Are you suited to be a web designer?

August 23, 2012

Are you the type of person who’s well suited to be a web designer?

Good Web Designers…

  • Are curious. They want to understand how things work so they know what is possible to create. They really want to understand not just their clients but people in general. What motivates people to take action? How do people use technology? They are keen to learn – important in a field that requires keeping up with constant change.
  • Are empathetic. They can put themselves in the shoes of the client, the website user, the programmer they are collaborating with, and so on. They are great observers & listeners & communicators.
  • Pay huge attention to detail. Great websites are all about details. From how the graphics look, to whether the code they write will work, to typos in the content. Web designers have to manage all of these elements and more.
  • Are problem solvers. The main purpose of design is to solve problems. Communicating messages, inspiring and facilitating action, meeting the needs of the business and the website’s users. Than, there are the technical problems that come with building websites. As a designer you need to work it through until you figure it out, or be in a position to solve the problem by bringing in someone who can.
  • Are creative. Of course, right? But I don’t just mean visually. You need to know which types of creative solutions are appropriate for the problem at hand. You need to have creative ideas for your clients’ problems, because that’s where the real value in design lies. It’s not just about pretty graphics.
  • Are technically inclined. A good web designer knows how to code at least some of their own stuff. They love to use the technology for which they are designing, while understanding that many people do not! They can communicate with programmers & other geeks to facilitate the problem solving and the building of challenging features.

All of the above applies whether you are freelancing or not. When you become self-employed though, another set of factors comes into play.

So what does freelancing take?

  • Skills in your field. I think it’s important to have enough experience and training that you can be confident you are providing a great service. There is so much to learn about running a business that you are better off to have solid skills under your belt before you branch out on your own. I also believe that working in a company in a team environment teaches you a lot that you might miss (or take longer to learn) if you just start out as a freelancer. I think it’s also great to start a little freelancing while you’re employed.
  • Business savvy. Like it or not, as a freelancer you are running a business. It’s not just playing in Photoshop but securing the work, managing clients, billing, planning, etc. Experience from other jobs (which might seem unrelated) can actually help you succeed as a freelancer. It rounds out your understanding of business, your customer service skills, etc. And when times get tough, you can remind yourself that you never, ever want to go back to <insert crappy job here> again.
  • Interpersonal skills. You need to be able to communicate well with clients, suppliers, colleagues. People need to know they can trust you. Your relationships and your network are one of your biggest assets so you need to be able to manage them well.
  • Marketing. You need to put yourself out there in whatever way serves you and your business effectively. I personally  do a lot of research online, and research businesses in my community, take a look at their website, and see whether they are do an upgrade, or whether they have no website at all. I also have an online portfolio, where i can showcase my work, and obviously referrals, networking events, and having relationships with people.
  • Self-discipline. As a freelancer nobody’s your boss, but both your income and your clients’ satisfaction depends on you getting the work done. You’re likely to work at home which can blur the lines between work and play. Bottom line is you’ll need to manage your time and habits well to find a balance that works for you and to make a good living.

Being a self-employed designer can be really hard work, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to help people with your creativity. If you love what you do, it’s a great career path to embark on.

What do you think? Whether you are considering this career, have hired designers, or are a designer yourself, I’d love to hear your thoughts & questions.

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