How can I find a designer who will work for equity?

Great designers aren’t cheap. If you need to find a designer on a limited budget, here are a few tips which might help.

At Hanno, we have a policy of not taking on projects where we’d be paid in equity. That’s partly because it’s so complex to actually get everything negotiated. But a bigger reason is that our focus right now is on building funds in our own business so that we’re fully stable, and to support social businesses, before we’re prepared to get more adventurous and take bigger risks.

Even with the best of ideas and great talent, that whole ‘lucrative startup exit’ thing still relies on a healthy dose of luck. Since we’re not in a position to spread our risk and make bets on multiple ventures, we choose to stay out of the game entirely.

But we often have developers come to us asking for advice on how they can find a designer to help them build their product. Here’s what I usually tell them:

  • Sites like Programmer Meet Designer or builditwith.me might be worth a look, but frankly, they’re so clunky that I imagine most designers won’t be able to use the platform.
  • This Quora question has some great tips—I’d agree with the Startup Weekend idea, as well as getting to Meetups. I think it’s much harder to convince someone to do get into this kind of relationship if you’ve not met them in person. It just makes it easier to build that kind of relationship.
  • You could look at places abroad. For example, a good full-time designer in Indonesia or Malaysia might earn £600/month in regular employment. So if you have a little money, it can go a lot further. However, you’ll find that a really good designer will charge international rates. There’s a reason that UX is so in demand at the moment!
  • If you can build out the startup’s profile a bit and list the job here, it might be a good idea. Equity salaries are common. Likewise with startupjobs.asia
  • http://elegant.ly/ and http://www.folyo.me/ can be useful, although I don’t think folyo does much on the equity side of things.

My top suggestion would be to pull together some sort of lump cash sum, and use that in addition to offering equity. It’s very hard to convince someone to buy into your vision and commit to it, if equity is all that’s on offer. Nearly everyone has expenses and overheads, along with a large number of people asking for their help.

But if you can at least pull together a partial salary, it demonstrates to the designer that you’re serious about the proposition, and will also give them enough money to live off while working with you. If you’ve got a great idea, it makes the prospect of being paid in equity a whole lot more doable for many people.

Image credit: jakerust