understand the expectations and more easily agree when they’re not being met.

    Set a target max of 3 revisions

    Extra revisions can be costly. An agency will likely do them anyway to get the issue done, but it eats into their bottom line and wears down the relationship a little for the next issue. A freelancer simply has even time to spare in a given week and no workmate to pass it on to. 

    Trust in the agency's process

    If dealing with an agency, try to understand whether they’ve done this work before, how many times, and then let that sink in. They know the ropes. It’s fine to ask questions about the process, just don’t expect to change it dramatically. This is one area where the freelancer simply can’t compete — unless that freelancer is representing an agency.

    Overall, the smooth process of an experienced agency will tend to be of the greatest benefit to any magazine issue design. In many instances, the agency magazine designer will actually be less costly, as well, This is because their efficiency is underwritten by their internal industry-supported culture. A freelancer is only truly less expensive if you are an expert in the best process to go by. Whenever working with a freelancer, the burden of the organization falls upon the client. With an agency, the client can relax and just respond but still must become alert and ready to review deliverables nonetheless.

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