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Graphic Design Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses

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Graphic Design Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses

Unlike texts and blogs, graphic design is immediately striking. Professional graphic designers know how to create effective visual aids that can communicate clearly. Small businesses can benefit from having a dedicated graphic design partner that delivers professional and sophisticated designs. Keep reading this piece to know all the boxes you need to tick when onboarding a new graphic design agency.

Ever wonder what graphic design brings to brands? A lot. Visual aids and materials can allow brands to distinguish themselves, efficiently deliver messages, and build recognizable identities.

Most small businesses don’t realize the value of good graphics and why they should invest in reliable graphic design services. It is a necessity but the concerns are understandable, especially for business owners that don’t have prior experience working with graphic designers or service providers.

You may miss out on different opportunities if you overlook the significance of good graphic design. Visual communication will always be a constant factor regardless of industry, size, or business model.

If you plan to hire a dedicated graphic design agency soon, continue reading to know what to expect. Here’s our detailed onboarding checklist to help you cover all grounds.

Ensure you’re connected with agencies with the experience and expertise you need. Scroll through The Manifest’s list of the leading graphic design agencies to match with the perfect firm for your small business.

Small Businesses Need Graphic Design

Markets across urban areas are increasingly becoming more competitive, and small businesses are understandably constantly looking for ways to show their uniqueness. Visual communication has the power to elevate brands when done correctly. Graphic designs can be used in many different ways, from social media posts to presentations and posters.

Some of the biggest advantages brought by compelling graphic design include:

  • Contributes to leaving a positive first impression
  • Allows consistency across all marketing and branding initiatives
  • Reinforces brand recognition
  • Helps customers understand or know more about the products
  • Supplements various communication channels
  • Helpful with relationship building and customer support 
  • Enhances customer experiences or buyer journey

Businesses with bland designs across their website, social media campaigns, and printed marketing materials don’t make a memorable impression. Professional graphic designers know how to create eye-catching and impactful graphics that transform brands.

Graphic Design Agency Onboarding Checklist for Small Businesses 

Hiring and onboarding a new graphic design agency into your small business isn’t a simple two-three-step process. Most startup and small business owners don’t know what to expect, but the keys are research, organization, and proactiveness.

There are plenty of things to consider and prepare to ensure that your partnership's beginning runs smoothly. Breaking down the onboarding process into three main stages — selection, signing, and implementation — can streamline the process and make it less engulfing.

Graphic design agency onboarding checklist

Selection Stage

Once you’ve identified the need for a graphic design partner for your business, the first stage is to select the right agency. It may sound simple at first but there are plenty of factors to consider in order to get the best value for your investment.

Check everything in our selection stage checklist:

  • Visit B2B directories like The Manifest and Clutch to access their list of the top graphic design agencies
  • Narrow the list by filtering according to your budget, industry experience, and location if needed
  • Look at their portfolio of past work and projects
  • Check if they have experience working on the type of designs you like
  • Consider the range of their services
  • Check their LinkedIn profiles to see more of their online presence
  • Read through their client reviews
  • Find out if there are any concerns with the agency, especially from their previous clients
  • Cross-check their references
  • Reach out to the agency to request a quote and the following:
    • Proof of tax compliance
    • Business permits
    • Business License
    • Certificate of good standing
  • Evaluate their quote
  • Inquire about their creative process
  • See what tools or software they use to create graphics
  • If they meet your requirements, request a proposal and their non-disclosure agreement if needed

During this initial stage, you’re not obligated to stick to and only contact one vendor. By inquiring from two or three vendors, you’ll get to compare their services and quotes. As a business owner, you’re responsible for ensuring your business is connected with an agency that understands its needs and goals.

Additionally, non-disclosure agreements are for all businesses but it’s a great measure to make sure any crucial information about your business remains confidential even after the engagement. It’s not only beneficial for your brand but also for the designer.

Setting a budget can help you quickly screen the options. Know more about the costs here: “How to Make a Custom Graphic Design Budget [With Template]

Signing Stage

After identifying which agency to go with, ask for a contract and take a moment to review everything again. Hiring an agency is a big investment, especially for small businesses that need to reap the maximum benefits for every penny spent.

Follow this checklist to ace the signing stage:

  • Dedicate time to carefully read and review the contract sent by the agency. Check for the following:
    • Clear contract language and transparent wording
    • Detailed terms and well-defined conditions
    • Metrics and benchmarks are clarified
    • Payment terms are stated clearly
    • Milestones and expected timelines are understandable
    • Retention previsions or renewal clauses are fair
    • The duties and responsibilities of both parties are clear
  • Before signing, hold a meeting with your co-owners or stakeholders to discuss the contract
  • If you’re uncertain about some points in the contract, reach out to your lawyer for consultation
  • Negotiate terms if you feel they’re not fair for your business

Don’t sign a contract when you still have doubts or concerns in mind. It’s best to feel confident about every box before putting ink to paper. Some businesses send out template contracts they have ready, so it’s up to you as the business owner to guarantee that the contract is even. Remember, not thoroughly reviewing a contract is one of the cardinal sins in business.

If everything feels right, sign the contract and prepare for the next stage. Moreover, ask who will be the main point of contact or account manager who will be working with you. That professional will be responsible for helping you with any inquiries you have and sending you notifications about the project.

Implementation Stage

Finally, you’re at the last stage. This period can be a little busy but you can also delegate some of the tasks to your team to make sure everything goes well.

Before you relax and focus on other matters, complete everything on this last checklist:

  • Assign responsibilities to your team
    • If you’re busy, assign someone who will be the daily or regular contact of the agency
    • Assign a teammate who will keep track of the metrics
    • Inform your social media or digital marketing team about the partnership
  • Prepare a presentation with the following slides:
    • Introduction to your business
    • FAQs about your business 
    • Introduction of the graphic design agency
    • FAQs about them
    • Project outline
    • Project scope
    • Project objectives
    • Expected deliverables
    • Regular workflows
    • Point of contact for both parties
    • Ideal timelines
  • Identify the ideal cadence for holding regular check-ins or meetings
  • Decide on a communication platform for the project (i.e. Slack or Skype)
  • Select a project management tool/s for the project (i.e. Trello or Asana)
  • Prepare a spreadsheet with the contact information of every team member involved for easy access (e.i. Phone number and email addresses)
  • Prepare cloud storage for the graphics (i.e. Google Drive or Dropbox) if the agency doesn’t provide it
  • Send out welcome emails inviting everyone involved to the kickoff meeting
  • Host the kickoff call
  • Prepare an exit strategy

The entire onboarding experience is crucial for a successful partnership. Just like with new hires, new agencies that come in should be welcomed and introduced well. Essentially, onboarding is important for retention, improving productivity, and acclimation to a company’s culture.

Lastly, don’t overthink the process. You’re their new client, so they’re also looking to impress you and help you through the onboarding experience. Just ask them if they need anything else from your end and enjoy the new partnership.

Companies Benefit from Graphic Design

Humans are visual learners. In business, leveraging the power of dynamic designs, striking visuals, and vibrant images is a must. A study found that 93% of all human communication is visual, showing how important it is for businesses to invest in impressive graphic design.

Hiring an experienced graphic design agency can help you position your brand appeal. Their skills are invaluable to helping your brand remain relevant and memorable, online or offline.

Find a partner with the best technical skills, experience, and know-how. Connect with the top graphic design agencies on The Manifest.

Additional Readings:

Graphic Design Glossary: 78 Essential Terms

4 Graphic Design Concepts to Improve Your Designs

Graphic Design vs. Web Design: Five Key Differences

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