If you’ve been tasked with finding a web designer for your project then you already understand it’s a daunting process. There is often a lot of money at stake and even more to be made if the project is successful. The pressure is on.

Full disclosure, I co-own a web design agency called FASTDOT. One of my many responsibilities at the agency is to handle incoming new business inquiries. Over the past 11 years, I have spoken with hundreds of prospective clients in that capacity. Every so often I get a really GOOD question that carries more weight and understanding of the process than the usual ones. I’d like to share five of them with you below.

Ask about a project that didn’t go well… and why

An agency that tells you they’ve never had a project go south is probably lying. It happens to the best of us. What matters is what we learn from it and the steps we take to prevent it from happening again.

The answer to these questions can be very revealing. Do they blame the client? The contract? The process?

What did they learn from their mistakes and how well can they articulate it?

Ask to meet your Project Manager before signing a contract

When you first contact an agency, you are likely directed to an owner or Business Development/Salesperson. This is someone who is experienced and trained in saying all of the right things to get you in the door.

However, once the project starts, you may be handed off to a Project Manager as your day-to-day contact. The person you established a rapport with during the sales process is now watching from the sidelines and you’re on the field with a stranger.

Speaking to the Project Manager in advance will give you a sense of how tightly integrated the sales and project teams are. Remember, the Project Manager will be the person responsible for executing everything you agreed to in advance. Make sure you know who they are!


Ask what they can do with your budget

The assumption here is that you can (and should) share your budget in advance with the agencies you’re interviewing. Agencies know that clients who set and stick to budgets have already thought through the risks and rewards associated with the project. They have the money set aside and know exactly what they are looking to accomplish with it.

If you ask “How much will it cost?” an agency will likely provide an estimate of time and materials that are either much higher or lower than what you’re expecting. Budget transparency forces agencies to think more about value for the money and less about labor.

Ask how they will learn about you and your industry

You may be tempted to ask if an agency has experience with your industry but I can tell you first-hand, this is not a super important question.

There are thousands of different types of businesses and narrowing your search to agencies that have experience with your specific type can be limiting. You may miss out on an otherwise successful partnership if you dismiss an agency based on granular work experiences.

Instead, ask how the agency approaches the discovery process. What steps do they take to educate themselves on your business, competitors, and industry before starting? Keep in mind that a “fresh set of eyes” from outside your industry may actually yield more innovative results!

Ask what they find most attractive about your project

The agency (hopefully) knows your budget by now and if it’s an attractive one, they may be trying to win your business for financial reasons.

Designers and developers do the type of work we do because we love it. We are always looking for new challenges and experiences that make our jobs fun and rewarding.

At FASTDOT , we always look for the “hook” in a project that draws us in. Give the agency an opportunity to tell you where, specifically, they will draw inspiration from. After all, you want them to be as excited as you are.