When to DIY and When to Hire a Graphic Designer

This blog is adapted from a talk I gave to the St. Joseph Business Guild Women's Group in April 2021.



The Value of Great Art


I've made this claim before, but I'll make it again. Excellent design can increase revenue. Think about it. How often have you stood in the deodorant aisle debating which of the 20 different products to get? I’ll bet that we’ve all gone for the one with the pretty packaging at least once in our lives (we women are especially guilty of this!). This is because beauty speaks to our souls, regardless of our religious backgrounds. Yeah you heard me right, I just went from the deodorant aisle straight to church.



Believe it or not, there is such a thing as objective beauty. There have been studies conducted on the effects of art on patients in a hospital. Patients who recovered from surgery in a newly renovated part of a hospital with fine art recovered faster on average than those staying in an older part of the hospital that didn’t have any art. I know you’ve experienced this yourself. Have you ever looked at a mess in your home and you could physically feel it stress you out? How about the calm feeling you get when you look at a neat and clean living room? Beyond investing in some cabinets and decluttering, there are certain principles we can leverage to make something look good.



Graphic design is the visual organization of information and graphics. As with fine art or anything visual, applying certain techniques can make design look pleasing to the eye. You may have heard these things called the elements and principles of design. Even just a solid understanding of hierarchy, color, proximity, and so on, can work wonders.


This is how good graphic design can increase revenue. You’re standing in the snack aisle in the grocery store and you decide to buy Boom Chicka Pop instead of Old Dutch. You’re more likely to read the billboard that looks nice over the one that doesn’t. I even go as far as saying having good graphic design for your brand makes people take you seriously too. This is why some companies set aside a generous percentage of their budget for marketing and advertising. Hiring someone who knows what they’re doing can pay back their value and more. This is why I love doing what I do. I know the power of good design and I wield the power to make it happen. It especially brings me joy to help churches and non-profits achieve excellent design.



When to DIY and When it's Time to Hire a Professional


Okay, that’s all well and good, but graphic design can be expensive! And especially being a small business owner, it’s important to budget carefully. So, when should a business owner seriously consider investing in an expert? And conversely, when should a business owner DIY it? When do the benefits outweigh the risks of each?


At face value, I will usually recommend finding room in your budget for a graphic designer. Not just because I need money to support myself, but also because I want what’s best for any company, especially if I'm invested in the mission. As a professional in this industry and biased individual, that means hiring a professional because it's more likely they'll know what's best. I digress.


Let’s start with doing it yourself. It’s a good idea to just do it yourself if:

  • You or another staff member are decent at design

  • You have time

  • The task is simple

  • You can afford the risk

If you or someone else on your team is decent at graphic design, it could be worth doing design with your existing resources. This is a really handy option if you are just starting out. However, good graphic design takes not just a lot of brain power, but it can also take a lot of time. It can take even more time if you don’t have a clear vision or don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve got the time and you’re somewhat skilled at it, then DIYing can be a good option. Designs that are straightforward to tackle like social media posts and flyers can be done with your existing team. Lastly, I would say doing graphic design yourself is okay if you can afford the risk of not optimal design.


If you go the DIY route, I’ve written a few blog posts about graphic design basics to get you started. But here are a few resources I mention in the article. Canva.com is a free online graphic design application. Templates are available for social media posts and more. Keep in mind there are some features you need to pay for. Color.adobe.com is a great application for finding good color schemes. You can search keywords, upload a photo to grab a color scheme from, or just see what colors are trending. The Futur and the Futur Academy are companies all about making graphic design education accessible to everyone around the world. Look them up on YouTube or buy one of their courses on their website.


Here’s an example of a company choosing not to hire a full-time designer: In one of my in-house roles, I was the only trained digital creative working there. Being part-time, many other projects were given to other employees. This business was business to business as opposed to business to consumer. Their design only needed to be good enough for their documents to be useful to their customers. This business is already well established in its industry, so they don’t need flashy graphics to stand out. This is a case where I’d say it’s okay to not have a graphic designer.



Let’s discuss the flip-side. When is it time to hire a professional?

  • You’re willing to invest the money

  • The project is complex

  • This is a high-stakes opportunity

Ever heard the saying, “You get what you pay for”? Well, that’s the case with investing in a good graphic designer. They can not only create beautiful graphics for your company, they can also identify other creative opportunities you can’t see. As we’ve discussed, high quality graphic design increases revenue and helps increase your credibility as a company. You’re more likely to achieve that with a trained professional.


Another really good reason to hire an expert is if the project is complex. These projects require a lot more abstract creative thinking than your average flyer. I’m talking about logo and branding design, building websites, social media campaigns, package design, and more. There are so many details to these projects that are very easy to overlook, but a trained professional already lives and breathes these projects. Lastly, I’m just going to straight up say, do not do logos and websites completely on your own. At least consult an expert before getting started. These two things are the most important identifiers for your companies! Executing them poorly costs a lot of time, money, and tears over time!


Here are a few options when hiring a graphic designer. The most traditional route is to hire a full-time employee. If you’re going to have a lot of graphic design for a long time, this is a good idea. However, unless you’re an agency, you probably don’t need that much labor. That’s when turning to freelancers like myself is a good option. When you hire a freelancer, you only pay for the hours you need. Freelancers build their companies around the fact they will only get a few hours a week from many clients. That’s what I do. I get a few hours from many different places, so it can add up for me quickly. Another option is to offer an internship to students. Students are becoming increasingly competent in design. But only go that route if you think you can handle the risk that comes with working with an inexperienced person.


A word of caution against Fiverr and Upwork. With these two sites, you can post a project and designers can bid on it. However, the design community doesn’t take these sites seriously. More often than not, those offering projects on these sites pressure designers into doing their work for pennies when it’s worth thousands. As I keep stating, good graphic design is worth it and a talented graphic designer can charge a lot of money for work because he or she understands the value of his or her craft. As Christians, we’re called to treat our neighbors with dignity. I would recommend finding qualified graphic designers by networking and doing a search on LinkedIn instead of using these websites. There are a lot out there.



To sum it all up, go ahead and move forward on your own if you have time, talent, and if you can afford the risk. Otherwise, hire a graphic designer if you have big hairy projects and if you can’t afford the risk. I promise you if you hire a reputable graphic designer, he or she will be worth every penny and more to you.



As always, I'm eager to hear your thoughts and opinions. Drop a comment below. Thanks for the read!

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