How to Find a Graphic Designer

Types of Graphic Designers

There are a number of routes you can take when it comes down to hiring a graphic designer. I’ve been teaching graphic design and multimedia for years and my first job out of the military was as a career counselor. Now as a Marketing Executive that hires graphic designers and as a freelancer that has been moonlighting for decades, I’m going to share some of my knowledge and experience with you in regards to hiring, vetting, and working with graphic designers.

Your options vary depending on the size of your project, budget, timeline, specialty, etc. Perhaps you’re thinking about hiring a full time in-house graphic designer. Maybe you’re not ready to hire a full-time designer and hiring a freelancer will due or an external creative agency may be better equipped to handle larger projects. If you’re not sure which avenue is right for you? I’ve highlighted some of the key benefits of each of the options below.

In-House Graphic Designer

  • Internal creative team
  • Company cultural connection
  • Stakeholder value
  • In-depth understanding of company products, services, history, mission, etc.
  • Cost effective or cheaper than hiring an external agency
  • Speed (sometimes)

Freelance Graphic Designer

  • Clear or unbiased perspective
  • Fresh and new ideas
  • Broader range of skills
  • More specialized areas of experience
  • Likely to be using current technology
  • Familiar with current trends
  • Cost flexibility

External Creative Agency

  • Equipped to handle more complex projects
  • Multiple specialists in various disciplines
  • In depth industry knowledge
  • Larger network and talent pool
  • Better structure and project management in place
  • More resources available to pull your project together and more quickly


Where to Find Graphic Designers for Hire

There are various sources available to assist with your search of someone or people to fill the position of graphic designer(s). It depends on whether you are looking to hire people in-house or to hire outside the company. Hiring a freelancer is a better option for smaller projects and hiring and agencies are better equipped to handle more complex projects. Below are a few places to look into from job boards to business resources to find an agency.

Employment Sites: Below are popular websites that allow employers to find and filter talent. Each one lists current job openings and have unique features that assist job seekers looking for employment. Most have tools and features for employers to manage candidates during the hiring process. It’s a good idea to explore and see which option is best for you and your company’s hiring needs.

  • Indeed – Indeed is the best overall job search sites with over 180 million unique visitors every month searching for jobs in over 50 countries. It is one of the largest job search sites operating across the globe.
  • Glassdoor – Glassdoor is unlike other job boards because of the prominent role employees play with the ability to post company reviews, ratings, and information about a company. Glassdoor also offers employers branding options and posting solutions.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool for businesses that spans over 130 different industries and has an extensive job board that gives employers and recruiters the ability to target and track candidates that match the qualifications they are looking for.
  • AngelList – AngelList is one of the most popular networking and hiring platforms for startups to build their teams and job seekers to find their new job in the startup and tech communities.
  • ZipRecruiter – ZipRecruiter is a paid job posting service that distributes your job post to 40 plus job boards including Monster, Indeed, Craigslist, etc. – reaching over 30 million users. Job seekers can post their resumes for free, contributing to a database of over 2 million resumes.
  • Monster – Monster is the first public job search website that boasts over 23 million candidates and is still used by employers and recruiters to seek qualified job candidates.


Remote Job Boards: Remote work was starting to become a norm, COVID-19 just normalized telecommuting while companies are restructuring their workforce. Below are a few job boards that specialize in remote work and telecommuting jobs.

  • FlexJobs – The name says it all. FlexJobs is a job board that is about finding flexible workers for telecommuting and remote roles. The site caters to digital nomads that want flexibility or have alternative schedules.
  • We Work Remotely – Another name that is fitting for its purpose. The site claims to have 2.5 million monthly visitors and to be the world’s largest remote work community. Featured categories in their job listings are design, writing, development, programming, customer support, finance, sales, marketing and legal.
  • Working Nomads – The name is on trend. Working Nomads is an extensive list of remote jobs for the digital nomad to work anywhere in the world.
  • Virtual Vocations – Virtual Vocations is best for those that are looking for longer term roles with fewer companies opposed to short-term freelance projects. It claims to have one of the world’s largest database of legitimate work-from-home jobs.
  • – Co-founded by Sara Sutton, the same founder of Flexjobs, is specifically tailored to remote online jobs, especially for full-time telecommuting opportunities. It’s a great way for businesses to get their remote workforce started.


Freelancer Sites: There are hundreds of legitimate freelance job boards on the internet. Below are the most popular freelance sites with the largest network and highest website traffic out there today. Some are paid services, some aren’t.

