I had a conversation with a wonderful lady the other day about an issue she was having with a consultant. She felt completely ripped off. She felt she’d purchased a truckload of snakeoil. I contacted the consultant and found that she was right. The consultant was a self-help guru. One that talks about the “value” they bring to your life. The kind that says it’ll all make sense after you’ve purchased their book.
As a designer and entrepreneur you need to fully communicate and deliver on the services and products you will deliver.
What you are worth to your client is determined by the direct revenue you will produce for them. My least favorite proclamation is the value of beauty for beauty’s sake. A business owner wants to make money. If you tell your client this button will make their website look stunning you’re not speaking their language. “The look and position of this button will invite customers to click through to your checkout page.” or “I removed this feature because it was distracting your customers and slowing the purchasing process down.” Never position yourself as a cost to your client. Always think of yourself as an investment. Always communicate where money will be made.
Use the threat of obscurity to your advantage. Use Dr. Suess as your example.
One of the greatest business managers in a creative field was Theodor Seuss Geisel. Is he an amazing artist? Is he an incredible writer? He’s not bad, but certainly not the best. He was an incredible marketer and promoter of his content. Further, he created a brand/style. His drawings were unique and identifiable. That’s what made the difference. In one marketing stunt, Dr. Seuss was challenged by William Ellsworth Spaulding to write a children’s book using 250 words that he believed children should learn. Seuss came back nine months later with a book that included 236 of the words and it is known as, “The Cat in the Hat”.
Most clients envision a big billboard whenever they think about graphics. It’s completely wrong. Traffic comes to a Billboard. On the web, you gotta build the road. Some roads are straight, people talk about how smooth and easy the drive is. Some are curved and preferred by bikers. Some are even beautiful with mountain views. Decide the kind of road you want to build.
An example of a curved road would be George RR Martin’s website. It’s the most horrific website I’ve ever been to. This man has millions of dollars? His website’s background is pansy purple and crowned with spinning icons. I thought it was an auction site for dreidels on first blush. I got curious, so I Googled, “worst website designs”. His site’s on every single list. Mad traffic referrals! I’ve referred three other people (now you) to his site only because of how bad it was when it shouldn’t be.
In closing, I want to repeat that the most important thing for a designer is to make their client money. Sell yourself as that person. Not as someone that will make something look beautiful. To be sure, that matters. But selling yourself as someone that can build roads rather than billboards is far more relevant these days.