The key to being a successful freelance designer, one that is in high demand and thus never without work, is very simple. Be of value.
Sure, you need to know your design stuff. Like being able to listen to your stakeholders or business owners. Translate ideas and requirements into designs. You need to excell in all the appropriate design tooling, obviously. Be able to create prototypes and work with design systems. Jadeja…
That’s just all the basics that allow you to call yourself a designer in the first place.
How to be of value?
Always be asking questions
Ask any and all questions you have in your head. And I know you have lots of them because valuable designers make connections that others will not see. You know, I even think that stupid questions are best. They might sound stupid in your head, but often represents a use case no one has thought about. Could be irrelevant or could just save the day.
If you stop asking, you stop caring!
Assist your Product Owner.
Evaluate or create user stories from the (interaction) design perspective. Don’t let user stories get picked up or “moved to done” without your blessing. Heck, it should be in the ‘definition of done’ that design input and a design review are a requirement.
Don’t like administrative work and just want to play with Figma all day? Okay, perhaps this post is just not for you.
Align with everyone on your team.
Designers are sometimes scared of talking to developers. They might reject or tear down your design. Or perhaps you are not very good at speaking “developer”.
But… if you feel like you should just be able to dream up every outrageous design and that the developers need to shut up and just build it… this post is definitely not for you!
Early discussions with backenders, frontenders, architects, business analysts and even the testers (sorry, Quality Assurance) are vital to good design.
Designers that can do all that and are able to facilitate these alignments where all parties leave feeling like they’ve been heard and look forward to this project… these designers you need for your team! You’ll want to be this designer. You want to be this valuable!
When you finally connect the dots, after collecting input from all angles, you get to design a piece of art! A thing that is not just feasible and usable (and obviously valuable to the business and user), but most importantly: something that everyone is proud of.
Remember: developers are not your toolbox, just like your stakeholders shouldn’t use you as their pencil… Respect the craft and professionalism of everyone in your team and use the combined knowledge as a force only once seen… in a galaxy far, far away.
Thanks for reading. You are amazing, you know that, right?!