How I Hire Web Designers On oDesk

I’ve hired web designers who work in Utah, California, Spain, Ukraine, India, Bulgaria, and Hong Kong. Sometimes I was trying to find that holy grail of the cheap overseas designer who can do great work. So far, this appears to be a myth. But I have found great designers everywhere at reasonable prices. And in some cases I’ve found some true diamonds. I’d like to find more. Over the past year I’ve used websites like Behance, Dribbble, AuthenticJobs, and oDesk to search for designers. My advice today is for those web designers who promote their work on oDesk, and specifically those who may be great designers, but aren’t quite marketing themselves to show it.

For example, perhaps you can do great flat and responsive design work like this. If so, I’d like to hire you. I’m looking for you on oDesk. I like to think you would like me to find you. I’m willing to pay more. And I’m a designer, so I respect you and understand you. I’m not going to force you to do bad design work. But in order for me to find you, you have to stand out from the other several hundred designers. How? Here are a few tips.

1. Price yourself high. I’m not going to hire someone for less than $25 USD/hr, so I just filter those people out. I simply can’t believe that anyone who can produce the web design work I’m looking for would work for less than that. If you charge less than $40/hr I’m already suspicious. When I see someone charging $75/hr I always take a look, because maybe he or she is an incredible designer. The secret is hardly anyone prices themselves over $50/hr on oDesk. If you want to stand out and attract people who are willing to more, raise your price above this level. You can always negotiate a lower price to get the work, if need be. Today I saw someone with an hourly rate of $115. Ridiculous, right? That’s an agency rate, not a freelance rate (and for the record, I only look at independent freelancers on oDesk and screen out agencies). But I had to look at the guy’s work. And it is good stuff. And I then noticed that on his past projects he has never charged that much. So he got me to look at his profile and his work, but also showed me that he’s negotiable on price. That’s a good strategy. At least it worked on me.

2. Use a decent photo. You’re a designer. You know what looks good and what looks bad, right? You should be able to make your photo look nice. If you can’t, you’re going to make me wonder whether or not you can put together a good looking website. After all, photography plays a pretty big role in web design.

3. Get your title right. This is the key to getting people to click through to your profile so they can see the rest of what you have to offer. If you don’t get this right, it’s game over. There may not be a wrong way to write your title. Different people are looking for different things on oDesk. But if you want me to find you, then you might have a title like one of the following:

  • Web Designer
  • Web Design/UX
  • Web Design/UI
  • Web Designer/Developer
  • UI/UX Designer

That sounds logical enough, right? But compare those to these:

  • Web/Graphic/Print Designer/Developer
  • Logo Design – Web Design – Stationery Design
  • Web Design/Development-WordPress-CSS-eCommerce
  • Top Web and Mobile Developer
  • Professional print& web design. Expert photo editor.
  • Co-Founder

It’s not that these are bad titles. But they don’t tell me that you do what I’m looking for. When I see “Logo Design – Web Design – Stationery Design” I assume this person is a jack of all trades who is ok at all these things, but not excellent at any one. I want a great web designer, and don’t care so much about logos and stationery, so I’ll skip this one. Someone who wants everything in one person and isn’t looking for the highest quality might gravitate toward that title.

When I see a title like “Web Design/Development-WordPress-CSS-eCommerce” I’m reminded of the fact that in 14 years of running a web design firm, I’ve never found a developer who was a good designer, nor a designer who was a good developer.

You can get creative and grab my attention. One title I clicked on today is “Obsessed with a beautiful, but easy to use web experience.” What would be the absolute best title? Perhaps something like “Web Design, UX, & UI / Flat & Responsive.” That would tell me that you are exactly who I want to take a closer look at.

4. Include a working link to your portfolio within the overview section of your profile. Once I click through to your profile, you’ve got a few second to get my attention. The first thing I want to see is your work, because I know once I see your work I’ll know within 30 seconds whether you do the type of work I’m interested in or not. So include a link to your website, blog, or Behance or Dribble portfolio. Here’s a perfect example of how to do it right:

From the UK, but currently working for a design agency in Milan, Italy. I have five years experience as both as a web designer and front-end developer.  In-house, freelance, and agency side – both boutique and international – I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of high visibility projects from mobile/tablet applications to micro sites and large global responsive corporate websites.
You can find out more at …

I had to specify “working link” above because I have found a number of profiles that have a link, but it goes to a page that doesn’t exist, or that has nothing on it, which entirely defeats the purpose.

 5. Put your latest/greatest work on your oDesk profile. The portfolio section oDesk provides is not so great, but it works. But make sure you have great thumbnails there that make me want to click on your work and look closer. I sometimes make the judgment to not hire a designer based completely on what I see in those thumbnails.

6. English. I speak English. I also speak Portuguese and Spanish, but not well enough to talk about web design. So I screen out designers based on their English test scores on oDesk. You may be the greatest designer in the world, but if we can’t email each other and communicate effectively, it’s just not going to work.

7. Respond fast. The early bird gets the worm. Quick or dead. However you want to say it, if you take a long time to respond, I won’t hire you. Why not? Because when a client is breathing down my neck asking where the latest design concept is, I don’t want to have to say “I don’t know. My designer is just being…slow.” That makes me look bad. If you’re not prepared to respond to any business day email within 24 hours (within an hour is preferable) then we can’t have a working relationship. There will be too many delays and I’ll lose clients. This is huge. Absolutely critical.

Those are my thoughts. If you’re a web designer on oDesk, I hope they’re helpful to you. Even if you’re not the type of designer I’m looking for, these tips should help you to get hired by others.

Any questions? What would you add?

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Written by

Hi! I'm Josh Steimle, and I started MWI from my apartment while a college student in 1999. I'm based in Shenzhen, China and responsible for MWI's overall strategy and marketing. I've written over 200 articles for publications like Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, and Time, and I'm the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work. I love speaking to corporations and at marketing industry events. I was recently recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as one of 50 Online Marketing Influencers To Watch in 2016. Read more of what I'm writing on my blog.

  • Hi Joshua,

    I have been reading on articles on hiring web designers online, and i really to have say that your article is spot on.

    I am running a web production business, and i am trying to build a web design team of a developer, a web designer and a copy writer with me bringing in the sales.

    Any similar advice you can give on hiring a good developer?

    Appreciate your great article.


  • Hey Joshua,great advice. I’m a web developer from Argentina and Ive seen the behaviour you describe way too many times on freelancing sites. Great blog and sinte by the way.

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