April 19, 2021 Content Chat Recap: How To Find And Partner With A Graphic Designer For Content Marketing

A #ContentChat header image that says today's topic is how to find and partner with a graphic designer for content marketing, with guest Matt Hanns Schroeter.

Even the best-written content can be improved with compelling, on-brand visuals. The trouble, though, is that most content marketing teams are tight on time—and budgets—so these visual elements are usually an afterthought or simple box to check in the creation process.

Teams and solo content creators should partner with professional graphic designers to achieve the full visual potential of their work, especially for priority campaigns and launches. Many brands and individuals lack this in-house or personal design expertise, meaning that freelance graphic designers are an essential resource for all types of marketers.

In this #ContentChat, we’re joined by Matt Hanns Schroeter, freelance illustrator, designer, and developer, to discuss how to partner with a graphic designer for content marketing. Check out the full conversation below, where we trade tips on how to find a graphic designer, realistic budgets and timelines, the necessary information to share when reaching out to a designer for a project, and more.

Q1: Why should a content marketer consider engaging with a graphic design freelancer?

Graphic designers are beneficial for many reasons. At a high level, they can create engaging and effective content marketing pieces that help your brand stand out from the competition.

A1: A bunch of reasons! Top ones that come to mind are to: distill complex info, personalize things for a brand, and elevate content to spread brand vision + purpose. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

A1a: While there are a ton of great DIY design tools content marketers can use, nothing compares to collaborating with a graphic designer for creating engaging and effective content marketing pieces. #ContentChat https://t.co/IGcrWFYkOS

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

A1. An attractive graphic design in marketing creates a very positive image & builds brand recognition. It captivates the user’s attention at the very first look & has a better chance of being remembered #ContentChat https://t.co/NlVOtQ6drW

— 🟣 Eddie Garrison (@EddieGarrison) April 19, 2021

For specifics, freelance graphic designers provide a much-needed outside perspective…

A1 Aside from the fact that a designer will help your assets to look nice, a *freelance* designer can often offer a fresh perspective or a new take that will help your assets to stand out more and get your team to see things differently. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) April 19, 2021

I second the importance of having a fresh perspective and how that can elevate your content. Often, something that seems really clear to a content creator isn’t as clear as we think. A great designer can recognize that and help you improve your message delivery. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

A1 Having a graphic designer (or someone with graphic design knowledge) is key for providing interesting and powerful visuals with your content
Having a freelance gives you the opportunities to see different aspects or angles on the content
-Alyx #ContentChat https://t.co/7xP7WiKiWm

— Charlie & Alyx – Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) April 19, 2021

Compelling visuals help retain readers and increase the value of your content…

A1. You need to work with graphic designers to design powerful visuals for your content, helping you retain readers, improve content readability, and increase page dwell time.#ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 19, 2021

A1 The data is very clear: imagery increases engagement. Quality counts, so working with a freelancer just makes sense. Has worked for me in the past. #contentchat

— Dan Goldberg (@Jonas419) April 19, 2021

Visual content can better reach certain members of your community, especially on visual-focused channels…

A1: Also, people digest content differently and sometimes a visual representation of your content will resonate better with an audience. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) April 19, 2021

Unique graphics are more engaging than stock photos…

A1: So many reasons! Unique graphics are often more engaging than the usual stock photos, especially if you’re trying to stand out in a busy social feed. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) April 19, 2021

Yep I see that shift a lot now, much more illustration work than using stock photos these days.

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

And freelance graphic designers provide project-based support to fit your team’s budget.

A1b: Not all organizations can afford to have a designer on staff to support the content marketing team. But building a relationship with one or a couple of freelance designers is a great way to bring your content to life on a budget. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

Q2: When is the right time to loop a graphic designer into your content creation process?

Engage a graphic design freelancer at the earliest stages of your content planning.

