Web design industry is chock full with happy people and it is quite easy to understand why many web designers enjoy their work. However, if you are not careful, the joy of pursuing your passion can be tainted by the real life facts of the professional world. Regardless of how skilled or experienced you are as a web designer unless you’re fully prepared in professional matters your circumstances can be compromised and your prospects will be limited. This is true whether you’re employed with a web design company or work freelance. Many web designers are struggling with the realities of the industry. Often, they don’t understand why thing could get so bad and they simply lie the blame on things that are beyond their control. In many cases, it is simply caused by lack of professional acumen and poor choices.
What is professionalism?
Web design skill is only a part of what defines you as a competent, professional web designer. Your professionalism is also measured by preparedness in interacting with clients and dealing with myriad of issues that may confront you. A professional is expected to uphold ethical standards despite difficult option and issues faced. Skill and talent can only make you a technician and a technician is not yet a professional. For context, you should consider traditional professionals in our society, such as architects, doctors and lawyers. They are entrusted with enormous responsibility and they have proven ability to carry out the responsibility successfully. This makes them professionals. A true professional shouldn’t be troubled by questions posed below, because they know exactly how to proceed and circumvent common issues. Unfortunately, if you still have any of the questions mentioned in this article, you’re not ready to be a professional yet.
How people who recently graduated from design school can get clients and build a solid reputation?
This is like asking “Where can I get a parachute and how to make it work?” after you’ve jumped from the airplane. Unfortunately, people often lack a foresight before even choosing a career. You shouldn’t go about finding an educational path if you know little about an industry. Fresh out of a design school, you are not a professional web designer, you are simply an inexperienced technician. You have to work for years to acquire understanding, knowledge and innovational skills needed to become a seasoned web design professional. A good place to start is under the wings of professionals or inside a design company. Successive lessons in the work environment can help to nurture budding designers.
To build a solid reputation you need to show competence and establish a series of high quality works. If you’re any good, eventually you’ll earn respect of clients, colleagues and superiors and acquire professional acumen. If you make a conscious effort to share your thoughts and works with the wider business and design community, people will start to know your name (through blog, portfolio and word of mouth). Your reputation will be established on substance instead of on marketing campaign. After all this hard work, then you can start to embark on a successful freelance career.
As a freelancer in web design industry, you need to run the whole show. You should also be an ace at budgeting and finances, at converting potential clients, at discussing project requirements with clients, at working with legal documents, at writing proposal, at solving various unforeseen issue, at maintaining your branding, at maintaining tax information and at working with all details of projects. If you lack confidence and can’t work as a single-man design company, then you’re not exactly a freelance material. Freelancing is not suited to inexperienced individuals. It is often foolish to start your first days as a web designer by pursuing a freelance career. Professionalism can only be created through habit. If your first step in your web design career is a misstep, you may set a poor tone for your long-term career and future. Unless you look for ways to correct your mistakes, you will eventually develop unprofessional and clumsy habits.
How web designers can determine what sort of design concept a client is looking for?
This is often an issue for inexperienced web designers. Usually, a design agency is a good way to gain understanding on clients. In general, the question signals a few things that require attention. First, you shouldn’t ask a design question during the discovery phase. Granted, web designers need to define and understand specific constraints, but design decisions should come from the designers, not based on the client’s judgment. The design should articulate your needs and based mostly on your business goals, customers needs, end users’ specifics, website purposes and others. In fact, if you don’t ask any design question, you could be on the right track.
Say that you are a surgeon who is trying to formulate the best method to treat a patient who has cardiovascular disease. In this situation, you wouldn’t ask the patient for an opinion about the best way to carry out a heart surgery. Instead, you assess his overall health condition, medical records, current symptoms and latest examination results. Your assessment will help you to define constraints and the best surgery method. Your patient’s opinion is irrelevant because he doesn’t have the knowledge, skill and experience to help himself and perform heart surgery.
Before starting a discovery phase, you should be fully prepared, perform a thorough research on the company, past and current activities and its history. To get the ball rolling, prepare a list of relevant questions that can be answered well by the client. Your questions should serve as a springboard for deeper discussion, which may flesh out things that you need to know. You have the responsibility to perform the project successfully; it is a designer who should drive the discovery process, not the CD or PM. By working in a design agency, you’ll be able to hone your discovery skills and take on bigger responsibility with each successive project. You should reflect on each discovery process and learn from your mistakes and successes. In time, you’ll become an essential part of the project and become more competent.
