By Simone Kelly-Brown

You read it right, that’s no typo. Although, there are many forms of designers, I’d like to talk to you about graphic designers. There are many creative ways you can hire a designer at a low cost or even barter to improve your brand identity for your small business. From logos, websites, business cards, magazine ads, and posters … you name it, there are many ways to get top quality for next to nothing!
As a start-up or small business trying to cut costs, I don’t advise that you skimp on design too much. That’s a big no-no! Let’s face it, your brand is your badge of honor, it’s your corporate identity, it’s how you want to be remembered. Who wants to be remembered as the person at that networking event with the blurry cards and hideous logo? I know, I know … you tried to do it yourself in Microsoft Word and uploaded it to VistaPrint. Hey, I’ll give it to you, your effort was great, but if you want to be taken seriously, you should definitely hire an experienced designer or at least someone more experienced than you! LOL! No offense to VistaPrint, because you can do some cool and very affordable things with them *ahem* that is, if you have design help.
How To Get a Good Design Deal!
Just Ask Around:

I know it sounds easy, but sometimes, it just is.

Call and e-mail all of your friends and colleagues and ask for a design referral. You might be surprised by how many people you already have access to who might not charge you too much. Try your friends here on Send out a bulletin saying you’re looking for design quotes. Make sure you are specific, because not all graphic designers are web designers, for example. Join me in the Small Business Center message boards and ask the experts. Someone can refer you to some designers that they like.
Try Outsourcing Sites:
There are many sites where you can find low cost designers from all over the world. Here are just a few, but Google for many more!
Here’s a tip: I highly recommend this book, The Four-Hour Work Week. It mentions a lot of low-cost outsourcing that you can do to save you time and money! Check it out!
Found your favorite designers? Before you make your final choice, find out if there is anything they need that you can offer them. Is it your service/product on barter, promotion to your lists, or referrals? Whatever it is, see if there is a way for you to get your price down or create a full barter. Of course, what you are bringing to the table must be of equal value to make it work!
Check out some example designers at The Give ‘N Take Network who are offering up their services on barter.
Get a Design Intern:
Someone might be close to graduation or in grad school majoring in design. Your project could be a part of their portfolio. Look for design schools in your neighborhood and reach out to their career centers to find your intern! Most internships are short-term, about three months, but sometimes it can work out to be longer. Free help is great, right? I love sweet deals like this!
Not So Fast!
• Before you hire them … PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE … get examples of their work.
• Ask to see their portfolio.
• Speak to at least two references.
• Talk with them (even though you might not meet them in person, due to location) speaking with them on the phone helps. Get a judge of their personality. Do you both click? Do they understand the direction you’re going in?
Get a Contract:
Definitely make sure you have your agreement in writing and work out specifics. You should have their deliverables, deadlines, and value just to name a few in the contract.
Remember, your image truly does make an impact on your bottom line, so when you’re working with designers, choose wisely and realize you don’t have to break the bank to stand out. Have your company be remembered for its clean and chic design, not the smudged font with the blurry logo you tried to do yourself.
Good luck on your quest! Remember to use the Small Business Experts for referrals. We all have loads of them.
Keep Livin’ Good!
Simone Kelly-Brown is  the founder of The Give ‘N Take Network, a national business networking and bartering system for women business owners and the Founder of the Own Your Power Conference held annually between New York and Florida.
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This article first appeared on Women in Ecommerce on August 2010.  While most of the content is considered evergreen, this article has been updated with new links and information.