A2: The earlier, the better. It really helps me to know what the project goals are, and getting an idea of the decision-makers/stakeholders. Otherwise I might make something that misses the mark. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

A2: In an ideal world, from the beginning. If they’re looped in at the start, they can get a better picture of the goals of the content and offer a different perspective as you’re planning and creating the content. I feel this happens rarely, though! #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) April 19, 2021

A2: I work with a few graphic design pros, and usually involve them at the early/strategy stage of a gig. It helps to have a GD’s perspective and questions covered early in order to successfully scope the work. #ContentChat https://t.co/VKylqNjZNh

— Ed Alexander (@fanfoundry) April 19, 2021

A2: When you are really ready to execute. Worked with a freelancer who gave 3 free revisions, then charged for changes. Great for discipline and results! #contentchat

— Dan Goldberg (@Jonas419) April 19, 2021

A2. I think the faster you can work with a graphic designer, the better.

Good content needs good visuals to stand out so it’s best to either learn how to use a DIY design to create custom, branded visuals or hire a freelance graphic designer. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 19, 2021

A2. From the very beginning. Graphic Design is not only used to advertise the brand’s products/services, but also can be used to convey a company’s culture, values, & vision. Hard to do if they aren’t involved from the beginning #ContentChat https://t.co/JsfFgBzjy3

— 🟣 Eddie Garrison (@EddieGarrison) April 19, 2021

A2 The sooner the better, so the content creation process goes smoothly
They have a better idea of what the end goal is, they can share insight and expertise as the designer, and there *hopefully* aren’t as many hiccups to reach the end goal
-Alyx #ContentChat https://t.co/xByCH7Pq14

— Charlie & Alyx – Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) April 19, 2021

Involve the designer in your initial project kickoff to brainstorm and align on direction before starting your content.

A2: there isn’t any wrong time to engage, but… you are going to have a much better end result if you involve your designer in your initial project kickoff—before anything is written— so you can brainstorm and align BEFORE any words are written or content planned. #ContentChat https://t.co/w6Xm0oyx07

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

Q3: What details should a content marketer provide a graphic designer when first contacting them for a potential project?

Per Matt, give your graphic designer a project overview, due dates/timeline, ideal budget, and customer/audience profiles when first contacting them for a potential project.

A3: The basics I always ask for are: project overview, due dates/milestones, budget, customer/audience profiles, and timeline. I’d start with at least those. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Many teams fail to provide appropriate details on their customers or ideal readers. This will hinder the design process.

Also: Who the audience is and what the purpose of the project is, so the person knows who they’re designing for and why. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) April 19, 2021

Yeah I find audience profiles are the hardest to get but worth so much to get the design right.

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Excellent points. As a writer, I know I create much better work when I have a thorough understanding of the audience and how the content is meant to help them take action. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

Share your brand guidelines, any design specifications, and a glimpse at who on the team will interface with the designer.

A3: I always like to outline:
-Goals of the content or project
-Audience
-Timeline
-Stakeholders (or who else is involved with content creation and reviews)
-Design specifications or directives if needed (like brand colors)
-Budget #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) April 19, 2021

A3. A project overview + scope, brand guidelines, ideal turnaround/timeline estimate, design inspiration to kick things off in the start. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 19, 2021

Explain if this engagement is one-off or part of a larger campaign.

I think another important thing is, simply, context. Is this a one-off, or is it part of a larger campaign? Will there be other pieces to be designed? What else will be happening when the audience receives/consumes the asset? #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) April 19, 2021

And set expectations around preferred communication methods.

A4. This can vary from project to project, however some key factors would be: 1. Branding Guidelines (eg. colours, logos, etc.) 2. Direction of Campaign/Posts 3. Deadlines & turnaround expectations 4. Communication preferences #ContentChat https://t.co/r6nKKiWkWP

— 🟣 Eddie Garrison (@EddieGarrison) April 19, 2021

Q4: What are realistic budgets and timelines for freelance graphic design work? Are those 100 designs for $99 sites too good to be true?

Graphic designers require a unique skillset and suite of tools to complete their work. Automated or highly templated designers market their “services” for pennies on the dollar, which distorts the expectation of what good design costs. Per our chat, hourly rates for experienced designers can easily range between $60-250+ USD per hour.

