The thing is, web design is really only a small part of what I do, and it took me a few years to really understand what I was doing differently than other designers.
Making The Leap
I took the leap and became my own business owner. I knew if I was going to continue to push my career and skills to new heights, it was time to have more control and flexibility over my projects, my working style, and my schedule (I’m a night owl!).
Over the years, I began to work with more and more businesses who already had WordPress websites, and weren’t interested in working with a CMS they’d never heard of, let alone knew how to work with! I knew I had to make the switch, and began teaching myself how to work with WordPress.
Figuring It Out As You Go
When my developer took on full-time employment and was no longer available, I decided it was time to learn! I would take themes apart, and put them back together. I would copy/paste snippets from one theme to another, and edit pieces to see what would happen. Slowly but surely I began to get comfortable with WordPress.
For the last 4 years I’ve been working consistently with various WordPress themes as a starting point for my customization, and most recently I can safely say that WordPress has helped me significantly reduce my development time!
From Web Design To Digital Strategy
Now the best part about figuring out a smooth project workflow, is that you have more time to devote to the most important part of the project, which is creating solutions to your clients’ business challenges.
At the time I didn’t know the full-extent of what this title encapsulated, but I was so keen to learn anything that could to give me an edge. I had no idea these were things that a design agency could even do! It was basically business design, and I was hooked!
The Missing Link
Naturally, I began participating in Facebook Groups. I noticed a lot of designers were more focused on design details, and not so much on how they could help their clients meet real business goals. For those freelancers who had never worked in an agency before… they weren’t even necessarily aware of the possibilities!
More and more I started to realize that a large part of my project process involved strategy work, which was allowing me to have a steady stream of work at a high price point (while many designers at a lower price point were struggling). The key, I believe, was shifting from being “just a designer” to being a digital strategist; someone that could look at all aspects of a business, and find ways to connect the dots, streamline the business, and create more value for their clients.
At the end of the day, people don’t really want “web design,” they want more customers, more sales, a better experience with their clients, etc. Web design is just one of the many tools in your toolkit to help your client grow their business. I didn’t want to contribute to more websites that looked pretty, but didn’t actually increase sales for my clients.
I believe designers can’t really afford not to learn about business, strategy, and marketing.