One day, you might want to hire a blog designer.

When doing business online, things can get tricky. There are a lot of scam artist out there and the online marketplace is a hot spot for predators just waiting to get a hold of your money.  You have to be a savvy consumer, so you can protect yourself to the best of your ability.  Things will happen, there is no end-all way to separate the good from the bad, but the best defense is to always have a strategy in place and to do your research.

One of the biggest purchases you might make as a Blogger will revolve around a designer. Whether you get a complete blog make-over, or just pieces and parts to spice things up. Blog designs can run anywhere from $50 to $500+ depending on the designer you choose and the platform you blog in.  I don’t know about you, but that kind of money is a big deal, so I would want to make sure that I get what I pay for. Here are some tips on how to choose the best designer and how to protect yourself from getting scammed.

First, you should know, that I am a blog designer and I would hope, even if you are hiring me ( !! ) that you would take the time to research and put these tips to use.

Tip #1: Shop Around

Have a few designers in mind, make a nice list and keep track of them. Readers – if you have used a designer in the past and would like to leave a referral in the comments, please feel free to do so!

Tip #2: Ask Around

Send out an online query. Ask on twitter, write a post asking for people to give referrals. Inquiring minds want to know and I’m sure your twitter buddies will speak up with all honesty. The best way to find reliable service is from a glowing recommendation, especially if it is from someone you know and trust.

Tip #3: Stalk the Designer

Does the designer have a website? Do they have a twitter account? Do they run their own blog? Stalk them. Check out their portfolio, see what they tweet, see how they blog, pay attention to the tone of their tweets or posts.  Google them, include keywords like, unreliable, scam…things like that. See if you get any hits. Look up their company on the BBB. They might not have a listing, because most designers are freelancers, but it doesn’t hurt to give them a look.

Tip #4: Open up lines of communication

Email the designers you are thinking about hiring. Start a conversation. Tell them what you want and ask if they are capable of doing it. Ask them if they have a waiting list, their price list and any other questions you might have. See how they respond, if you get a “funny” feeling, trust your gut. You want to go with a designer that makes you feel at ease and seems like they can deliver what you want. Ask for references and to see their portfolio.

Tip #5: Check Credentials

I will be the first one to say, half the people I graduated with in design school could not hack it as a successful web designer. They are probably still type-setting, or designing business cards at Kinko’s. That being said, to be a designer, you can’t just have a grasp of the programs, you also need talent. There are so many individuals out there that learned Photoshop and then label themselves a designer, just because they can piece together stock photography or someone’s scrap book kit. This is why checking credentials and portfolios is probably the most important part in your quest to hire a designer. How many years have they been designing? Do they have a degree? Have they worked in the field? A freelancer usually charges based on experience…so do your homework. If you have the choice of paying $50 an hour for a designer that has never worked as a full-time designer or $50 an hour for a designer that has over five years experience and they design as their 9 to 5  job, who do you think will return the better product? This is a question you need to ask yourself and weigh all the ramifications. Do you want stock vector art? Or do you want a masterpiece. This is also the time when you have to set a budget. Because if you are on a stock vector budget, you probably won’t be able to afford a masterpiece.

Tip #6: Know what you want

Have your project together in your head. Write down notes on exactly what you want. Look around the internet and get examples of what you want, especially if it includes certain “tricks” and programming. By having your project mapped out it is easier to communicate with your designer.

Tip #7: Know what to expect

There are certain things you should expect when working with a designer. If you know what to expect you can’t be surprised!

  • Expect to put down a deposit or pay a retainer fee. Proper freelance business etiquette requires an initial deposit to guarantee that the client does not just “walk away” from the job and leave the designer incurring expenses and time lost.  Just like if you were to hire a photographer, plumber or any other professional you’ll need to have a bit of cash on hand to get started. But, never pay the full amount! Starting deposits run from 10% – 55% of the full cost, generally. Most common is usually 50% to start 50% on delivery.
  • Contracts. A contract should be written to protect both the client and the designer. A contract should state the EXACT price, not an estimate. How the work is to be delivered, expected timeline. What you will be getting with the price. Number of revisions included in the overall price. Penalties or late payment fees. Refund information. Legal stuff.
  • Designers can be quirky, that creative mind kicking. But, they should also be professional. You are paying them to deliver a product, so expect timely responses and a professional delivery of that product.  If you don’t hear back from them, don’t be afraid to email again and maybe again…

Good Luck! By doing your research and making a careful decision, hiring a Blog Designer can be one of the best experiences in your blogging career or a total headache.