A4d: Putting it out there, my hourly rate starts at $60 USD, and I have some flat rate packages I sometimes give if clients need a fixed cost. I’ve raised it a few times since I started on my own, and seen the growing internal management costs of doing more projects. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

A4. Much as with anything else, a lot of times you get what you pay for. There are exceptions of course, however are you willing to risk that at your brand’s public image expense? My starting rate is $250 an hour for graphic design work #ContentChat https://t.co/1y79KKYFhV

— 🟣 Eddie Garrison (@EddieGarrison) April 19, 2021

I try and pair up with people I’ve worked with or know. One guy I work with has a permanent gig at a global firm and he moonlights for me at $35ph. That’s mate’s rate. Another person in Australia is AU$85ph. Very reasonable so no need to go 99 designs to unknowns. #contentchat

— Caroline (@CAZJAMES) April 19, 2021

A4b: When budgeting for designed projects, I budget the same for my writing or presenting talent as my design talent. If it’s an interactive piece, then the design cost might be 2x the other content creation budget. TL&DR it’s not an inexpensive add-on. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

The cost will depend on what you’re looking for and how well you prepare your designer.

A4a: There isn’t a gold standard for every project, but 100 designs for $99 is probably not a great long-term value. It really depends on what you’re looking for. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

A4a: there’s a saying in marketing that you can have it fast, cheap, or perfect, but you can only pick 2 of the 3.

If you are looking to pay minimum wage for design work done ASAP, you are looking for an intern working for school credit, not a freelancer. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

Several sites/services offer pre-made designs, which are viable if you’re tight on budget or short on time. However, these designs will not be unique to your brand.

A4b: There are a lot of sites/services now offering free or cheap pre-made designs. These can be enough if you have a really tight budget, or need to put a quick concept together. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

One approach to try: Ask the designer what they think is a reasonable budget based on your project scope.

A4. Good design, same as good writing, costs. I think it’s always helpful to share project scope and requirements first to ask the designer what they think is a reasonable budget for all the work. You can decide then if the freelancer is within your budget. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 19, 2021

To reinforce a crucial point: A freelancer’s rate covers their experience, management, and equipment. An in-house designer has their tech provided, a salary, plus benefits. Please pay your freelancers accordingly.

A4c: But if you need something more custom and have room in your budget, you should pay a designer fairly for it. You might think you’re just getting design as a pure production cost. But you’re also paying for their experience, management, and equipment they use. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

It’s one of the differences between working with a freelancer and having an in-house designer. Your in-house designer has their tech provided, and has a salary plus benefits and employer taxes all as part of their compensation. Your freelancer’s rate includes that. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

Yes! Forgot to mention benefits. It’s a bit different here in Canada vs. US since we have some basic health services covered, but still very important.

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Q5: Can brands or solopreneurs engage with international designers? If so, what should they keep in mind?

International graphic designers are a great option to explore, especially in our increasingly remote way of work.

A5a: Definitely, and even more so now that remote working is more accepted worldwide. I regularly work with international clients, and the main hurdles have been figuring out payments and contracts. But that too is getting easier now. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Just remember that there may be time zone and communication/language considerations.

A5b: I’d also think about the impact of time differences, and noting what languages they communicate in. If English isn’t their first language for example, be patient with mistakes in communication. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

A5. Of course! The biggest concern (to me) would be to KNOW their time zones & factor that into your timeline process. Language barriers can also be an issue, so be sure to have the ability to accurately translate [both sides] #ContentChat https://t.co/5MK4fWoR6I

— 🟣 Eddie Garrison (@EddieGarrison) April 19, 2021

A5 Of course they can. 🙂 But keep in mind time differences. If you want to work more of a “regular” schedule, don’t find a designer on the other side of the world. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) April 19, 2021

Confirm pricing (with conversion rates) and preferred payment channels. Erika has used Freshbooks for international clients in the past, but comment if you have a different recommendation.

