Whether you're looking to create a business card, a website, or even a new physical product, it's important to consider how design can influence your business.

Design gives your customers an idea of  who you are and what you stand for. If it's good, you can inspire trust and show an attention to detail--and customers can assume you probably pay the same attention in your customer service.

On the other hand, bad design can ruin your reputation by making you look cheap or careless about your appearance, and customers may conclude you are also careless about other areas of your business.

Seems unfair, right? You put so much thought into your business. And you know you provide a great customer experience. But one of the best ways to communicate that to first-time customers is through design.

Now, the question is: how do you find a designer?

1. Find Examples of Good Design

Next time you're sitting down at your computer, hop onto Google and type in the names of industry leaders in your field.

Companies like Apple, BMW, Facebook and more have spent millions of dollars to perfect their design. They know what customers love and they've designed and tweaked every visual to match. Take a close look at their business cards, website, presentations, product designs--even the way they write about themselves--to get clues about how to present your business in the best possible way.

2. Evaluate a Wide Range of Talent

Wondering where all the good designers are?

In the past, I've found some great talent on freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and 99Designs. These websites allow you to search by keyword to find designers by industry or skill. Designers on these platforms tend to be more budget-friendly, and you can hire them directly through the website.

Terry Newman, Creative Director and Design Manager at commercial real-estate startup VTS, recommends curated platforms like Working Not Working and Dribbble. You can also ask friends and colleagues for their best recommendations.

3. Start with a Trial Project

The best designer in the world won't be a good fit for your business if you don't enjoy working together.

In my experience, the best way to evaluate a new designer is to hire him or her for a small project. This can be a simple illustration, a PDF or another small-scale design that only takes a few hours. By the end, you'll know if you like their style and if you want to continue working together.

Newman suggests starting with a marketing email because "it tests both their visual design skills and their ability to communicate a narrative in limited space."

4. Practice Clear Communication

Sometimes designers misunderstand what you want and produce something completely unexpected. When that happens, I usually realize it's my fault for not giving clear directions in the first place.

If you aren't getting the results you want on your first few projects, don't sweat it. You may need to give more instructions, explain your idea in a new way, or find a new designer.

Eventually, you'll figure out the best way to communicate so the designer can pick up on your creative vision and produce a design you can be proud of.

Investing in design is a good choice for any business--no matter how small. And it doesn't have to be expensive or difficult to get started. Start investing in your design today and begin reaping the benefits for your business.

Published on: Jul 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.