Take Time to Give Time
Managing Your Time to Build Genuine Relationships
The secret to great relationships is one that is built over time. There is no great mystery that consistency, trust and care play decisive roles. You make time for what is worthwhile and important to you. This can be demonstrated in scheduling calls and personal conversations with team members or clients, reaching out to someone to grab a coffee or giving your thoughts or feedback in a discussion feed.
As designers, competing on design skills and creativity is becoming increasingly difficult. Talent is getting better and technology is evolving daily. We can reach potential clients all over the world, creating an international market - and competition. But competition should not scare you, rather competition should push you to focus. Discovering and employing your niche is only part of the journey. The next step is establishing yourself in the industry as someone who is relevant and reliable in their chosen craft.
How does one do this? I am still learning and implementing tips that I have received from mentors, team mates and fellow professionals. It is great to surround yourself with other like-minded creatives and businesses. In my case, I am pursuing my own soloprenuer business as a Branding and Graphic Designer. The following are notes about building professional relationships that I am integrating in my work today:
Use Technology to Build Valuable Relationships, Not Superficial Ones
Take advantage of technology. As I said, we are in a global market. We can make connections with people and businesses around the world. However, I believe, there is a difference between a connection and a relationship. A cold call or response to a job posting does not leave much incentive to engage. But when we take the time to read about a business or decipher how our skills can help with a project, then we are adding value in the mind of a client.
This offering of value or attention demonstrates that we have a client’s interest in mind. I have learned that if you respect someone’s time, you respect their money and business. Setting up calls and exchanging emails are opportunities to learn more about another person. We are not dealing with prospective design projects, rather people that have goals and dreams. Are we willing to offer them a human experience that cares or just a skill set that can get a job done? Don’t get me wrong, that expectation to complete projects is important, but in a competitive market, clients are likely to call on those they know care about their business than those who may not.
Building Your Portfolio with Your Clients and End Goal in Mind
When studying design, we were taught how to do multiple things: video, illustration, graphic design, layout design, motion graphics, etc. Yet, I know for myself that I am not a master in all of these fields. I knew my niche very quickly, because I stuck with what I was good at and what I enjoy doing. It can be mind-boggling to see the shift in the creative and marketing industry - there is no longer a need for a jack-of-all-trades, rather highly skilled professionals in their chosen field.
That being said, does your portfolio showcase what you are all about? It does not make sense to have logo designs in a portfolio of an animator or brochure designs for a photographer. Unless you may actually do multiple media. But do they compliment each other? Do these combinations make sense in a client’s point of view?
In short, highlight the work that you are not only passionate and confident in, but also the work you want to engage a client with. I enjoy opportunities to work on a logo design and branding project, so that is what I exhibit in my portfolio - to show that I am interested in these types of projects and that I am capable. So instead of solely building up your portfolio with a variety of disciplines, it is better to show and tell how you can build with others business, products and experiences that matter to you and your client.
Humility and Perseverance Go a Long Way
When I admitted that I did not know everything to a couple of professionals for a meet up, I was surprised to hear them say that I was brave. It did not make sense. I thought to be professional meant that you could do everything and that you know everything. Not to say that having this knowledge discredits you. I know there is still so much I need to learn about how to run a business, negotiating and communicating with clients and so on. But to know that there are people that value honesty and sincerity is professionally and personally affirming.
These colleagues told me, to stay humble and I will go far. A modest approach to the creative industry seems counter-intuitive. In an industry that markets and advertises to the masses, I realized an attractive trait in business that people respond to is humility. There may be negative connotations to it, such as weakness or incompetence. However, this quiet self-giving temperament actually shows perseverance and care to the people who value it most.
In a world of relationships, the ones that last are fought for and made time for. When we make the time to know the faces and stories behind a company or brand, it humanizes a professional connection that can easily be cold. Be honest, humble and persevere in your relationships, professional or personal, and you will find that, at the end, all of it was time well spent. ■