A5. The pricing (including conversion rates), payment channel that suits both the working parties, any legal concerns and work hours (there has to be an overlap to discuss project and feedback). #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 19, 2021

A5: Totally. Make sure to figure out payment/tax details up-front (there may be an extra form or two to fill out). And don’t forget about time zones! It’s helpful to work out up-front what your working hours will be and when you may overlap for check-ins. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) April 19, 2021

Do you have any payment or invoicing platforms that you recommend? I’ve personally used @freshbooks with international clients in the past. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

And agree on communication preferences early on. Ask how the designer would like to do meetings before assuming they will match your brand’s culture.

A5c: One more thing: even though video meetings are becoming the norm more now, also know that it can cause fatigue and anxiety for folks. It’d be good practice to ask how they want to do meetings first before assuming they should be on video. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Q6: How can content marketers best work with a designer to keep the process running smoothly?

Matt recommends honest, open communication when working with designers.

A6a: I think honest, open communication always works best. Even if the project has roadblocks, or things aren’t going well, the designer should know so they can figure out what to do next. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Get to know the designer beyond their work to strengthen the relationship.

A6b: Keeping things respectful and a bit personal can go a long way too. Checking in a little to see how things are going outside of work, especially during this pandemic, usually gives me a better working relationship. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Give as much notice as possible that a project may be coming so the designer can plan accordingly.

A6 Give a heads up as early as possible that a project is coming, so the designer can plan accordingly. It sucks to be on a tight deadline, and learn your designer is unavailable, leaving you to scramble. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) April 19, 2021

Agree on how you both would like to work with each other. Decide your preferred communication channel(s) (phone calls, IMs, email, etc.), software, hours of operation, and more.

A6: To echo @matthanns earlier point, it’s important to find the best process that works for both you and your designer.

Matt and I, for instance, mostly collaborated through email, Gdoc messages, and PDF notations after our initial kickoff call. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

While working with my friend Sara, we’d do most of our meetings on video chat (or in-person when that was a thing), and she used my CMS and PM tools. Every collaboration is different.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

Content producer and freelance designer will each have processes. Discuss and come to and understanding.

Just sending a process doc is a recipe for disaster down the line #contentchat

— Dan Goldberg (@Jonas419) April 19, 2021

Establish how you would like to share files, especially since design files can be rather large.

Agree with all of these points – so important. Since design files can sometimes be on the large side, it’s important to figure out how you’re going to share docs and collaborate efficiently. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) April 19, 2021

And document all the project details so everyone knows who is responsible for what, and when.

A6. I think it’s helpful to have everything (project details including timelines) clear upfront, maintain constant communication, and if possible, a designer shares an MVP for an early round of feedback and to show the direction the product is taking. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) April 19, 2021

Q7: How do you find freelance designers? Where do freelance graphic designers typically market their services to content creators and marketers? And if you have a freelance designer you love, pitch them here!

When looking for a freelance designer, ask around in your network. You likely know someone who has a go-to designer that they will happily refer you to.

A7a: Referrals through your network are going to be the most reliable. If you have to do more general searches though, there’s some job boards and freelancer directories that I’ve found useful. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Almost all of my designer collaborations have been through referrals from other colleagues. Case in point! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

Matt recommends you find designers through We Work Remotely or Dribbble.

A7b: A couple places worth looking to find designers are @weworkremotely and @dribbble. I’m also part of some Slack groups like @queerdesignclub and @designgigsforgood, which I’ve found to be more personal + direct than job boards. #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

Q8: As a designer, what do you wish every content marketer understood?

Some parting words from Matt below. Are you a graphic designer who often works with marketers? Let us know what you wish every content marketer understood in the comments.

A8: That good design takes time! And it can go a long way if done right. It shouldn’t be an afterthought to a project, or thought of as “just making things pretty.” #ContentChat

— Matt Hanns Schroeter (@matthanns) April 19, 2021

When I have had clients refer to design as “then we’ll beautify it” it makes me sad. Design has so much more potential than just pretty branded formatting! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald (@SFerika) April 19, 2021

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