  • Thumbtack – Thumbtack is an online job board that matches working professionals with local customers that are looking for certain skills to work on projects or complete tasks. Freelancers bid on jobs, but the cost is worth it for the quality of jobs and engagements in the end.
  • Upwork – Upwork is one of the best-known platforms out there for freelancers and customers to connect, but the 20% fee for workers is costly. Upwork was formed as a result of a merger between oDesk and Elance and has been around for over 10 years.
  • FreelancerFreelancer is ideal for small businesses and gives Upwork a run for its money. Freelancer boasts similar features with the main differences being its pricing structure and its subscription model.
  • Toptal – Toptal boasts to maintain the top 3% of vetted talent on demand. They have a rigorous screening process with thousands of submissions per month, but only a handful of selected freelancers get accepted into their ranks.
  • Guru – Guru has been around for a while and is one of the more reputable platforms for freelancers and customers to connect. They boast to encourage authenticity, transparency, and trust to ensure sensible expectations are met.
  • Dribbble – Dribbble is a self-promoting social media platform that serves as a digital portfolio for designers and other creatives to share their work with their peers, employers and recruiters. You can find part-time and freelance talent here, but most listings are for full-time employment.
  • Behance – Behance is a social platform for creative professionals to network and share their portfolios. Behance has an advantage in the market because they are owned by Adobe and claims “to showcase and discover creative work”.


Crowdsourcing Sites: Crowdsourcing sites are popular as a way to cut costs – especially when you are a young startup or small business without the big advertising budgets. However, there are ethical concerns with some contest based sites and very low price points.

  • Fiverr – Fiverr is a known crowdsourcing platform that offers design contests for temporary gig workers at low cost. Fiverr set their minimum project price at $5, but workers and freelancers set their own minimum price points.
  • 99designs – 99designs is another crowdsourcing design platform where freelance graphic designers compete to win projects. 99designs offers tiered contest packages which cost more than Fiverr and offer a 60 day money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied. They are headquartered in Melbourne, Australia with an office in Oakland, CA.
  • Crowdspring – Crowdspring is a Chicago based one-on-one hiring in addition to contest based crowdsourcing similar to 99designs. Crowdsrping’s pricing tier is similar to 99designs, but slightly more expensive. They offer a 30 day money back guarantee, but you have to read the terms on each individual website as they are always changing.
  • Designhill – Designhill is the most versatile of the above crowdsourcing contest-based freelance design platforms. You can choose from templates, request a specific designer, or sign up for their on-demand design subscription. Designhill may be more affordable than some of its competition, but they also have a smaller selection of designers.


Creative Staffing Agencies: Staffing agencies specialize in finding, filtering, and vetting candidates so you don’t have to. Below are known staffing and recruiting agencies that work with creative professionals.

  • Creative Circle – Creative Circle is the largest creative staffing agency in the United States. They specialize in connecting innovative advertising, creative, marketing, and interactive professionals with companies seeking talent on a full-time or freelance basis.
  • The Creative Group – The Creative Group is a division of the well-known staffing firm Robert Half that specializes in staffing skilled creative, digital, marketing, advertising, public relations, designers, copywriters, and more.
  • Aquent – Aquent is a multinational staffing agency that specializes in recruiting and placing creative professionals in temporary marketing and design assignments. Aquent is also among the “largest marketing/creative staffing firms in the United States”.
  • Artisan Creative – Artisan Creative is a California based recruiting and staffing source for creative, marketing, and digital talent. They specialize in full time placements as well as temporary staffing and projects.
  • Mondo – With a network of 1.4M+ high-end, niche Tech experts, 100+ connected industry-specific Tech Recruiters, and 10 offices nationwide, Mondo says they are the largest, national staffing agency specializing exclusively in high-end, niche IT, Tech, and Digital Marketing talent.

Local business directories like Yelp, Google My Business, Design Rush, Creative Agency Finder, and the like can be good starting points if you are thinking about hiring a creative agency. Ask around. Perhaps one of your colleagues can recommend a fabulous designer or agency they’ve worked with in the past. Your own existing network can be your most valuable and overlooked resources.


Graphic Design Job Titles

When you begin your search for a graphic designer, you’ll notice that there are many job titles related to the field. Many job titles and responsibilities overlap. There is a certain hierarchy from job titles and responsibilities like “Art Director” to entry level positions like “Production Artist”. Below are a few job titles and a few variations of them that you’ll come across.

Art Director Content Manager UI/UX Designer Animator
Production Artist Graphic Designer Video Editor Motion Designer
Communications Specialist Illustrator Video Producer Interactive Designer
Content Developer Web Designer Visual Designer Graphic Artist
Brand Manager Creative Director Marketing Manager Presentation Designer
Project Manager Digital Designer Production Artist Web Editor


How to Filter Graphic Design Candidates

Depending on what your unique project requirements are, what you look for and what you prioritize in your search will vary. I’ve highlighted a few things to consider when hiring a graphic designer.

