An Easy Guide to Hiring the Best Freelance T-shirt Designers

May 17, 2017

An Easy Guide to Hiring the Best Freelance T-shirt Designers.png

Whether your in-house talent is way too busy or suffering from a case of designer’s block, enlisting the help of top-notch freelancers can turn your store’s offerings from drab to fab and ultimately drive more sales.

Finding such prolific talent may seem like a daunting task, but we’re here to help break it down to just a few basic steps. This is your easy guide to hiring the best freelance designers.


Before you dive into hiring a freelancer, it’s important to step back and fully assess your need for one. From here, you’re better prepared to set realistic goals along with the proper steps and expectations to achieving them.

Ask yourself these questions:

    • Do you want original artwork or do you have an idea you’d like to improve upon?
      Great designers are capable of performing either jobs but the level of interaction and direction from you will differ greatly depending on your needs.
    • How often and how quickly will you need designs?
      Do you need a new design every week or every day? The volume of work you have on an ongoing basis will largely determine the kind of designers you can hire and your negotiation power. If you have tight deadlines, most freelancers will charge you a premium in addition to their regular rates – which brings us to the next question.
    • What’s your budget?
      Freelancers need to know your budget in order to determine whether they can accommodate and prioritize your project.


There’s no shortage of talent to be found so take your time to fully consider the pros and cons of every option. Here are a few you can start with:


Much like a marketplace, you can post your job requirements to these websites to have freelancers bid for your business.


    • Freelance websites give candidates the opportunity to speak about their experience and specialties through a profile and portfolio. However, you don’t have to rely strictly on their word – most freelancer profiles will also have reviews from clients they worked with in the past.
    • Neither businesses nor freelancers have to worry about money because the site stores payments in escrow until project completion.


    • It’s really up to you when it comes to vetting talent. You’ll have to know what you’re looking for in order to prepare the right questions and requirements. If you don’t set a standard, it’s likely you’ll end up with subpar results.
    • While payment is handled in a safe and fair manner, you will have to pay an additional processing or service fee on top of the project costs.

Here are a few popular freelance sites to find artists and designers:


Hubstaff Talent

Creative Hotlist






Creative agencies are full-service companies that offer a combination of strategy, design, technology, and advertising services to clients. However, you can often times choose the services you want a la carte.


    • No matter the size of your project, an agency will undoubtedly be able to meet your needs. If you decide to increase design production, agencies will have enough talent on staff to help you scale.
    • They are less likely to miss deadlines. Again, agencies are well-staffed. If your designated designer is unable to complete your project, the agency can readily assign someone else to fulfill your project.


    • Agencies notoriously overcharge. Understand that while you are getting peace of mind, it may cost you a pretty penny in the end.
    • If you find a particular designer whose work you enjoy, your contract with the agency will prevent you from bringing them on full-time.


These sites often serve two functions: list and discover. Candidates and companies alike can provide more information about themselves as well as learn more about each other.


    • Candidates here are more likely to be available, whereas a site like Behance may serve as a portfolio host for some.
    • Many jobseekers post to career sites with the intention of searching for full-time opportunities. This make it easier to find someone who can commit to longer term projects if you like their work.


    • Some sites will require you pay a fee in order to post a job listing or contact candidates

Here are a few popular career websites:


Now that you know where to conduct your search, the next step is evaluating and hiring. Here’s how to go about identifying and hiring good designers.


Portfolios should be a required part of your application process. If an applicant cannot provide a portfolio, request links to their latest works. It’s important that you evaluate recent pieces with more scrutiny.


Once you have a solid pool of applicants who fit your criteria, schedule phone or video interviews. Doing so will help you understand details that are harder to determine on paper. This is your chance to determine if you’ll get along well with a candidate, how they handle feedback, the kind of feedback they find most helpful, etc.


If your project requires multiple designs or steps, don’t risk getting stuck with your worst nightmare. Select one or two of your most qualified applicants and offer them the opportunity to earn more if they agree to commit to a trial period or milestone goals.

Here are several key factors you need to evaluate during this period:

    • How much time does the designer require to work on each draft? How quickly can they make revisions?
    • How much direction did you have to provide at each step?
    • Can they easily adapt to different styles?
    • Are their designs converting? Specifically, are their designs selling more merchandise than it’s costing you to hire them?


If you did not source your freelancer through a mediated service such as Upwork, we encourage having formal contracts in place. Contracts serve to clarify expectations for both parties, from work scope to compensation.


Finding good freelance designers is no walk in the park. Considering the time and effort from start to finish, retaining freelancers should also be a priority.

Here are several measures that will help retain your hires.

    • Be willing to compromise on deadlines, but be firm once they are set.
    • Keep expectations clear through open communication.
    • You expect them to submit work on time, so pay them on time.
    • Ask for their opinion.
    • When they’ve gone the extra mile, reward them. It doesn’t always have to be monetary – the point is to show that you’ve noticed and value their hard work.

Tip: You may end up hiring just one designer, but do your best to stay connected to others that you may have considered along the way. It’s always a good idea to have backup designers instead of starting your search from scratch.