How to Stay Ahead of the Competition
Did you know that becoming a certified designer isn’t the end of your journey towards a professional career? Once you’re working in the industry, your next challenge is to stand out amongst the competition! There are many different steps you can take to set yourself apart from the crowd.
1. Seek additional training
Just because you’re officially certified doesn’t mean you can’t continue learning.
Look into master classes designed to perfect your skills and take them to the next level. If you’ve already complete master classes, think about expanding your skill set. Perhaps learning a complimentary art or trade will be helpful?
Clients might be excited to learn that you can decorate their living room and then help them organize their kitchen, too!
2. Practice and learn
You already know that the best design professionals are always learning. There are, however, other ways to learn outside of completing additional training.
Keep up with the latest trends by following blogs, vlogs, and other industry-related publications. Consider finding a mentor in the community who can challenge your skills and help you learn new ones. Mastering trends keeps your skills and services in fashion and makes sure you’re always evolving.
3. Network on and offline
In the design industry, one of the best ways to get new clients is by referral. Clients who are very happy with your work will tell their friends about their wonderful experience.
Clients aren’t the only people who might refer you, though. Other professionals within the industry can recommend you to their clients or business contacts as well. Network using your social media platforms and by attending tradeshows to build professional relationships with contractors, photographers, architects and so on. You don’t want to force your business card on anyone, but you do want to get your name out there as much as possible.
4. Establish a solid brand
Many designers work professionally, but they don’t necessarily build an actual brand. Whether you’re working with a design firm or concentrating on freelance contracts, establishing your own recognizable brand complete with a name and logo can be to your benefit. You’ll appear organized, professional, and legitimate compared to other professionals who haven’t built a marketable image yet.
5. Be proactive about opportunities
Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, great opportunities will find you. The most successful professionals, however, are those who seek out opportunities for themselves between contracts.
Down time is nice, but you should use it to create styled shoots, submit your work to publications, build your online presence, and network. Stay professional and avoid being too forward, but put your name out there and show people that you’re ready to work.
6. Specialize but stay diverse
One unique way to stand out from the crowd is to become an expert in something. If you’re the only designer in the area that offers feng shui services, you’ll have cornered part of your local market. Anyone looking for that service will come to you.
But having a specialization doesn’t mean that’s the only kind of service you should offer. Keep your skills diverse and stay current in other areas of design so you can still give clients a full range of services.
7. Build a positive reputation
Even something as simple as your attitude toward clients can help to set you apart from the crowd.
Being professional is important, but if you’re friendly, approachable, and fun to work with, you’ll build a reputation for giving clients positive experiences. Clients who enjoyed your company AND your skills will refer you to their friends and write more positive reviews about your services, which means more clients for you!
8. Be innovative
Remember that most of your clients probably aren’t professional designers. Even those who want a simple redesign will be drawn to you if you can show them a mix of what they’re looking for and the true creativity you’re capable of. Displaying your most innovative or unique events alongside your fundamental skills shows clients that you’re well rounded. This will impress them more than designers who only ever display pictures of designs that are safe and trendy, even if that’s what a client will choose.
Show them you’re worth it!
Standing out from the competition isn’t about showing why you’re better than everyone else. Try to rise above constant comparison. You want to show clients why you’re talented and valuable in your own right. By investing time and effort in your own knowledge and skills, you’re investing in your professional career and therefore a better future in design!