Communicate Value over Long Hours of Work as a Designer
The tagline for my newsletter goes as below:
Grow As Designer | Helping Designers Grow Their Value and Income.
It's a bit unclear, right?
What the heck is "Value" anyway? How can you grow it?
Well, there are many meanings to it and ways to grow it for a designer, but let's focus on how you can grow your value by communicating the work you do in the right way.
First, let me make something very clear:
You don't get paid for your work or time.
You get paid for the value you bring.
Read that again, please. A few times actually.
When you apply for a job, you might be thinking,
"I'll work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, do some design work that's assigned to me, and get paid $40k a year."
The business owner thinks differently,
"Oykun is applying for a job. Can he solve our complex design problems? Design is crucial for this project, can he provide top-quality work?"
Spot the difference in these two sentences.
Yes, the whole f*** thing!
You're focused on the input (time and work), but the business owner is focused on the outcome (value).
Then you wonder why you didn't get the job or are not getting paid well.
You can talk for hours about how hard you work, how many hours you put into your work... These mean nothing to very little to the business owner.
Start talking about how you can improve their business with design, and they will be all ears.
I need you to change the way you look at design.
I need you to look at the design from the value perspective.
Let me give you a clear example:
In an agency world, you can often see junior or senior designers working damn hard for long hours, doing an amazing job and getting paid less than the creative director who does the usual working hours. Or you can work as a waitress 12 hours a day. It is noble and hard work, but you won't earn as much as an experienced designer earns in 1 hour.
I don't mean to put the money as the core criterion here. There is more to what we do and why we do it than the money. However, this simplifies things to make a point here, plus let's be honest, for some money is the main reason.
So, as a result;
Working hard or long doesn't determine how much you earn.
Now you may say;
"OK, Oykun, but how can I use this for my benefit today as a designer?"
There are a few aspects from doing the "valuable design work" to communicating the "value in your design" and more...
Let's focus on the latter now by changing the way you communicate your design work to your existing or new potential clients.
Let's look at both cases:
You're a full-time designer talking to your employer, you might be saying: "I stayed till late past few days in the office to finish this. It was a lot of work, it took me 3 days. I think it does the job well."
Your employer might think: "OK. Get to the point. What did you design?"
Instead, saying something like this would benefit you vastly better:
You: "I put in extra hours yesterday to design this new direction where we enable users to achieve their goals with less friction. This can differentiate our offer from the competition."
Employer: "That's cool! Let's explore that. What other ideas do you have? What do you need to explore these ideas?"
You're a freelance designer talking to a potential client: "I'm the hardest working designer you will ever find. I will put in all the hours and hard work for this project."
Client in his head: "Yes, yes, OK. You work hard. Are you going to ask me to pay for the more hours? Why more hours? What about the outcome? ..."
You focused on the input, time and hard work, which doesn't mean much to the client.
You: "I understand you are trying to achieve goal x with this SaaS product for the y type of user. There are various ways I'd approach delivering a solution via design. However, based on my limited knowledge for the time being, direction z may be a good place to start with. This would enable users to complete their task with less friction."
Client: "OK! Interesting idea! That could work well, especially for the user type c. I wonder what other ideas she has!"
The potential client is all ears now! You are communicating the value you can bring, not what a hard-working designer you are.
The mind-blowing part is that; the work you do can be the exact same design in both cases.
Sometimes all it takes to earn 5x times more is how you phrase it, and how you communicate your design.
Businesses are interested in the outcome and value while most designers focus on communicating the input by time and work.