How valuable are you? 8 expert tips to get more design work

It really sucks when you lose out on valuable freelance design work, especially when you thought you were the perfect fit.

Even if you have the best looking portfolio, you can still be overlooked if another designer offers the client more value.

But what exactly is value? We often think of it as the ROI of a particular design, but you should also consider your value as an individual designer. You need to consider how you can communicate your creative talent (which is hard to measure) and shine light on your value. What potential can you offer a company? How do you offer more value to a client to make sure you don’t get over looked?

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve brought together eight expert tips on making sure you stand out from the crowd.

1. Be more results-driven

Designers can bring a lot more to the table than .sketch and .PSD files. Click To Tweet

“As a designer we can bring a lot more to the table than .sketch and .PSD files. Become more results driven by understanding the problems you’re solving. Also grasp an understanding of analytics (A great book is Lean Analytics), so you can start to support your design decision with cold hard facts over gut feelings.”

– “Design is not the most valuable skill for designers” – Michael Wong, Mizko Design 

2. Explain your thought process

The most important asset a designer can have is his or her thought process. Click To Tweet

“High-level clients – the kind you want to go after as a high-demand designer – are far more interested in what you were thinking about when you created the work in your portfolio, rather than just the visuals.

Before you meet with a high-level client, it’s helpful to arrange your portfolio so that it tells a story. When you do present your portfolio to a potential client, don’t just show a bunch of pretty pictures, explain the thought that went into your decision-making process.”

– “How To Become A High-Demand Designer (And Get the Good Clients)” –  Addison Duvall, Author

3. Strong communication skills are essential

Your resume should substantiate the entire spectrum of your communication skills. Click To Tweet

“Communication is a top skill valued in nearly every profession, but it becomes especially important in the design industry. Communicating in relation to design deliverables is paramount, as are verbal and written presentation skills. Your resume should substantiate the entire spectrum of your communication skills.”

– “The 10 Most Valuable Skills To Put On Your Design Resume” –  Creative Market

4. Show how your designs solved problems…

A portfolio should reveal problems previous clients had and how a design decision solved… Click To Tweet

“A portfolio should reveal problems previous clients and employers had and how a design decision solved them. When examining their work, you should be asking yourself, “does this portfolio show improvement and growth over time, and how did these designs solve specific problems?”

When hiring a designer, remember too that you are not just hiring for a skillset. A designer needs to be an excellent communicator with everyone on the team. They need to understand the business and its aims, the developers and their constraints, and the users and their goals. This requires excellent communication skills between different types of people and a thorough understanding of a business as a whole.”

– “The Guide to Hiring the Best Designer for Your Team” – James Richman, Content Marketing and Publishing 

5. But go beyond problems too

Design's just a way of interrogating relationships and acting upon them with an… Click To Tweet

“Using problems as a lens for design is convenient because there isn’t a common understanding of what design is. We all talk about it in different ways. Sometimes it’s the challenge of creating that perfect radius or one-piece unibody for a new mobile device. Sometimes it’s a new layout for a newspaper. Sometimes it’s a new shoe. Sometimes it’s an old object that entirely describes an old culture. For me it’s just a way of interrogating relationships and acting upon them with an agenda.”

– “Why Design is Not Problem Solving + Design Thinking Isn’t Always the Answer” – Rob Peart, AIGA Eye on Design

6. Balance desirability, feasibility, and viability

The best outcome lies at the intersection of desirability, feasibility, and viability. Click To Tweet

“In almost all cases, “perfection” does not define success—rather, the best outcome lies at the intersection of desirability, feasibility, and viability…When we balance desirability, feasibility, and viability, we increase the value of our design solutions—but how do we know whether these requirements have been met or not?”

– “The value of balancing desirability, feasibility, and viability” – Crowd Favorite

7. Make design choices that communicate value

My job as a designer is to help communicate my clients’ message to their visitors Click To Tweet

“According to researchers at the University of Michigan, more complicated typography styles tend to make the reader feel like what is being written is more requires more skill and effort.

Why, as a web designer, would I even be concerned about this? Because my job as a designer is to help communicate my clients’ message to their website visitors, ultimately resulting in some sort of profitable action–signing up for a newsletter, buying a product, or requesting more information.

So, if I want the visitor to feel like a product or service is complicated (and therefore more valuable), I want to portray that through the design–specifically the typography. The opposite is also true. If we want to portray that something is easy, we want to use a very simple font style that is easy to read.”

– “The Secret to Making Something Seem More Valuable” – Kama Wilson, Founder at Peppermint 

8. Quality over quantity

Your portfolio should only be for your best work. Click To Tweet

A huge mistake that many new designers make is trying to incorporate every decent project that they’ve ever done into their portfolio. Your portfolio should only be for your best work. If you mix in mediocre work with your best, employers won’t know what to expect from you. Get a professional to help you identify your top work, and resist the temptation to add anything else – it will only water down your final effort.

– “Create a valuable graphic design portfolio” – International Academy of Design & Technology, Seattle


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Joe Scarffe

Joe Scarffe

Joe is the Community and Marketing Manager and is currently finishing up a PhD in music at Birmingham Conservatoire and still hasn’t got over his addiction to coffee. He loves getting involved in crazy music projects and plays the bassoon, oboe, piano, recorder and guitar. He also makes lots of electronic music and loves collaborating. He sings too if you ask nicely and once shamefully sang as a backing singer for Will Young. When he’s not moaning about the state of the music industry or public transport in Manchester, he works with the Twine community and handles social media, the blog and partnerships with companies and institutions.

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Joe Scarffe

Joe Scarffe

Joe is the Community and Marketing Manager and is currently finishing up a PhD in music at Birmingham Conservatoire and still hasn’t got over his addiction to coffee.

He loves getting involved in crazy music projects and plays the bassoon, oboe, piano, recorder and guitar. He also makes lots of electronic music and loves collaborating. He sings too if you ask nicely and once shamefully sang as a backing singer for Will Young.

When he’s not moaning about the state of the music industry or public transport in Manchester, he works with the Twine community and handles social media, the blog and partnerships with companies and institutions.