Chances are there are hundreds of web designers in your local area. Some will be a good fit for you and your business, some wont.
Don't - choose a designer based on your location. You can successfully hire and work with a website designer remotely using email, telephone and other online services for communication. I have worked remotely for the past 9 years with clients from across the country and world with success.
I know it may be a daunting task to try and find a web design company online but it may be worth your effort in the end. Think of it as looking for a new employee. You wouldn't hire just anyone to work with your existing staff why hire just anyone that contacts you about doing your website?
Don't - think that just because your nephew is going to college and plays around on the computer all day that he knows what he is doing in regards to website design. Would you hand him $20 and ask him to build you a new house if he had no expertise or experience? No. Leave the web design to a professional if you want to LOOK professional.
DO - Make a good first impression with your website design. LOOK at the web designers portfolio. Then, do a search for your industry and look at their websites. See one you like? Most web designers will add their information at the bottom of the homepage they have designed. If you come across a website you like the looks of contact the web design company who created it.
DO - Ask if it is ok to contact some of their clients for references. An established website design company will not have a problem with you doing that.
DO - Consider how long it will take for your website to be online. Some designers have a long waiting list of clients. Do you want to be online in a week or a couple of months?
DO - Get your ducks in a row. Have at least a couple of paragraphs for each page you want on your website, contact information and some idea of what domain name you want. This will make it easier on the designer and also show them you are committed to the project. Most of my downtime is spent waiting on clients to send me the content, images, pricing, etc, etc, so I can install their site. The sooner you get your website online the sooner your business can be picked up by the search engines to get listed.
DO - Ask if the designer will optimize your website for listing on the search engines. Some designers fall short when it comes to making sure your website gets recognized online.
DO - Ask what ALL the costs are. You don't want to be surprised when the bill comes!