How to be hired by the best clients

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December 07, 2015
How to be hired by the best clients.
Hiring a web designer is a bit of a minefield for a budding entrepreneur. Most are not particularly tech-savvy, and the idea of coding a basic site, let alone the implications of responsive design, mobile-first, and content management, is beyond their skill set. They need a good web designer to guide them through the process, but with literally tens of thousands of available web designers, how do you make sure they pick you? A successful career in web design is all about winning the right clients, so how do you get hired by exceptional businesses? Focus on these traits, to ensure you’re exactly what your next favorite client is looking for.

Start with an honest profile

It’s easy to rate yourself as knowing 99% of Photoshop, or having 95% skill in UX. But that probably doesn’t help you stand out from the crowd. When they look for a new hire, businesses start with two lists: must-haves, and nice-to-haves. Of course no one will fit all the parameters—nobody is perfect—but matching most of the must-haves and some of the nice-to-haves is a good foundation for a happy working relationship. Most candidates will have most of the must-have skills, so it’s the nice-to-haves that give you the opportunity to shine. For example, if a company is looking to hire an experienced iOS developer then Swift will be a minimum requirement; knowing JavaScript may not be required, but it’s a great way to give yourself a few bonus points in your prospective employer’s eyes. [pullquote]if you’re not a good fit for a role, then you’ll be much happier waiting for the next opportunity than trying to be someone you’re not[/pullquote] As well as must-have skills and nice-to-have skills, which are termed “hard skills”, you need to identify your “soft skills”. Soft skills are like personality traits. For example, if the prospective employer is building a remote team, your ability to self-motivate, and work without supervision are invaluable assets. If the entrepreneur in question has very little experience, then highlighting your experience of teaching—whether in person, or via blogging—is a great way to show that you’ll be able to communicate complex ideas about their business, and walk them through the web design process. In addition to your hard and soft skills, entrepreneurs also want someone who fits within their company culture. Everyone likes to work with someone they get on with. It’s important that you gain an in-depth understanding of your personality so you can communicate it. But be honest, if you’re not a good fit for a role, then you’ll be much happier waiting for the next opportunity than trying to be someone you’re not.

In demand traits

Now that you know who you are, and what you have to offer, focus on the traits that successful entrepreneurs are looking for.

Lone wolf vs. team player

Most designers and developers are used to working alone, and most enjoy it; designers and developers need a distraction-free zone. However, entrepreneurs are building teams that are greater than the sum of their parts. Demonstrating that you can thrive in both situations makes you very hireable. [pullquote]Businesses rightly value designers who can work without supervision, but are also team players[/pullquote] Expect to work remotely, but be able to communicate regularly and respond quickly to inquiries. It’s important to ensure that you can attend mandatory meetings. Businesses rightly value designers who can work without supervision, but are also team players.

Ability to meet deadlines

A good web designer has no problem hitting deadlines. Clients, even good clients, often make changes to a brief that causes a deadline to be missed, but it should be rare. Remember that from the entrepreneur’s point of view they are running a team; if you’re a day late with your mockups then the developers have to deliver a day early to keep the project on track.

Open to feedback

The ability to take constructive criticism is an important trait for a web designer. If an employee can’t handle negative feedback then they’re unlikely to be a good fit on a team of any kind. If you produce work that doesn’t get approved, accept that it’s nothing personal, if you’re able to do this, then you’re more like to get a second chance. The other side of this coin is that employers and clients often need, and expect, your feedback. A large part of your role is guiding a client effectively, so they can make the best use of your skills and experience.

An impressive (and honest) portfolio

Entrepreneurs will check your portfolio extensively. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon to find amazing portfolios that contain work that doesn’t belong to the designer. Be prepared to talk in detail about any of your past work. Present case-studies that you can show your involvement in. And never ever exaggerate the work you’ve done.

Knowledge of best practices

A good web designer can produce mock-ups that can be coded without hacks or experimental features. Even if you don’t code your own designs, you should have an in-depth understanding of the implications of what you’re designing. Accessibility, SEO, and maintenance should all be considered.

An ability to learn and grow

Adaptability and willingness to learn are key traits of a good designer. Web design is constantly evolving, with new standards, trends, and technology emerging every month. A valuable designer can adapt to these changes easily. Whether it’s ensuring compliance with regulations, or reinventing a site to adhere to a full rebrand.

Being the perfect team member

Remember, even if the only people involved are you and the client, every web project is built by a team. To be the perfect member of a team, your hard and soft skills, and your personality traits need to compliment the rest of the team. Being a successful hire, is as much about making sure that the project fits you, as you fit the project. [pullquote]even if the only people involved are you and the client, every web project is built by a team[/pullquote] There will always be another project, so if you’re not a good fit, politely say so and move on. When you find a project that is a good fit for you, it’s up to you to determine exactly what the prospective client is looking for. Whether you’re hoping to be hired onto a team in a permanent role, or produce work on a freelance basis, the key to getting hired is to fit what the entrepreneur is looking for to supplement his or her team. Must-have skills are essential, but it’s nice-to-have skills, and personality traits that will help you stand out from the competition. Featured image, success image via Shutterstock.

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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