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The answer to better pay and better clients (it’s not better design skills)

You can be the most skilled designer in the world, but if you can’t work collaboratively with a client, your design skills won’t do you much good.

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Here’s what I know after more than 27 years into this design career… it’s not something they teach you in school and not something you find easily on your own.

The key to…

  • Better results
  • Better pay and
  • Better clients

Is… not improving your design skills.

Don’t get me wrong, design skills are important… but they aren’t a critical factor when you want to charge premium prices for your services. You don’t need stellar design skills.

You need stellar collaboration skills.

You need the ability to guide a client who has opinions that are different than your own. One that might thwart your attempts to bring their ideas to life. You can be the most skilled designer in the world, but if you can’t work collaboratively with a client, your design skills won’t do you much good.

It just kills me when I see designers doubt that they can command fair prices for their work. They doubt their design skills, without realizing the importance of a collaborative mindset.

A collaborative design system leads to the best solution.

Clients want results. They want the ability to attract and convert more customers with more ease. Bottom line. This is what beautiful design, digital strategy, visual strategy, custom design, and UX – all the fancy things we call what we do – boils down to.

  • You may not have all the answers on the initial consult call (you shouldn’t).
  • You might not have a vision yet for their design and that’s okay (that’s what research is for).
  • You might be uncertain because you don’t know what functionality they’ll need (that’s what research is for).

Whatever your insecurities going into a project, know this… all designers, even the experienced ones, feel these things. The difference between you and them? They know that a collaborative design system will answer these questions as they go. A good outcome is inevitable. The way they work with clients is designed to deal with variables and still deliver results.

Clients are willing to invest more in the best solution.

A collaborative design system will help you see and communicate the big picture without overwhelming the client. A good system will take care of the bits and pieces as you go. Clients are willing to invest more in a designer who is confident in their ability to deliver the best solution.

What would it feel like to face every potential inquiry with confidence because you knew you could deliver results?

What if the focus of your consult calls shifted to whether or the project was a good fit (rather than trying to convince the potential client of your ability)?

What would it feel like to have someone eager to work with you? Eager to pay you?

When you are confident in your work and in what you can deliver – you’ll attract clients who are eager to pay for the outcome.

Clients who are willing to invest in solutions will treat you like a strategic partner.

See how this builds on itself?

What would it feel like to be seen as a strategic partner rather than a worker bee? To have your time respected and your messages read and responded to thoughtfully? To have a client who trusts that you’ll find the right outcome as partners and doesn’t freak out with every step?

With a strong design process in place, you’ll be able to position yourself as a leader and a partner. You’ll attract clients looking to work with someone who is a collaborative and strategic vs a worker bee designer.

The first step to better clients and better pay is building a solid, dependable, collaborative design system.

How to get better design projects and better clients as a freelance designer and charge more for your design work.

Author: Christine Thatcher

Christine Thatcher is the founder of Christine Marie Studio, a boutique design agency dedicated to helping visionary entrepreneurs infuse their personalities into profitable virtual platforms. She combines 27 years of design experience to guide her clients through the web design process. Also the creator of Designing to Delight, a brand dedicated to teaching designers how to build collaborative client relationships so they can charge more for their work.