As a web designer you’re expected to have a certain skillset that includes being creative, having design skills, knowing how to use Photoshop, and more. These are known as hard skills; however, to be a successful web designer, you’ll also need some other skills that go along with your design skills. These other skills are called “soft skills.”
Soft skills are those that are not necessary for designing a beautiful website or creating a stunning logo. Instead, these are skills that make you a more well-rounded web designer and work to build your business. These soft skills are needed in order to have a successful business.
Non-Design Skills Every Web Designer Needs
As a designer, you may dismiss these skills as not that important. But they can determine how successful you and your business will be. What soft skills do you need to be successful? Let’s take a look!
OK—most of us aren’t accountants. Why it is necessary to know how to manage finances? Can’t we just use accounting software like Quickbooks? Isn’t it possible to hire an accountant? The answer to these questions is yes but there’s a “however.” Your financial management skills need to go beyond accounting. Here’s what you’ll need to know to make your business a success:
- Cash flow: do you know what current industry rates are running? Without this information, you won’t be able to put together a competitive price or package, negotiate for higher rates, etc. You may not be charging enough, which means you could be earning more. You’re leaving money on the table.
- Discuss proposals and contracts: do you know how to put together a proposal and a contract? What details should be included? Important information to include are prices, fees, payment schedules and more.
- How to handle a client who is not paying: to you know how to deal with a non-paying client? How much can you charge in late fees? Do you know what actions to take when a client is non-paying?
- Budgets: these are the basis for the financial management of your company. Without insight offered by budgets, you could be overspending and/or may not have a positive cashflow or make a profit.
These are all important skills to becoming a successful web design. You’ll need to learn these skills to ensure the growth and stability of your business.
Sales & Marketing
Most web designers don’t see themselves as salespeople or marketers. Their job is to create stunning websites! Why do you need to be concerned with sales and marketing?
Here, we’re not talking about being like a car salesman. No. Instead, what we’re talking about is simple sales and marketing knowledge. What you need to sell your business and design skill includes:
- Knowledge of your niche: who is your target audience & where to do the “live” online
- Knowledge of your customers’ pain point: why does your target audience need a web designer?
- Knowledge on how to present your business as the right solution
This knowledge brings together exactly what’s needed for your business. You need to target your marketing and sales efforts at the right audience, where they live online (for example through social media, ads, and more). Next, figure out why your target audience needs a web designer, and make sure your services meet their needs. Then you’ll be able to present your skills in such as way that lets potential clients see you as the right solution for their needs.
This is why sales and marketing skills are needed as a web designer.
What happens when you have several projects going at one time? How will you make sure each project gets done on time, if not before the deadline? As a web designer, it’s easy to have more than one project and quickly become overwhelmed. What will you do when things get hectic?
To keep things balanced and moving forward, without the chaos, is to develop project and time management skills. We understand these may not be the most exciting skills to develop. With that said, good project and time management skills are what will save you in times of chaos.
You can learn how to:
- Create processes: these are step-by-step series of actions/steps needed to complete a project
- Document your processes (write them down and store them where you can easily reference them)
- Use tools to help you keep it managed
- Learn how to create realistic, accurate timelines and milestones, then deliver them
- Manage your work time and keep your focus
With a firm process, you’ll find it much easier to reach milestones and finish projects on time. Your clients will be impressed and happy, which are both great for your business. Clients will want to work with you again and will be more than happy to refer others to you.
Communication with Clients
Working with clients means you’ll need to develop your communication skills. Communication is all about building a relationship, one that has two-way communication. This means you’ll need to actually listen to your clients to understand their needs. You’ll also have to know how to communicate with people who may not be the ideal client or when there are problems that need to be resolved.
A successful web designer needs to have these communication skills:
- Learn how to garner clients’ trust, command their respect and avoid doubts developing in their minds.
- Learn how to set boundaries. As in any healthy relationship, certain boundaries are necessary. Let your clients know what they can expect, but don’t let them cross those boundaries and limits.
- Avoid using jargon such as “Responsive design.” They won’t have a clue, so speak on terms they can understand, without speaking down to them.
- Act professionally in all situations.
- Stay calm, even if the client is on a rant. For instance, if a client sends a rather negative email, wait a while before sending a response. This allows your emotions to calm down and to respond in a professional manner.
- Learn how to accept feedback and criticism.
Solving problems with your business or clients is also an essential soft skill. For instance, if you have completed a website for a client, and they call in with a tech issue, would you know how to solve it? Or what if a potential client says they need a website completed in 10 days, how do you respond?
You’ll need to develop the ability to solve problems in a timely, creative manner. But remember to stick to your processes and maintain boundaries with the client. Put together some resources that could be a good help for you and/or your clients to solve problems effectively.
If you don’t have these skills now, then it’s not too late to start working on them. Once you gain these skills, you and your web design business will gain new clients willing to pay the prices you quote. These are the soft skills you’ll need to be a successful designer to build your web design business.