Today I would like to talk about a topic that is following me now for quite some time, but has also inspired me to start a new project. All initiated by the harmless question of “What is your profession?” I feel confident to say that I am a designer. Apparently not a very satisfying answer, as the second question follows
“But what EXACTLY is it that you do?”
I’ve experienced that people usually expect me to use more specific and common terms, for instance a graphic, web designer, developer or illustrator, something like that. This wish for labeling everything is absolutely natural. If I feel for instance like having a steak, I guess the person behind the counter would be slightly irritated if I order “500g of meat, please.”
Unfortunately I don’t feel like choosing only one area to focus on in the creative industry, as I can’t draw a clear line between art, design and technology. For me one can’t be without the other. So far my efforts of defining what I do with more than one word reflects in Seabee’s tagline “design & illustration” (for example on my business cards).
In this article I’m going to explain why I offer a broad range of services and why finding the right job title might be a struggle. Afterwards I would like to tell you a bit more about my current project dealing with the question of how to communicate what you do. Towards the end I’ll try to highlight the Pro’s and Contra’s of not focusing on only one area, and what it therefore means for you to work with me.
How it all started
Years later, when I thought I’d go to some kind of art school, I attended a commercial school. My parents (both artists) thought for some funny reason, this would be the better choice for me. Actually, I wasn’t too upset either as my best friend went there too (yep, that’s what counts with 14). After 5 years of accounting and exciting stuff like that I finally found myself studying digital media technologies. The root of all evil (lack of specialization).
Guess what, I had so many different subjects in this 5 years, that I don’t even remember all of them. Nevertheless, I consider it a privilege to learn so many different things, for instance how to handle a camera, film, edit, plan a project, make a storyboard, write an exposé, discuss arts, take photos, edit those photos, animate, program a website, plan an application, design the interface, develop a corporate identity, layout a brochure, design a cover, illustrate a poster, draw a spoon, understand binary codes, write a business plan, pitch your idea,… never ending story.
What does the job title say?
While I was studying, I freelanced in my area(s) as someone (me) had to pay for the bills. Even though I was cooperating mainly with advertising agencies, the jobs I worked on were quite different. You can’t always choose what you do, most of the times the demand decides for you. Just to show you an example, these were a few of my tasks when officially hired as a graphic designer; layout a flyer, brochure, different promotional material (the classics), build a visual key element for a presentation, build a mockup, develop an entire corporate identity, program a website, design a website, do photo retouching, make a concept, draw a storyboard, draw artwork, illustrate, animate, … Therefore I came to the conclusion that
using a specific job title in the creative industry is not self-explanatory.
Brand Identity Developer, Prepress Specialist, Visual Image Developer, Instructional Designer, Art Production Manager, … super fancy job titles, do you know what these people exactly do?
How to define yourself?
Maybe not at all.
Instead of trying to define yourself, it might be a better approach to define your services and skills on an online platform of your choice. As a designer (whatever kind of designer) a portfolio is indispensable. Clearly defining and describing your services might be as well. This is at least what I have experienced, as I didn’t do it yet. Consequently I had to explain myself quite a lot. I might have even lost potential clients by not doing so. Sometimes I ended up doing something totally different for a client than my profession requires, for instance cooperation management. Don’t get me wrong, I consider this to be something positive, as I love to gain more expertise in other areas as well. Though it’s necessary to clearly communicate your area of expertise and distinguish it from other areas in which you are interested in and therefor willing to help out.
Let’s take a shot
Well, my advice isn’t worth that much, if I don’t apply it myself. In this regard I would like to introduce you to my current project, about how I am actually going to define what I do and my services. The medium I’ve chosen for this purpose is VIDEO. Why? Because it’s the most efficient, convenient, personal and hopefully less boring way of doing so, at least in my opinion. Beside that, time is a very valuable asset, so keep it simple, keep it short.
Once the medium is chosen, it’s about finding a voice, the right way to talk to your audience. I’m wondering if I have to make a super professional video, recorded in a studio with a mastered audio track OR if a simple amateur video recorded at home in front of your laptop camera is efficient enough. Usually I would make an explanatory illustrated info video, as it’s a proven best practice strategy, and something I am specialized in as well. However, it has to wait, as it is quite time consuming to produce and I unfortunately can’t afford investing this time resource in my own business right now, as I am too busy with working for my clients. No doubt that lack of time is a common thing one(wo)man companies experience. Therefore I am trying to find an intermediate solution everyone is happy with. Currently I am working on producing separate short videos for each service in order to keep it straight forward and being able to offer the audience the possibility to specifically choose the content to view.
Please note, I am still in the WORK IN PROGRESS stage | trial & error | learning by doing
Nevertheless, I would like to share with you my first spontaneous attempt of such a video recording, though it is an amateur video. The reason for doing so is first because I really appreciate your feedback during process and second because I want to motivate others to give it a go and not be shy. I find it a very useful tool that gives you the possibility to analyze your own presentation skills and also figure out a way to structure your information in a better and more efficient way than just ending up in a “blabla bubble“.
Enjoy this short video about corporate identity. Feel free to share your thoughts on it as well.
Pro & Contra
What can you expect from working with me?
This comparison can of course not be generalized, as it reflects only my point of view. It applies more for small businesses cooperating with small businesses as well, ain’t talking about the big fish here.
|Working with me||Working with a specialized company|
|Benefiting from a comprehensive knowledge from different areas such as design, branding, marketing, web and technology. Consequently the capability of understanding the connections within the different areas, evaluating benefits or disadvantages and placing the product in the right context. ||Benefiting from the comprehensive knowledge needed for this one certain task. Might come with a higher price, justified by quality. The process probably takes less time due to the experience.
|Extensive research of your market situation, competition, trends etc., It is time consuming but I have to make sure that I know your business background and can provide you with an individual and successful solution.|
Most of the time spend on this kind of research is not charged, I see it as in investment in knowledge.
|The risk of an outcome that is similar to your competitors, as it's rather very common for the branch or made by the same company.|
|Receiving my honest and personal advice also in other areas I have knowledge of, even if you hired me only for one specific task. There should always be time for exchanging opinions, free of charge of course.||Valuable advice in the field of specialization. Usually hourly charged for consultation.|
|A reliable partner capable of managing an entire project. My goal is to build a business relationship based on mutual trust and support.||Work together with different companies and people to make sure you get all services needed for this one project. Can result in a high quality product by hiring only experts in their field.
|The extent of involvement you wish to have in the project, information and transparency about project processes.||The risk of chaotic communication due to more involved people. A project that consists of a few nice parts, but hard to unite.|
I’m sure whatever choice you make will be the right one.
The social media challenge
The only thing I am wondering about is, am I missing out on reaching out to people, because I am not focusing on a certain area? Especially when it comes to social media and promoting myself? It’s quite hard to get a message through if yours is quite complex, especially if you are only one person having to take care of everything. Another big mission of mine is testing out which social media channel is going to be the right one for me. Input regarding this topic is btw also very welcome. As I’m not an expert in this field yet, again learning by doing. But once I have figured out something useful, I promise I’ll let you know.
Hope you found this article useful. Looking forward to your feedback :)
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