The Do’s and Don’ts of Contacting Designers

I receive quite a few messages from potential clients interested in working with me. And most of them do a horrible job of making me want to work on their project. I realize it can be hard to know what to say in that first message, so here’s a quick guide to help you approach a designer.

Introducing yourself

  • Do use your real name. If the email comes from “” I’m not going to take it seriously.
  • Do mention your company’s name, or any additional details that might make me want to work with you.
  • Do tell me how you heard about me. It’s always useful to know how my clients found me.
  • Do mention a specific project of mine that you like, if there’s one. It helps to know that you’re not just sending the same message to 50 other designers.
  • Don’t make too many typos or grammatical mistakes. If english is not your first language (and by the way, it’s not mine either), say simpler things or have someone else proof-read your message.

Your project

  • Do explain your project in enough detail. Just pretend I’m a potential investor and you’re trying to convince me to invest in it. After all, even though you’re paying me I’ll still be investing my time.
  • Do explain who it’s for and why you’re doing it. There’s a big difference between “we’re building a social network” and “we’re building a social network to help pharmaceutical companies streamline the testing process for new drugs”, even if both descriptions are technically correct.
  • Do tell me your project’s scope before asking me if I’m available. I might be available for a quick teaser site, but not for designing a whole social network.
  • Do understand that just like developers, designers have their specialities too. Don’t expect a single person to do your app’s logo, icon, UI, stationery, and design employee uniforms as well.

Budget and estimates

  • Don’t ask for an estimate unless you’re giving me enough details to make one. I can’t count how many times I’ve received messages asking me “how much would it cost to design a website?”.
  • Do ask me for my hourly rate instead.
  • Do ask me how much one of my previous project cost. There’s no wild guess involved, and you’ll get a good idea of my price range.
  • Don’t ask for a discount. If you don’t have enough money, just scale back on your requirements until you can afford me (or find someone cheaper).

And the most important…

  • Do answer back even if you don’t want to (or can’t) work with me anymore. You never know, you might need my services in the future, so you might as well end things on a polite note.

I would estimate that about 1 in 10 emails I receive meet these criteria. So just by doing these simple things, you can dramatically increase your chances of getting a good designer to work on your project.

About Me

I'm Sacha Greif, a web designer freelancing out of Paris, France. You can check out my portfolio, and of course you should follow me on Twitter.

15 Responses to “The Do’s and Don’ts of Contacting Designers”

  • Dan Leatherman

    Great article but I think this can also be solved by having potential clients fill out a quick questionnaire. It shows that they care enough to take 10 minutes to give more detail. If they don’t have the time to fill it out, it shows they don’t care enough about design or their product, and prevents the business relationship from going any further.

    28 Feb 4:55 am
    • Sacha

      True, that’s a good point. And those tips might be helpful even for people filling out a questionnaire.

      28 Feb 6:01 am
    • Jonathan Rawlins

      I fully agree with Dan here, a quick questionnaire that get’s a better insight into their particular needs helps in both senses. Also it saves on the back and forth emails or phone calls every hour or so. Thanks for a great post too.

      28 Feb 12:28 pm
  • Stafie Anatolie

    This is a great article..
    I think I will use some of your ideas when building my contact page as tips for those who want to submit for a project…

    28 Feb 8:31 am
  • Russell

    Good tips – i just wish all our enquirers could be sent this first before contact us. I guess a change to our enquiry form on the website would help limit some of the non-starters.

    28 Feb 12:31 pm
  • Graham

    A very useful article. I think we should all have similar guidlines on our website – it may filter out a lot of time wasters.

    28 Feb 12:35 pm
  • Hazel

    Agreed. This was very helpful, Sacha. Including some of these points in a contact form should eliminate the “tire kickers” from those that are a bit more serious. Now it’s just a matter of finding the right balance on how many fields to include in a contact form to accomplish just that. Don’t want to add too many fields so that it deters too many, but don’t want to leave it too simple where it creates all the questions and back and forth you list above.

    28 Feb 1:09 pm
    • Sacha

      For the next version of my portfolio, I was planning on having a regular contact form, but mentioning a few of these guidelines just below it.

      28 Feb 1:23 pm
  • Tim Smith

    What a great article! It’s interesting how many people are so vague on what their project entails but want to know a price almost like if it were a flat rate! Thanks for the great tips.

    2 Mar 5:18 pm
  • Kris

    Sound advice, indeed. FWIW: It looks like you might have a typo in the second-to-last sentence: “I would estimate than about 1 in 10 emails I received meet these criteria. ” You might consider changing “than” to “that” . . . unless of course you’re going for irony.

    3 Mar 11:04 pm
  • Nathan

    I run into this all the time. Thank you for an excellent article. Whenever I encounter people like this, I now just forward this link to them.

    8 Mar 3:44 pm
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  • Dave

    I honestly did not read this before contacting you but Im glad I had good instincts in my initial email to you! Who needs to contact a designer when you have “the list”!

    28 Jul 7:06 pm
  • Ed

    Great advice. I love the design of this website though–its’s awesome!

    29 Jul 3:24 am

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