Disasters With Designers – 5 Lessons Learned From Hiring Freelance Designers

designer problems

Photo credit: saaleha

Part of creating a great app, is making it look good, and as I mentioned earlier, I do have some good design skills, but when it comes to drawing characters for games, I have to resort to hiring professionals.

I’ve used odesk and elance to find designers and have gone through a lot of trouble until I managed to find some good talented people to work with. I was inspired by Trey’s Post, so I thought I’d share some lessons learned so you can avoid the same problems I had.

Designer 1: The flake

I thought I really lucked out with the first designer. She was very talented based on her online portfolio, very responsive to email, and was priced very affordably.
During our initial conversations, she seemed to really “get it” and came back with the first sketches in record time.

I should have seen this as a warning sign, but she did use a lot of emoticons in the skype conversation…

One day, she just stopped responding!

I was already in the midst of building my game, and integrating the first set of characters I got from her, and then she just vanished!

I emailed and skyped her, and contacted her through odesk, but no response.
After a week or so, I had to hire someone new…

A month or so later, she got back to me, saying she had some computer problems (so no Internet café’s in your city? No friends with a computer so you can check your email and let your clients know what’s going on?)

Lesson: For the first project you do with a new designer, don’t give them too much work and don’t put them on the critical path of the project (that is – if they don’t deliver, the project dies). This problem could have easily been avoided if she would have only done a smaller part of the project and could have been dropped without too much loss.

Designer 2: The Pro

After this bad experience, I decided to find someone more professional.
I posted my ad on odesk, and got contacted by a design agency.
The work they did seemed impressive, and their hourly rate was good, so I did a Skype interview with them and they seemed very professional. They even used a SharePoint like product to manage the project, set milestones and manage other project management activities.

The work started coming in and it was really high quality, so I was happy, but then I started to see the hourly reports come in…

While the hourly rate was low, they had a designer working full time on my project. The work quality was high, but it was taking way too long to finish and costing me an arm and a leg!

By the time the backgrounds were done, I was in for around $2000 and the characters weren’t even started yet!

I asked the project manager to stop work and provide an estimate on how much work it would be to create the characters, and they said that it would be at least $5000 more, which I didn’t have…

So I had to stop the project again.

Lesson: Unless you are very clear from the start what the scope of the project is and what the amount of hours you approve are, do not work on an hourly basis!

Costs can really creep up on you and you could end up paying much more than you expected.

After this incident, I decided to only work on a fixed price basis. This also motivates the designer to work faster to get the project done so they don’t spend too much time on it and lose other hourly jobs they have.

I’ll be posting the next 3 lessons in my next post Disasters with designers – 5 lessons learned from hiring freelance designers – part 2, but in the mean time, I’d love to hear from you. Have you had any good or bad experiences with designers that you’d like to share?

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image