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What's in a title?

Since the inception of the design industry we designers have struggled with what title to give ourselves. I started my career calling myself a Graphic Artist. Later I changed to Graphic Designer and stuck with it until just recently when I took on the title of Design Consultant.

Even though the bulk of my work these days is web design I’ve never called myself a Web Designer unless I paired it with Graphic Designer. As in, I'm a Graphic/Web Designer. In my experience, the title Graphic Designer encompasses a broad array of work, possibly including web design. However, the title Web Designer limits you skill wise to only web design.

Graphic Designer and Web Designer are but two of the many titles designers call themselves. Some others include;

  • Creative Designer
  • Visual Designer
  • Visual Artist
  • Artistic Designer
  • Communication Designer
  • Multimedia Designer
  • Commercial Artist
  • Commercial Designer

As well as some more focused titles such as;

  • Logo Designer
  • Brand Identity Designer
  • Motion Designer
  • Video Designer
  • Package Designer
  • UX or UI Designer

Shouldn't your work be more important than your title?

I always thought the title you used wasn't as important as your portfolio of design work. After all, isn't that why clients hire you? Then something happened recently, and I realised how people perceive you based on the title you use.

For the longest time, whenever I would meet someone new and our conversation would inevitably turn to what we did for a living. I would answer the question saying I’m a Graphic Designer. The most often reply to this is, “what sort of things do you design?” To which I would go into my long-practised routine of telling them that I design everything from logos, business cards, posters, magazine ads to websites and online advertising etc.

Most of the time the response I would get would be something along the lines of “That sounds interesting” before whoever I was talking to quickly changed the subject.

Sure, on some occasions the person was interested and ask me to elaborate. Sometimes those conversations would lead to a proposal and maybe even a design project. But most of the time the discussion about what I did for a living just stopped there.

The effects of calling myself a Design Consultant.

A few months ago, I was at a local gathering, and I met someone who asked me that oft-asked question, what do you do for a living? Instead of my standard response of “I'm a Graphic Designer”, for some reason, on a whim, I told them I was a Design Consultant.

The reaction I received was noticeably different than previous encounters. Instead of asking what type of things I designed, the person asked what a Design Consultant does. I quickly made up an elevator pitch on the spot. I told him I help businesses fine-tune their brand strategy through the proper use of graphic and web design which helps them attract more clients.

To find out more about elevator pitches and how mine has evolved since that meeting, listen to episode 116 of Resourceful Designer 

After blurting out the random title of Design Consultant and giving an impromptu elevator pitch, the person took me by surprise by asking how much I charge for a design consultation. I wasn't prepared for that question so I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head. $200 for a 1-hour session. The guy handed me a business card and asked when I was available to meet to go over his company's brand strategy.

To make a long story short. I set up a meeting to go over his company's brand identity and current marketing material. He’s now hired me to not only refresh his website and print material but to act as a design advisor to ensure he keeps on track with his brand strategy going forward.

I genuinely believe I landed this client because of the title I gave him when he asked me what I did for a living.

My new title as Design Consultant is not a fluke.

Since that day, I've been using the title of Design Consultant, and I've discovered that what transpired with that gentleman is repeatable. Every new client I’ve met with since then has agreed to my fee to meet with them and go over what could work for their business.

The best part is, clients are now interested in discussing their entire brand strategies, not just logos, business cards and websites. We examine everything including uniforms, vehicle colours, office decorations and more. Things that are not graphics or web related, but do play a part of their overall brand strategy.

For me, this translates into clients with bigger initial budgets. In fact, since implementing my new title, I’ve landed clients with bigger starting budgets than most clients I've worked with in the past.

Weeding out undesirable clients.

Another benefit of calling myself a design consultant and charging a consultation fee for our initial meeting is it weeds out clients that would otherwise take up my precious time.

I’ve had a few people say they can’t afford my consultation fee. If they can’t afford my consultation fee then they certainly can’t afford my design rates.

An added benefit for me.

Something I had not foreseen is people that want to hire me just for the consultation. I’ve had a few people hire me just to get my advice on what they can do themselves to help their brand. These are people who don't have a budget to hire a professional designer but still want to know the best way to build their brand. It’s a win-win for me. Since changing my title, every person I’ve met with has paid me. Not all of them have become clients, but I was paid for the consultation regardless.

Will calling yourself a Design Consultant grow your design business?

I would love to say outright that yes, changing your title will grow your design business but that would be naive on my part.

I know I have almost 30 years of experience behind me and I have a lot of confidence when talking to people. Both of which help me sell people on hiring me as a design consultant. If you have the experience, knowledge and confidence to be a design consultant then maybe it will work for you as well.

If you're not at the point in your career where you can pull this off, you should keep it in mind for the future. Maybe, down the road, you'll be ready to take your design business to the next level by offering your services as a design consultant.

What title do you use?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Laurie

Hello! I love your podcast

By the way, you came to me at the perfect time as I just became an LLC running my own graphic design business.

I had a question about the non disclosure agreement episode. I have a graphic design agreement done but is an NDA recommended?

To find out what I told Laurie you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Resourceful Designer Facebook Group

I would love to see you in the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group. Join many designers just like you as we share our experiences of running a design business. It doesn't matter at what level of your career you're at I would love to have you as a member. Be sure to answer the three question that pops up after clicking the join button. See you on Facebook!

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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