Technology and Software

  • Laptop or desktop? I’d consider it a red flag if you’re designer doesn’t have access to the tools they need to perform their job.
  • What operating system does your company use? Most graphic designers are well versed and comfortable in both Windows and Apple OS environments.
  • It’s important that the designer you hire is up to speed on current industry trends in regards to technology and software required to complete your project.
  • If your graphic designer has never heard of Adobe and Photoshop and Illustrator are not part of their vocabulary, I’d move on to the next candidate.
  • Popular graphic design software for 2020 includes:
    • Adobe CC and the Adobe family of design products
      • Creative Cloud All Apps – The entire collection of 20+ creative apps.
      • Photoshop – Edit, composite, and create beautiful images, graphics, and art on desktop and iPad.
      • Lightroom – Edit, organize, store, and share photos from anywhere.
      • Illustrator – Create beautiful vector art and illustrations.
      • Premiere Pro – Edit and craft polished films and video.
      • InDesign – Page design and layout for print and digital publishing.
      • Lightroom Classic – Desktop-focused photo editing.
      • Premiere Rush – Create and share online videos anywhere.
      • Adobe XD – Design, prototype, and share user experiences.
      • After Effects – Create motion graphics and visual effects for film, TV, video, and web.
      • Aero – Design and share immersive augmented reality experiences.
      • Adobe Fresco – Rediscover the joy of drawing and painting anywhere.
      • Dimension – Create photorealistic 3D images for branding, product shots, and package design.
      • Dreamweaver – Design and develop modern, responsive websites.
    • Alternatives to Adobe products
      • Affinity – Professional Creative Software
        • Affinity DesignerIllustrator
        • Affinity PublisherInDesign
        • Affinity PhotoPhotoshop
      • CorelDRAW Graphics SuiteAdobe Creative Suite
      • Gravit DesignerIllustrator
      • Paint.NETPhotoshop
      • GIMPPhotoshop
      • RawTherapee Lightroom
      • InkscapeIllustrator
      • SketchIllustrator
      • Xara Designer Pro XAdobe Creative Suite
      • ScribusInDesign
      • DaVinci ResolvePremiere Pro
      • BlenderAfter Effects plus 3D Modeling

Designer Skills

  • You’ll want to know that the creative professional you hire knows how to perform the required tasks to complete your project on time and on budget.
  • Take a look at the designers’ portfolios and ask to see samples of their work.
  • Most designers are well versed across various disciplines of design, but if you need a set of infographics for a pitch deck to investors, a designer’s logo design portfolio isn’t going to cut it.
  • Some designers are skilled and specialize in certain areas of design. Why not have your project completed by experts in their field?


  • Veterans and industry experts can bring their knowledge and experience to the table. They are more likely to foresee industry challenges before you do and more likely to get the job done quicker than someone with very little real world knowledge and experience.
  • Get referrals from friends and colleagues.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Good designers are expensive, so before you invest time and money into your project, make sure you’ve done the homework to make educated and thoughtful decisions.


  • Though often no longer a requirement, formal education means that certain design rules and principles are part of their core foundation where designers without formal education haven’t been taught the basic rules.
  • A candidate’s educational background can provide insight into their knowledge and experience you can tap into.
  • It’s not unreasonable to require a certain level of education of the people you bring onto your team. If you’re investing money in your business and your people, you want to make sure you’re also getting the best in return.

When evaluating your candidates, you can use the following questions as examples of things to ask yourself before you begin taking further steps in the hiring process.

  1. What are my objectives?
  2. Do I really need to hire a graphic designer?
  3. Am I looking for a new designer in the right place?
  4. Does my job ad clearly define:
    • Business description
    • Position overview
    • Key qualifications
    • Key responsibilities
    • How to apply
  5. Does the design professional have the skills required to complete the project? (skills, education, experience, etc.)
  6. Does the graphic designer have samples of similar projects they’ve worked on showcased in their portfolio? Make sure to get relevant samples of work.



In-house graphic designers, freelancers, and agencies have their advantages and shortcomings, so it’s up to you to assess your company’s short term and long term needs and choose the best option for your graphic design needs. Niche or industry specific job boards for the creative community will likely lead to higher engagement and better qualified talent opposed to mainstream portals like Monster. Whichever route you end up taking there will be advantages and disadvantages. You’ll learn to start weighing the pros and cons and making smarter business decisions.

Annette C. Sage / CEO at Sage Design Group


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