I've been a freelance developer for nearly a decade, but have no desire to do web design. Most of the projects I get are maintenance-type projects that require only minor tweaks to existing graphics, or someone coming in with a new design already on hand. However, on rare occasions I get a request to do both programming and design. I've no problem farming out the work to capable designers, but I don't do enough design work to maintain any working relationships with any one particular designer. So what is the best way to shop around for a good designer? I'm willing to pay more to get good quality work (i.e. you won't find me asking on craigslist for free design work "to boost your portfolio").
For designers, what do you expect when a new client contacts you? (what do you expect in terms of information for the project, and what do you expect to be paid for conceptual work? For final design work?)
For developers, what has worked for you in the past?
I once tried this approach:
I'd like to commission some low-res, high-level design ideas from you. Something the represents what you have in mind for the project, but it doesn't have to be a production-ready design (watermarks, copyright, etc. are OK as long as they aren't distracting) . I will pay you US$200 for your time regardless of whether your idea is selected. Feel free to submit more than one idea if you would like. Again, I'm only asking for ideas, not complete designs.
It worked fine for the project at hand (the client was willing to pay quite a bit for design services), but I wonder in hind sight if it was too much (or too little). Thoughts?