What Really Makes a Designer Successful Specialist?

The secret ingredient of true greatness

Erik Messaki     |      April 11, 2023

You work like a dog. It’s been ages since your eyes saw anything except the screen. You have mastered every conceivable skill, learned to use the newest tools, and created numerous excellent projects. But there’s always someone ahead of you, celebrating their triumph at the top. Why the injustice? What more can you do? Should you try for the next extra mile?

Actually, there’s a better solution. You just haven’t been told about it. It may well be the epiphany that will revolutionize your approach.

Let’s recall the things a web designer has to know

I’m not even going to list them here. You are doubtlessly familiar with all the hard and soft skills required. Here’s a typical roundup: ​​web-designer-skills. There are a zillion similar articles online. But not one of them mentions one very important skill.

If you fail to learn even half the skills on the list but acquire this one competence, you will achieve more than all the Figma grinders, UX/UI deep miners, faithful trend followers, and serial course-takers combined.

This one single competence can radically change how you approach design.

Learn to sell. But guess what?

We know that any self-respecting designer must know how to sell their work. They compile a portfolio of their best work, create social media and LinkedIn profiles, try to get as much exposure as possible, take part in contests and battles, and fight to get to the top on Dribbble and Behance… A designer needs to be able to defend their project with reasonable arguments. All these are valuable additions to the store of professional knowledge. You’d think a designer who has mastered all these skills can’t possibly fail. But no dice. A beautiful portfolio does not equal success.

You are selling and promoting yourself. You are selling your design and fret about selling yourself short.

But what you need to be selling is your client’s product.

These are two completely different things. Rearrange your mind and stop selling yourself.

illustration on the landing page that shows a person sitting in front of many displays

Get your head out of the clouds

Many designers look down on any kind of commerce or sales. They are creative, spiritual individuals! Let someone else deal with all that unworthy money stuff. Their job is to create beautiful designs. Do not disturb, artist at work!

Get back to earth, guys. We designers are just another tool for selling stuff, no better or worse than any other marketing tool. The less effort we invest in honing the image of the Grand Poobah of Web Design, the more we can focus on thinking about the client’s needs to get a better result. Paradoxically, that’s when we become real masters of designs.

The secret to successful design is putting all the effort toward selling your client’s product. It doesn’t merely apply to your design skills. You must use all the powers of your intellect, intuition, and natural savvy. Shift your focus from your own precious self to the product. Ask yourself: How do I sell this product or service? What can I do to make customers interested? What do I need to do for them to flock to our product like bees to honey?

No articles or courses on “Selling Design” will help you here. There’s no such thing as a “selling design”; it’s a myth. There are simply designers who are good at selling. Until you start thinking like a salesman, you will never succeed. So let’s get to it.

How to become a selling designer

First off, you have to realize that you won’t get anywhere without knowing something about sales. You can vent your frustration by beating up a punching bag, tearing up your old sketches, or crying over a metaphorical Grave of the Unsung Artist. Feeling better?

Now let’s get to business.

1. Tell yourself: “From now on, I will sell my client’s products more than my services. It’s as much in my interests as in my client’s. We are partners in this business.”

Once you delve into sales, you will be able to understand your client much better. It will be like finally speaking a common language.

Tell your client how much you are interested in helping them sell their product (rather than simply improving their website, developing an app, designing the brand, etc.). But you have to really mean it: you must be sincere in your desire to sell this thing. Observe the effect of your words.

2. Study up on sales. Try to learn as much as possible: how sales work, how to work with customers, how to establish communications, and how to promote products. One sales course is worth a dozen design courses.

3. Create a secret portfolio. No need to show it to anyone, it’s for your eyes only. Add all your successful sales designs, all successful experiences of negotiating with clients, any useful sales-related materials and lifehacks. Don’t let it just sit there like a dead weight: review the portfolio frequently, analyze it, and draw conclusions.

4. Now you’re getting deeper into sales. Don’t tell me it’s boring. Once you look into it and begin studying for real, you’ll find it quite engrossing. You will be excited to try out your newly acquired knowledge in design. You’ll be amazed at your former narrow-mindedness and all the new possibilities opening up before you!

5. To convince others of something, you need to convince yourself first. A good salesman always has confidence in himself. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s competent in everything that has to do with his product and its features. This confidence is automatically transferred to the design. Your designs will be completely different if you really get to know the product. You’ll want to promote it and defend it to the last drop — just like your client (who is also your business partner, remember?).

6. You will start to understand the importance of selling solutions rather designs. You will see new ways of focusing and actualizing user pain and you will be able to come up with brilliant answers.

7. You will see your goal differently: to make the user see the value of the product or service instead of your awesome design. Like it or not, it’s the product the audience needs, not the design. You will come to realize the importance of content over visuals. You will strive to provide the audience with necessary information first and foremost, using design as merely a delivery vehicle for this information.

8. As a selling designer, you will recognize the need to expand communications. You will look for solutions to engage a wider audience, involve more users, and attract more customers. You will become greedier, constantly searching for more — and that’s wonderful!

9. As a salesman, you will actively look for ways to sell your product. This means learning new marketing and psychology tricks, finding effective visual tools for attracting users, devising new methods to engage a bigger audience, and much, much more. UX/UI will come as naturally as breathing.

10. Be passionate. Do you know how passionate, how expressive a good salesman is when he’s peddling his product? Let your passion show in your design. Persuade, explain, show and tell. Let your visuals touch and break every customer’s heart. Use your talent and imagination, and put all you’ve got into it until you ignite a spark of fondness for your product in the user’s cold heart.

Studying any new subject expands your mind and your capabilities. To effect tangible change tomorrow, you have to persevere today. But if you’re inspired and enthusiastic, it will be an enjoyable journey — and it will definitely get you to the top!

The results will exceed your expectations

Don’t look down on sales. It’s an art that has been honed for millennia. It has a little bit of everything: psychology, communications, love and rivalry, self-expression and growth, creativity and ingenuity, exploration and excitement. Master this art in addition to design, and you will be amazed by the results.

Some useful books:

How To Master The Art Of Selling

The Psychology of Selling: Increase Your Sales Faster

Sales Management That Works: How To Sell In a World That Never Stops Changing

Ogilvy on Advertising

Marketing Warfare


Free Sales Skills Courses and Tutorials

The 6 Key Steps to Master the Art of Selling

26 Habits of Incredibly Successful Salespeople

What Makes a Good Salesman

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