This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Unless you are a creative agency, most small businesses don’t have the luxury of having an in-house designer. There are literally thousands of freelance designers and design agencies out there that can fill various niches and services, but finding someone in your price range – and if locale is important, in your area – can be difficult.

Fortunately, there are some great online resources that can take the sting out of searching for a designer. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Sortfolio

Sortfolio is the latest project from 37Signals, the team behind Basecamp, Campfire and Backpack. Sortfolio is really great for companies or individuals looking for a designer because you can browse by price-range (as in, how much do these designers charge on average per project?) and location. You can also get a good look at their portfolio before connecting directly with the designer on their own site.

Sortfoilio has the added benefit of having strong ties to the design and development communities.

2. Authentic Jobs

Job boards are a dime a dozen and sometimes posting for a potential hire doesn’t end with any good leads. Authentic Jobs is unique in that it targets the web developer and web design community and is frequented by those most active in pushing the barriers in that community.

Created by respected designer and author Cameron Moll and with listing partners like Veer and SimpleBits, if you’re looking for a job posting to get in front of the right people, this should be a stop on your list.

3. Elance

Elance is a highly active, organized and efficient community that you can use to find contractors online. You can search for designers by skill set, location and browse Elance’s various groups (members must pass a skill test before entering).

The nice thing about Elance is that you can see the feedback and ratings that a provider or freelancer has received from others. This can help provide a clearer picture about a designer before going forward with an interview.

4. Guru

Like Elance, Guru is a large marketplace that connects freelancers to potential clients. You can view work samples, see completed projects, read feedback from other clients and search by rate, skill level and location.

5. FreelanceSwitch’s Directory

FreelanceSwitch is an online community dedicated to freelancing, with a strong focus on creative freelancers like web designers and developers. The FreelanceSwitch Directory can be used to browse for freelancers and see samples of their work.

From there you can contact the designers directly through their own websites.

6. SitePoint Marketplace

SitePoint has a very active community for buyers and sellers. You can browse through pre-made templates, find designers offering their services and also post a listing.

7. Behance

The Behance Network is a place to discover and peruse the portfolios from tons of great designers and artists. You can see their portfolio and concepts, and also find out if they are available for work. Behance is a great resource for finding high-level talent.

8. Carbonmade

Carbonmade is a portfolio service for designers and it is also a great way to locate talent. More than 195,000 designers use the service to post their projects, portfolios images and resumes. You can also see who is available for freelance work and search by design medium and skill set.


AIGA is the professional association for design and their website (as well as the sites for local chapters) has a directory of AIGA designers, as well as AIGA member portfolios, which are hosted by Behance.

10. Krop

Krop is both a job posting and job search tool for creatives. Designers can also offer up their own portfolios. Potential employers can pay to have access to searching that database or you can post a job offer on Krop’s board.

What Do You Think?

Where have you had good luck finding designers for projects? Are there any tips or tricks you can offer to others? Let us know in the comments!

More business resources from Mashable:

Google Buzz: 5 Opportunities for Small Businesses

4 Elements of a Successful Business Web Presence

HOW TO: Implement a Social Media Business Strategy

HOW TO: Choose a News Reader for Keeping Tabs on Your Industry

HOW TO: Measure Social Media ROI

HOW TO: Use Social Media to Connect with Other Entrepreneurs

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, pavlen

Tags: business, design, designer, List, Lists, portfolio, small business, web design, Web Development