The great thing about web design is that it gives you a way to make a living (or a nice side income) doing something creative and useful.
Once you’ve got your web design business (or job) on lockdown, it can be easy to sort of…plateau.
Not that you don’t take this work seriously, because of course you do! But when you’ve got a steady flow of work, it can be easy to wonder if and how and when you can really improve yourself.
The great news is that your skills will naturally improve with practice. You’ll have a better intrinsic sense of what works and what doesn’t, you’ll have a more efficient and effective workflow down pat, and you’ll develop a knack for asking the right questions of your clients at the outset.
Those are all important parts of improving yourself as a designer.
But, as I’m sure you know, there’s a lot more to it than that.
So how do you take charge and really work at becoming a better web designer, when everything about what you do centers around the client and their needs and wants?
Here are four ways to get you started:
1. Learn how to communicate
Communication, communication, communication. The better you are at it, the better your work will be. The great news is, it’s a skill that can be learned, and it often just takes a little bit of practice.
When you can communicate effectively, you’re doing a favor for yourself, your clients, and your boss (if you have one). By being clear about what you envision, what you’re doing, when you’ll deliver what elements of the project, and what your expectations are, everyone else can breathe easily knowing exactly what they’re dealing with.
Good communication gets the information you need, shares the information that’s needed from you, and smoothes the process for everyone involved.
There are books you can read, blog posts you can consult, and even coaches who can help you boost your communication skills if you’re constantly frustrated that you said the wrong thing, didn’t say enough, or didn’t get enough from the other person. It’s just a quick search away, and it’ll make an enormous improvement in your business (and life in general!).
2. Know what you offer and how to share it
What sets you apart as a web designer? Why should someone go with you instead of someone else? What special skill, experience, or understanding do you bring to the table? This is what’s called your Unique Selling Proposition. Figure out what yours is, and then learn how to market it.
There’s no right way to market, but there are some wrong ways to do it. The problem is, the right marketing mix is different for everyone. The most important thing about marketing yourself is to pick a channel (or multiple channels) that you will actually use.
Working up a major strategy to market yourself on Twitter and Facebook is great…if you’ll actually use it.
If you won’t actually use it, though, you’ll be better off going another route. Even if “the experts” tell you that you absolutely have to be fishing in a particular watering hole…or, more likely, every watering hole in existence.
I call bull. You don’t have to be everywhere. Just do what works for you. Keep trying new things, and when you get a third bite from a new marketing method, that’s a clue.
3. Get valuable feedback on your work
Running your designs by someone who understands web design as much as, if not more than, you do will effectively help you leapfrog to the next level.
With the input of a knowledgeable eye, you’ll be able to identify what you do well, where you could improve, and what you should abandon altogether. You may also come across some new ideas and techniques through the discussion, which will make you even more capable and well-rounded.
All in all, feedback is possibly the single most valuable thing you can do when you’re trying to improve yourself as a web designer. You just don’t know what you don’t know, until someone else points it out to you.
4. Build your business brain
I’ve covered why it’s important to understand basic business principles before.
In short, understanding what makes a business tick and what the end-game is will be critical to your ability to design a successful website…one that meets their needs, serves their target market, and builds their bottom line.
Nobody builds a website just so they can look pretty on the internet. Nobody who’s in business, at least.
There’s always a goal. There are always factors in place that must govern decisions. There’s always a target market with a desired outcome.
When you understand business, you understand how any given website fits into the grand scheme of things. That right there can make you a true asset to any business…including your own.