How to partner with a freelance UX designer and succeed

You are a product owner and want to hire a freelance UX designer. How do you make it a success?

Here are a some pointers.

Know what you want

When hiring a freelance designer your priority is to figure out what needs to be done and how to articulate it. If you aren’t sure what you need, that’s fine—but that’s something you also have to be clear about. Either way the designer can help you fill in the blanks: identify what needs further clarification and how to go about doing it. What you definitely don’t want is a situation where it is not 100% clear what you want before you proceed.

Be ready to start

Ideally you would be in the position to get started not long after your initial conversation with the designer. This way everything is still fresh in everyone’s memory and you will both feel energized to get started. You also won’t waste time going over everything again. It doesn’t mean you should rush the project or that you can’t plan in advance, though. Just bare in mind that waiting too long before you start can kill your momentum.

Get paperwork out of the way

A paperwork dump is another momentum killer. To avoid it know exactly what both of you will need ahead of time. Preferably with a coherent, chronological plan for getting down to all the nitty-gritty. Stuff like the NDA, invoicing details and, of course the contract. Outline step by step what you will need to agree upon and what will need to get signed. You will make the life of the designer easier and ensure they can devote their full attention to the project.

Let them lead

Yes, as the product owner and the leader of the project you are in charge. You have the final say on all the decisions. But you don’t go to the doctor and school them how to do his job. Similar here. In order for the creative process to bear fruit you need to give the designer the freedom to set the pace and the direction of the work. It doesn’t mean you should not question anything or not be critical. You definitely should. Just don’t tell them what to do.

Start small

It’s impossible to perfectly estimate the workload involved in any project. But screw this up and it can get messy. For the designer the unanticipated workload can kill the morale and create incentives to cut corners. For you it can mean missed deadlines and extra costs. Starting small on the other hand—with a limited subset of the project’s scope—helps alleviate this problem. The designer can get familiar with your product and the way you work—and vice versa. The odds of accurately estimating the rest of the project improve dramatically.

Of course your job doesn’t end here. Plenty of other aspects of the project as well as your unique circumstances will play a role. And at the end of the day, regardless of how well you prepare not all will go as planned. But setting a solid foundation goes a long way. Don’t start without it.



Product designer and occasional writer 🇪🇺🇺🇸

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