So, you got a file you can view, but can you use it? I can’t count the number of times I’ve received a viewable only file and had to reverse engineer the design because the raw files were held hostage by the first contractor. It’s an unfortunate practice, but some designers aren’t upfront that the real usable file will cost more. Some simply will not give up the file as it would allow you to go to another designer. I always give the files to my clients, it’s the best thing to do to have happy clients in the end. The other option, of course, is designers can become unavailable for many reasons, such as retiring or quitting, and can’t help you. Without the raw files it could cost you double. Make sure you always get the raw files so you can get edits done down the line.
Designer owns it, not you.
Ownership of the work you are paying for is very important. Intellectual Property is one of your most valuable assets, learn everything you can about it. You should always own the work unless you are paying them with ownership. When I work with clients, everything I create while working for you, my client, is yours. I rarely do any design work for ownership or profit sharing. The only way for me to own something is to not pay me. Do you know how many times I’ve had to do that? Zero. This is because I structure the work in phases and each phase is paid for upfront. Not every developer or designer does it this way. Make sure that you know and are good with the ownership part of your proposal.
While this doesn’t apply to small jobs, ones that are say under 20 hours, under $10k, not having checkpoints is a killer issue. Not having checkpoints where the project is reviewed can cause things to be missed. Even in a rush job, checking in can mean wasting resources or being on schedule. Yes, these hours are typically billable and no, you don’t want to work with someone who says “meetings are free!”. They should value their time and typically a check-in meeting includes input from the developer, so value that time. How often you need one varies, I’ve had projects where once a week was needed, rush jobs where every day was needed, and ones where once a month was all that we needed. When hiring your product developer, make sure you have some checkpoints planned and make sure expectations are set.
After getting a great design done, I’ve had clients come to me to fix the design because it’s un-manufacturable. It could look good in CAD, renders are great, and maybe the prototype even works. Because of this, a product could get through design and still not be manufacturable. The chance of this, however, is low with the tools and technology available in manufacturing. Either way, having to rework a design is expensive and while I try to keep the original design looks, it’s not always possible. Not every designer understands manufacturing and costing. Keep this in mind when looking for a designer and pick a Product Developer with the needed skills so you don’t waste money. Make sure to ask them about manufacturing methods and make sure they can perform DFM (Design for Manufacturability) work or provide a referral for it.
Lack of Scope.
I’ve written about this several times, but a lack of scope can cause many easily avoided issues. However, one of the biggest issues of skipping it is the lack of defined success or failure. This makes it hard for anyone to know exactly where the project should go. Make sure you have one. If your developer doesn’t create one with you at the beginning, then you might want a different developer. See our previous blog posts on project scopes: Project Brief vs Scope of Work, 9 Great Points on Scope Creep, and The 4 Things Your Scope of Work Should Have,
When hiring a product developer, keep these points in mind. Make sure you find one who will truly help you along your path to launching your product. Check out Entrepreneurs article about hiring a firm for some more great info 5 Tips for Outsourcing Product Development.