Designers: What Are You Actually Selling?


Seems like an easy question to answer, doesn’t it? If you’re a designer, you want to sell your design services: perhaps logo design, print design, web design, interface design and so forth.

The reality? Yeah, you should be selling that. But there’s much more that you should be selling. You should be selling comfort, reliability, and likeability along with, or even above, your design competence.

Designers: what are you actually selling?

What Are You Talking About?

Think about it. There are a million designers out there who can lay out a solid print piece (although the print-only designer is a dying breed). How is the client going to choose between you and the competition when the differences may be so slight as to be unnoticeable to the non-designer eye? He/she is likely not going to choose you based on your miniscule edge in typesetting. If you win the job, it’ll be because you’ve demonstrated reliability and personability, while creating a sense of general comfort for the client (along with showcasing the required competence at your craft, of course).

Ask yourself: what do your design clients care about? Clients want to know they are hiring someone who will prompty return emails; someone who will hit deadlines; someone who will actively listen to the problems that need solving; someone who they will enjoy getting together with for a meeting. If you’re in contact with the client, it’s likely they’ve already seen your work and feel that your design skills are up to par. It’s these other characteristics that will close the deal.

Take a look at your collateral and general business practices. If all you talk about is the fact that you have design chops, you are missing an opportunity.

Opportunities to Sell Comfort & Reliability

Now that you know you need to sell a feelings of comfort, reliability, and likeability, the next step is to figure out where the opportunities lie to communicate these things effectively. Here’s a few to get you started:

  • Your brand: everything starts with your brand. If you want to sell the characteristics mentioned above, you need to work them into your writing voice; your tagline; your color choices; and so on.
  • Your website: a website is often the first point of contact with a potential client. Use the right copy, photographs, and general aesthetic/feeling of the site to communicate the fact that you’re not only a skilled designer: you’re a reliable & likeable designer.
  • In meetings: face-to-face meetings, and how you conduct yourself in them, can make or break a project. Show up a few minutes early. Don’t look like you just rolled out of bed. Buy your client coffee. Ask the right questions about project goals, timelines, responsibilities, and so forth.
  • In your community: get involved in your business community. For example, I’m a part organizer of WordCamp Edmonton, and I try to make it out to business events when possible. Attending events like these will give you opportunities to build relationships and a reputation as (hopefully) a reliable, likeable person with potential clients (really, everyone in your community should be viewed as a potential client).

And while I’m focusing on designers, this method of thinking and these opportunies apply to a variety of other industries as well.

So, What Are We Really Selling?

We are designers. We are skilled designers. But it’s more than that: we are reliable and likeable designers who are skilled at our craft. We know it… but do our clients?

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