 Reader Question of the Week:

“I was wondering how you handle review requests? When you decline do you simply not respond and if you do what do you say when you are not interested? – Kaina 

I’m actually embarrassed to write this, but my usual method is to not respond to requests. It used to be my policy that I declined each email. Or as many as I could get to. But..authors started trying to talk me out of my decline. If I would put something like, “I apologize but I regretfully decline your review request. I am currently only accepting science fiction titles with romance included and your synopsis specifically states there is not a romance in the book.” And a response would come that there is actually a romance, it’s just not quite as in-your-face as other titles. After this happened a few times, I just gave up. If the request comes from a third party, PR firm or publisher I will decline, but if it comes directly from the author, usually I ignore. There are just a few too many emails now for me to get to them all and then go back and forth.

Book Blogging News:

This post was inspired by recent events in the Book Blogging community. A very prolific book blogging site, The Book Smugglers were swindled by their blog designer. Swindled out of over $200 with no return on their investment. The designer in question is Anna Marie Moore.  You can read about the whole ordeal here. The tragedy of the situation though is within the comments. Over and over again other bloggers admit that Anna Marie Moore did the exact same thing to them. She was sick or she needed to pay her rent, or she just didn’t respond. But, I’m sure she took their money quite quickly, because from all evidence she is a Scam Artist. It is unfortunate that The Smuggler’s had to be the first to post about it, considering the amount of other bloggers that said the same thing happened to them. Maybe if someone would have spoken up earlier?

A few hours after the Smuggler’s post went viral, Anna Marie Moore’s site went blank. It is not a 404 error. It looks like her scripts were deleted, since you do get a 404 when you go for the index.html page. It has been down for days. I would say The Smugglers will not be getting their money back. But, will the site come back when this scandal dies down??

On a side note, Anna Marie Moore first came on my radar, when I noticed she was the one that “quickly” redesigned The Story Siren‘s site after her plagiarism scandal broke. The only reason I noticed this was because TSS’ site was very obviously inspired by Beautifully Invisible‘s user-friendly design. (Since then both sites have been redesigned) Same navigation, placement of sidebar and posts etc. When Beautifully Invisible posted about Kristi’s “creative redistribution of information”, TSS suddenly had a new design. I thought it might be coincidental, maybe I was looking too hard. But, then Anna got on twitter and vehemently defended TSS, in a not very professional way. So, I just assumed like attracts like, right? Frankly, it would probably have been hard to spot Anna Marie Moore’s scamming nature before this news broke. The girl had a good portfolio, did work for other bloggers in the community and authors. Held a 9 to 5 doing design, from what we can tell. That is why when something like this happens we need to report it. Kudos to The Smugglers for coming out with this news. I know it doesn’t get their money back, but they did a good public service. We just have to have long memories. So easy we forget what happens and then these scam artists go right back to doing what they are doing and then getting rewarded for it! I would never think of charging bloggers what Anna Marie Moore charges…yet people paid it and she didn’t even deliver. I would never think of plagiarizing someone else, yet, TSS did that — and she gets rewarded…yeah check this out. Did HarperCollins say they wouldn’t work with plagiarist? Yet they send her a Nook?? But, I guess that is just me being jealous right? *sarcasm*

I digress though.

Good news is that from now on people will know, designers AND bloggers are only as good as their reputation. Once it gets tarnished it is very hard to get back on track. When you Google her name, fraud posts are starting to come up on the second page. She should have learned something from her good buddy Kristi Diehm, considering you Google her name and a Plagiarism posts hits first before even her own blog. I just wish people would Google more…

Happy Thursday. Talk Less. Read More. Design Blog with Integrity.

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