The design field has been overcrowded for many years. That isn’t going to change any time soon.
There’s always more experts than highly-valuable clients and projects. On top of that, some know how to use software tools and claims to be experts.
For all of these reasons, professionals need to come up with ways to stand out from other designers. Differentiation is key to getting noticed.
This is not only true for freelancers, but also for those forced to look for a new job in this crazy as fuck corona period.
So I decided to put together a couple of tips that have helped on several occasions.
It might seem crazy, but you can cause a lasting impression and be contacted years later, so you shouldn’t discard options.
I hope these tips help you stand out too. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.
Complement your skills
Every couple of years, the market shifts in a certain direction, and the demand for a particular kind of design area is higher than the rest. Recently, it’s all about VR. But does it mean that all of a sudden all of us need to learn how to be VR designers? I don’t think so. While it’s good to continuously learn new skills, you should do it either because you find them interested or add value to what you’re already doing.
Don’t let trends guide the decision on where you invest time and money. The design field will evolve with time. It’s up to you to know what will make you stand out from other designers.
Read and learn as much as you can
This might seem like a no brainer, but most designers don’t take the time to investigate other domains.
While it’s perfectly fine to invest in your career and your self-development on your own time, it’s fundamental to understand your client’s world.
This includes, not only knowing the scope of the project, but also taking your time to investigate those things you’re not so familiar with. Terms, procedures, competitors, you name it.
Regardless if it’s a client or your future employer, you should know more than enough to help that person achieve the best possible outcome.
Seek to resolve problems
This point is entirely dependent on the previous one.
When you’re working with someone, your main concern shouldn’t be just that person. It’s also the person they’re trying to reach. It’s your client’s client.
On that note, it’s up to you to be informed and ask as many questions as you possibly can.
Inquire as much as you need, and then design a solution with those answers in mind. As a designer, you will have to take informed actions.
Don’t just make pretty things, your job requires more.
Communication is key to all great designs. If you think that you can spend your life in front of a computer without ever talking to someone, well, you’re in for a surprise.
Notice how, in the previous tip, I referred to working with someone instead of working for someone? It’s the main difference between doing what you’re told and actually doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
Why would you want to be a pixel pusher when you can be a designer?
Accept communication as a tool to have under your belt and use it to work with others instead of working for them.
Manage how you give feedback, how you explain your work, and how others explain it to you.
Direct and clear communication will save you a lot of time and trouble down the road.
It seems like another cliché, but I don’t think we do it enough.
It’s easy to point fingers and blame others when things aren’t going smoothly. And sure, we don’t have to be friends with our clients, but we should try to see their point of view and make them see ours as well. (remember clear communication?)
Step out of your defensive position, and imagine if you’re the one on the other end. What would you do differently? How can you communicate those differences so that everything flows in a better direction?
Don’t worry about others
I go to Behance and to Pinterest a bunch of times, to research and to be inspired. However, sometimes my immediate reaction is to think: why can’t I do work like that? Why am I not as good as that designer?
That’s self-sabotage, and it’s the worst thing you can do to yourself.
I know that I’m not the only one who feels that way and that it’s only normal to seek our peers’ approval and recognition. We’re humans, after all.
But the sooner you realize it isn’t about what others think, or how you compare to them, the quicker you will stand out from other designers.
Why would you want to be like everyone else when you can be different?
Look within you (you have something special already)
What makes you unique is what will make your work unique as well.
Let go of what whoever puts that pressure on you told you to do.
Regardless of if you love knitting and want to design for local knitting clubs, or you’re a fantasy fan who would love to come up with book covers, just do it. Search for what you love and bring that into your work. That’s what’s going to make you stand out from other designers.