Should web designers agree to provide more results than what are outlined in the original work schedule? Should they charge more? How can they get away with less?
These questions beg a couple more:
- * Why would the designer allow the client to demand for more work results?
- * Why the client tends to have quantitative preferences than qualitative ones?
A good web design is not established from working on a bunch of arbitrary options, but it is rather derived from contextual, deliberate choices. Many designers and clients take a scattershot approach, which makes their work ineffective. Some clients won’t appreciate designers who work slowly and focus more on quality. A good designer shouldn’t let the client shoot himself in the foot. Designers who are engaged in the web design process should be the one who understand which option is appropriate for the client. In almost all projects, there is a single best solution. Sometimes, you’ll also see another compelling alternative that is worth presenting to your client, but often its usefulness won’t be known until you’ve fully engaged in the project and understand about important parameters specific to the project.
In many cases, you need to explore and choose a host of alternatives during the design process. A thorough evaluation often culls most of the options, leaving only the most compelling and appropriate candidate. Only this option should be presented to your client. Inferior designs must be discarded, because improving them is often a waste of time anyway. A successful website can only grow and develop from a good seed.
As an employee in design agency or a freelance design professional, it is your responsibility to decide which design option(s) you should present to the client. If the client insists on choosing a less professional and less effective process, you shouldn’t agree to that. Compromise has no place in professionalism and design and it rarely brings excellence. If you’re getting too comfortable in making compromises, your life will be full of compromises. Your client deserves more than just a compromised design.
How web designers can establish a good relationship with the client?
Relationship is built on trust and you can get trust only from understanding and experience. A client can’t trust the designer if they’ve never met and know nothing about each other. So if the design is presented by a designer the client has never known or met, no wonder the client is inclined to second-guess the designer and a bit reticent. This and the ensuing problems could be caused by the designer’s failing. Yes, the mistake is always on you, unfortunately. Some design agencies invite the client to a dinner as an effort to introduce all members of the development team to the client. If you’re a professional freelance designer, often you should also act as a salesperson and try to get the client comfortable with you.
A freelance designer is good at designing a website, but he feels uncomfortable talking to a client. Whenever he talks to a client, by the phone or directly, he gets very nervous. He is concerned that his nervousness makes him seem less capable, which can lose him some valuable clients. What’s the solution?
For every freelancer, effective communication is an important skill. Every attempt to communicate whether in person, by phone or by email is a critical opportunity to win confidence and demonstrate values. Freelancer, who fails to demonstrate values, rarely wins confidence. People who lack the confidence and communication skill are not prepared to be a good freelance. No matter how good you’re, if you fail to communicate effectively; you won’t have the opportunity to ply your skills and knowledge very often. A good client always invests a complete trust in his designer. You need to earn trust before starting an actual design process.
You shouldn’t let others to do the talking for you. A design freelancer should be able to show confidence and skill when talking with clients. Even if you’ve hired the best salesperson in town, he/she won’t be able to communicate your values effectively. Many prospective clients distrust people who lack confidence because it may signal incompetence. It may sound a little harsh, but if you lack the confidence, clients will only see half or even a third of your potentials due to the inability to sell yourself. You should address your voids and weakness, to let your confidence shines through. Even the most timid individuals can learn to build up confidence and if you’re still struggling to be confident, you should find another calling, at least for the time being. A design professional is expected to be able to interact with people, particularly clients. Confidence aside, you should be able to speak well and it goes without saying that you need to have excellent vocabulary. People judge and learn you by your words and knowing this; you should brush up your speaking ability and design skill simultaneously, every day.
Unfortunately, many web designers believe that professionalism only calls for good technical skills. Designers who always make compromises and willingly accept poor decision are having their success stolen from them. They have no business staying in the competitive web design industry and looking for clients who seek professional service. The first step to gain success is to make yourself worthy for success. If you’re disappointed with the flawed working condition in your design agency, you should change your circumstance. Frustrated by stalled reputation and perpetual lack of prospect? Seems like you have got some issues to solve. Overwhelmed by complexities and challenges inherent in freelancing? You may have started freelancing without adequate preparations.
Happy and successful professionals are paid for doing things they love to do. How wonderful is that?! But this enviable and fortunate situation is only achievable after you take full control of your own situation. Otherwise, you are carrying dozens of dangling live grenades on your belt. When they finally go off, your hard works and career may be blown to smithereens. Educate yourself and never let tragedy happen to you. Have the integrity and the courage to make best choices so you can enjoy happy and long career as a successful web design professional.