There are a lot of different ways you can evaluate web designers. When you’re looking for a creative team to work with, you’ll undoubtedly compare samples, fees, and feedback from previous clients. Each of these gives you a valuable perspective and can help you make a better decision.

I would recommend you add something else to your list of criteria, though: the requirement that your web designer have some personal side projects they invest their time and/or money into. In other words, you want a web designer who is a little bit entrepreneurial and puts their money where their mouth is.

If you’re like most business owners and haven’t considered this in the past, let me tell you why I think it’s so important…

The Value of Side Projects for a Web Designer

At first glance, it might seem like a bad thing to hire a web designer who runs multiple businesses or has a few side projects. After all, how can they focus on your job if they have half a dozen other things to worry about? I think that’s looking at things a little bit backwards.

If you find a talented and committed web designer or creative team, there are always going to be other demands on their time. Other business owners are going to seek them out for work, and they are likely to have at least a few different design jobs running at the same time.

When they have their own side projects, though, they get firsthand experience being a marketer with limited time and resources. They have to work quickly, experiment, and find creative solutions to common problems. They see for themselves that a website isn’t valuable unless it has traffic from search engines, social media sites, and other web destinations. And, they learn how to market their own businesses affordably.

All of these might seem like obvious issues to you, but they wouldn’t necessarily come naturally to every creative professional.

Some Web Designers Don’t Have Much Business Experience

Believe it or not, there are a lot of web designers and creative directors who finish art school, start their companies, and work solely for other businesses. That doesn’t mean they do a bad job, of course, just that they don’t necessarily have the perspective needed to either push bottom-line results or stay on the cutting edge of their field.

As much as I’ve always liked working with HTML and artistic concepts, some of the biggest insights that have come to me have arrived through my many online-based projects. Many times I’ve been forced to either follow my own advice or reframe my thinking on a particular internet marketing topic because of what I saw trying to make a few dollars through my own websites.

With all due respect to my colleagues, I just don’t think you can experience everything you need in this industry on a secondhand basis. It’s easy to plan other people’s campaigns and spend their money; there isn’t anything on the line. When it’s your own schedule, budget, and future that are in play, though, you have to make hard choices and pay more attention to the results.

I think having side projects has made me a much better web designer. And for the same reason, I wouldn’t recommend you hire a creative professional or team that didn’t have the same perspective.