What Clients Don't Know Will Hurt Them

posted under  Business on Sep 5th, 2010 with 5 Comments

5 Sep

What if I were to tell you that we’re making the design profession a lot harder than it is; that with the amount of illegal serial codes for Adobe’s Creative Suites, anyone and their 7-year-old brother can pick up a copy of Photoshop and claim themselves to be a designer. Further, they can Google pretty well anything they need to design, and there’ll be at least one tutorial with a step-by-step process on how to achieve any effect.

I find that with this, those of us who find ourselves designing for a living are continually giving ourselves new titles for what we do.

“That 7-year-old can call himself a professional designer? Fine. I’m going to call myself a professional [insert job title].” We suddenly make up this new title, and all of a sudden we’re apparently different (and better) than this 7-year-old (let’s call him Jimmy).

Now, besides experience, what are we doing differently than Jimmy? We also open Photoshop, we use the tools we need to get the job done, and we do it. So why are we calling ourselves “visual architects” (or, really, anything else other than a designer)? Shouldn’t our work be the thing that differentiates us?

All right - I’ll stand corrected in that some of us specialize in certain stages of the design process such as planning and research or usability or the actual designing component. But are we putting ourselves at a disadvantage when coming up with different names?

For example, when a potential client views your portfolio online, will they know that your calling yourself a visual designer means that you design web and print media? Will they know that a usability expert means that you can help craft the website before the designer does everything and after he does? As Brian Hoff has said before, we need to educate our clients about what we do, why things cost what they do, and how the process works.

Unfortunately with the relative newness of usability to web design, clients don’t know what usability is and why it’s important. We can offer to charge them $2,000 for a simple website, but will they understand that the cost is reflective of an included 10 hours of usability work? Or, instead, will they decide to go to Jimmy and get him to do it for a week’s worth of Kraft Dinners?So here’s the situation now: it doesn’t only hurt the client, it also hurts you. If you’re not marketing yourself properly to potential clients, you’re asking for a big draught of work.

So, how in God’s name are we going to beat Jimmy?

Now, I don’t mean physically beat Jimmy (although, that could be another good option). What can we learn from Jimmy that can propel us ahead and position ourselves in the best way possible to get the work that we want?

Keep Things Simple!

In whatever way you market yourself, keep it simple. Clients are looking for people who are straight to the point. If you’re giving them X, Y, and Z – tell them that they’re getting X, Y, and Z. Put values to what you offer, and explain what you do and what the deliverables will be.

That being said, if you’re coming up with a title for yourself to display wherever you market, make sure it’s as simple and understandable a title as well. If you have a services list, make it clean and understandable. For example, if you offer a “top three services”, then list them first (e.g. Web Design, Print Design, Industrial Design). Then list everything else you do within these.

Don't Scare Them

We’re human and so are our clients. As humans, we get naturally frustrated when confused or not understanding something. Therefore, when possible, leave descriptions of what you do so they know exactly what you offer.

And since we’re talking about keeping things simple, when you are writing out this list and getting in touch with clients, practice what copywriters call “the dichotomy of words.” That is, figure out a way to sell yourself and your services in the least amount of words possible. So if you do usability, say you do usability – no need to say you do user interface design (which can be simplified to Web or Mobile design in most cases). If you have an elevator speech, refine it and use it.

Usability designers usually try and make sites work for people who don’t know how to use them. Pretty simple. So why don’t we do that with our copy? Make sure that by the end of the list clients know what usability is, what you offer with it, and how it can benefit them. Key words are great and make you look smart, but can be painful when your potential client doesn’t know what they mean.

Basically, stop trying to come up with a fancy name for yourself and know what the hell you’re doing.

You are what you are. If you don’t know what you do and can’t title it in a few seconds, then you’re not doing your job properly. Hell, if you’ve got a list of services spanning 3-4 different industries, figure out the one you like to do most and call yourself that. For example, I offer web design and front end development services (along with a long list of services like photography, copywriting, et cetera through my company, The Phuse). So what do I call myself to friends and family? A designer.

Now, you might say that I’m limiting my potential in clients by only telling them I do X when I do X, Y, and Z (and therefore being a hypocrite), but I know my clients. Most of them come to me not knowing what W3C, HTML5, or CSS3 are. They don’t care about that stuff – they want the job done. So keep it simple, for god’s sake.

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5 CommentsThoughts from the Community

  • Aurelien R. said Sep 12th, 2010
  • Great article thanks! shared it on my twitter!!
  • Lisa E. said Sep 5th, 2010
  • Tweeted and shared on my FB business page.
  • Lisa E. said Sep 5th, 2010
  • Great article this wasn't something wrestled too hard with when got back into into freelancing last year. took the decision to refer to myself as  Senior Marketing Communications Specialist. because of my extensive background as marketing specialist in coporate environments covering range of creative and business disciplines for about 23 years now in addition to being published writer. It's reflected in my resume/CV and the summaries use seem to explain it well enough. So far the only people who seem to be confused by this are fellow Graphic Designers/Web Designers on occasion.

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