(A Warm Introduction) I’d like to thank you very much for taking the time to read this. As a solo-founder I worked on a side project which turned into an mvp and gained some minor traction then realized a UX designer is vital after revenue. (Information about me) I'm on the search for a talented UX designer and as a solo-founder I will be doing all the recruiting. I built a product, shipped it out to a very small subset of users, and received some feedback but not even close to Product-M-Fit. The product is validated and profit has been made, but the must-have experience is absent. (Can I have your opinion?) All I ask if you could give me one piece of advice, for the following question. What would you do if you were a Solo-Founder with a limited network, and no funding as of right now to recruit a top UX designer? First Hypothesis: To recruit a UX designer before funding, and offer equity percentage in the company. Seal the deal, Hire the UX designer after funding. Try and convince the UX designer to collaborate with me to conduct deep user research (technically for no compensation) while I look for funding. Second Hypothesis: Recruit and hire (out of my Pocket) UX designer before funding, conduct heavy research, and user testing. (I can’t really afford to spend a lot though) (Only Previous Founders,Angels,or UX Designers Please answer)
I think you've really answered your question pretty well! The common options are:
1) Deferred compensation. Find someone that will agree to take a note in lieu of payment, with an enticing arrangement to pay them for their work when you get revenue.
2) Partial cash, partial equity. Equity doesn't have to mean a share in the company today. It could take the form of options (with vesting over time), or vesting that is dependent on certain milestones (perhaps revenue) being met.
3) All equity - Again with the vesting possibilities in #2 above.
Unless you have no other choice, you might want to avoid anything related to equity due to complexity, legal expense, and other reasons.
A good option might be to see if you can find a good but inexperienced UX designer who needs to build a portfolio, and would see this as an opportunity to get a case study and build credibility, in exchange for a reduced compensation rate.
Lastly, consider hiring a UX designer on a site like Odesk. Many offer services at low hourly rates, and some of them are probably really good.
Personally, when I am cash-poor and time rich, my preference is to dig in and learn the basics of whatever it is that I normally would hire somebody else to do.
That's especially true with user research and user testing. Those are skills that any founder should have. As a founder, your number one job is to understand your customers, their problems, and exactly what it is about your product that works and doesn't work for them.
So I'd suggest you buy Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" and Kuniavsky and Goodman's, "Observing the User Experience". Read the first, and use the second as a resource. Then start doing that deep research yourself.
At some point you may reach the limits of your design skills, especially for thinks like interface or visual design. At that point, you can look at bringing someone in to help. But early-adopter audiences are frequently insensitive to design, so you should be able to get a fair way toward product/market fit before that happens.
I can answer this from the perspective of a UX designer who is working on a couple startups.
First of all, your second hypothesis doesn't sound feasible. You aren't going to attract top talent if you can't afford to pay them. And you don't want to be worrying about spending your savings at the same time you're trying to get this off the ground.
I'm a bit intrigued by why you absolutely need a top UX designer. As a designer myself, I think that only another designer could be so certain that their specific design is going to be the ultimate differentiator - so good that it could turn into a profitable business.
Generally, a non-designer (most people, like yourself) have a business problem that they are trying to solve. Good design certainly helps, but not nearly as much as actually solving the problem. Your design only needs to be good enough to get customers. Normally it should be treated like any other part of the business else that improves over time (or not) with each future investment.
If you want to recruit someone by offering them equity, you have to sell them on your vision. Attend local events and talk to everyone you can. Tell them your idea and what kind of person you are looking for. (Tip: If you don't want to tell them your whole idea, tell them part of it in such a way that it comes across as the full idea.) If you believe in your vision strongly enough, you will find a UX designer out there who might see your project as the perfect opportunity to make it into a profitable business by leveraging their skillset.
Personally, when I see a great business plan and product that had a lot of potential, and recognize that UX is the bottleneck, I can't help myself but want to make it better.
I hope that helps. If I knew more about your business and product, I could offer more specific advice - even about the interface itself. Feel free to set up a call :)
I'm answering this from both a founder and a product UX design perspective. It would be helpful to have an idea as to what you're actually building to answer this question properly as many times, people think they need something when they don't necessarily need it.
You're saying you need a *top* UX designer, which would imply you're building something totally new, something where there is no known best practice for the UX of this kind of solution. Assuming that's the case, then you should be able to get a top UX designer to want to work on it based on that very challenge alone. If you explain it in this way to at least one skilled UX person, then the challenge alone should make them want to share it with their network, even if that person is not interested or unavailable or has requirements outside of what you're capable of offering.
Assuming you're not inventing something totally new, I would go onto a site like Behance or LinkedIn or Dribbble and speak with people who understand UX enough to point you in the direction of best practices for that type of solution, and then I would find perhaps a more affordable UX designer and work from there with your budget or as an equity-split/hybrid comp. If the person is not a *top* UX designer/developer, then they're likely more willing to get involved in a risk/reward scenario.
Figure out if you really need top, because that's difficult if the challenge is not there. Someone skilled can get you very far along and will be more open to working with you in an affordable way.