Skills pay. They just do. It’s the skills and knowledge combined that actually empowers individuals to make money and fulfill their dreams. While most skills require a one-time “training”, web designers have it slightly different: skills aren’t static for web designers for the simple reason that web technologies, by themselves, are dynamic.
For web designers, the need to upgrade skills is just as frequent, mandated, and proportionate to how the Internet evolves. Starting 2013, what skills should a web designer need? What’s up for grabs? How should a web designer or developer differentiate from a seemingly growing base of competitive designers? Let’s find out:
Start with the obvious technical skills
Web designers aren’t developers, but now there’s an increasing need to nose into development as designers go about designing websites as a part of their jobs. No web design is complete without the functionality that web programming brings to the table.
As you can see, web designers are morphing into developers. Since businesses are looking for functional websites, designers will need all-rounded skill development. Web designers will also need mastery with tools such as Dreamweaver, Photoshop, AfterEffects, and tons of other web design and web development specific tools.
There’s a lot to do. What are you up to?
Without marketing skills, technical skills are wasted
Designers with jobs might tend to think that they don’t need to market, but they do. Everyone needs to sell. Even if you were looking for a web design related job, you’d need great marketing skills to pitch your services to your employer. Just as a freelancer would, you’d typically have a web-based portfolio, indulge in self-study, show up at multiple-interviews, and make a hard sell to get employed.
If you were a freelance web designer, you’d have slightly more work to do than an employee. Develop skills, set up your own website, create a portfolio, share and get feedback on your work on popular design communities such as Behance.com, build your network, interact on social media, and actually generate leads for your freelancing business.
Clearly, the need for marketing sometimes supersedes the need for technical skills mentioned above for some web designers. In 2013, and counting years from now on, developing skills to present yourself professionally and to market your professional web services is the need of the hour.
Adapt to grow
This isn’t the 1990s. Nothing is permanent. Changes are imminent. Freelancers as well as employees never know what’s going to happen next. Employees can lose their jobs or technology could make your skill worthless or redundant. Freelance web designers already know the difficulty of acquiring and retaining clients. Long-term work in web design is a rarity (unless you score some long-term website management/maintenance contracts).
As such, one of the skills web designers will need today is the ability to adapt. The more you adapt and work with the flow, the more you grow. The ability to stomach uncertainty, the capability to work with numbers to ensure a certain degree of predictability (and to pay the bills, of course), and the ability to retain clients are critical skills to develop.
To adapt quickly and work in the present while planning for any eventuality in the future is a rare skill. It’s a must, though.
If you can’t adapt, you are dead.
Staying ahead of the curve
A web designer must always be on the lookout, much like a lone soldier in a battle zone. It’s not enough to be “reactive”; there’s a compelling need to be “proactive”. For instance, you can’t wait until a project comes up through your employer or your clients to design an eCommerce store using Magento. You can’t possibly wait until demands show up to understand and implement web technologies. Prepare yourself before such a request even comes up. Be on the lookout for new skills to acquire, absorb new knowledge as it comes up, and snap new tools as soon as they are launched and master them.
You got to be clairvoyant. Sample the life of a visionary. Make it a habit to make predictions and act on your own to be ready for changes as they happen. Changes, by the way, are a certainty.
Understanding Business and not just technology
Once upon a time, running a business was an entrepreneur’s headache. Web designers would step in, design a website, host it up on servers, and let it go. Designers will move on and the business is left on its own to make the best of the website it just spent money on.
Today, business owners don’t just need a website; they need a web-based machine that works to get them leads, help them convert web visitors into long-term clients, and to allow them to integrate with social media. Business owners need solutions, and not just websites.
As a web designer, you are no longer expected to deliver excellent web designs (this is taken for granted). As a web designer, you are expected to be an Internet marketing consultant. While it does start with a website, requirements go full steam ahead into Internet marketing.
Are you up to it?
While this might not be a necessary skill for every web designer, it’s certainly important for designers who want to grow their business or for designers who are currently employed but hope to start a web design company or agency in the future.
Growing a business isn’t the same as freelancing: it necessitates scaling up, hiring people, investing in resources, building assets, and sustaining a company. Given today’s economic scenario, it’s a great time to start a company. To do that, however, it requires the elusive skill of entrepreneurship. You’ll need all of the skills mentioned above along with the ability to find great people, ability to take risks, ability to plan and manage multiple projects, deal with variable workflows, and much more.
As you end up doing business with clients throughout the world, you’ll need skills to manage clients, manage product deliveries, ensure quality of service, establish a paranoid customer support, and compete with many other web design agencies worldwide.
If you don’t master the art of entrepreneurship, it just sucks your life away from you.
What are the skills you’ve mastered recently? What books have you read? What courses are you taking up today? How do you picture yourself 2-3 years down the line?
How skilled are you?