Here is my problem with most good designers: they are selling a product, you are buying a service. What do I mean?
Most good designers are very confident people and believe what they design is the best. Their design is right. The problem is that when you hire a designer you hire someone to provide a service. Generally you hire someone whose ‘design style’ jives with you, but you ARE NOT asking them for a direct copycat of something, or to create something without your input. Allowing someone free reign is nuts. Also anyone who says good design intuitively leads to a good user experience hasn’t met a truly innovative designer.
Because of this clash between what you think you are buying (the designer’s time) and what the designer thinks she is selling (their artistic license) pricing frequently becomes as issue. For example, design always involves revisions. Revisions take time and they often go against the initial design. To a designer, revisions de-value their work. As for time, revisions cost money and many designers fail to properly price projects because they assume they are selling a product. A product implies they create something and they sell it; very little customer service. The reality is that most buyers are assuming a designer will ‘work with them’ in order to arrive at what the buyer thinks is a good design. Herein lies the rub.
Another important point is that good designers are conscious of building their portfolio and will only take on projects they feel complement that portfolio. In many instances a designer is not interested in creating, say, a third blog designed in same style as the last two. Yet, 9 out of 10 times when a buyer hires a designer, it is because they want something very similar to a past project of the designer’s (or a designer’s competitor — the worst!).
So how are design contracts best structured? I have yet to find the answer, but at a very minimum, the scope of work, number of revisions and rates for additional hours need to be laid out explicitly.
Any good suggestions out there for happy designer/designee marriages?
Update: Good Additional info on hiring Freelancers. Good post from a designer’s perspective