The world of design is ever-evolving, which is why staying abreast of design trends and changes in the marketplace is so critical to your success as a designer. Whether you work for a design firm or for yourself as a freelance designer, you should be prepared for upcoming challenges. To help you prepare, here are the top 10 issues web designers and graphic designers will face in 2014. Are you ready for them?
1. Employed or self-employed?
Being employed by a graphic design firm means a steady paycheck and benefits such as health insurance and paid vacation. When the work day is over, it’s over, but the tradeoff is an income ceiling. Working as a freelancer offers more freedom and the potential for greater income, but has greater risks. With the impending changes in health insurance, the freelance lifestyle could become more expensive than ever before, causing many freelancers to seek full-time employment for the benefits.
2. Niche markets
Most graphic designers I know are jacks of all trades; they design anything they can get paid for. In 2014, the more you specialize your offering, the easier it will be to stand out from your competitors and land better, higher-paying clients. Pick your pony and ride it to success.
3. Continuing education
Remember those “The More You Know” commercials that used to interrupt your Saturday morning cartoons? Well, they were on to something. As the world of design continues to evolve to accommodate new marketing tactics and advanced technologies, so too must your knowledge of design and how it relates to marketing and development evolve. In 2014, you should continue to seek out opportunities to expand your knowledge of design in your chosen discipline.
4. Marketplace value
Competition from designers who charge far less than you – especially foreign designers – can threaten your ability to win new clients. In 2014, you should become an expert at selling not only the quality of your design work, but the value in your understanding of your clients’ markets.
If you’re a freelancer, there is a limit to how much you can charge (at least, that clients are willing to pay), and there are only so many hours in the day. If you want to maximize your income, it’s time to consider outsourcing work to other talented designers. Perhaps you should adopt the agency approach?
6. Add-on services
Another great way to increase your income is to partner with companies that can provide complementary services. This will become more important than ever in 2014, as busy small businesses want to pass off their design projects and not have to contract with several companies to get them done. For this reason, it behooves you to establish partnerships with developers and printers and add your fee on top of any work they perform. White label partners allow you to put all work under your name.
7. Passive income
The cost of living continues to increase, yet you continue to face stiff competition in pricing. Specializing can help you charge more, but you can also take advantage of passive income opportunities such as selling your designs on posters, shirts, coffee mugs, and more. Devote some time each week to a new design you can sell via online product marketplaces such as Zazzle.
8. Pay raises
Whether you work for a design firm or are a freelancer, you need to work in annual pay raises, at minimum. Ask your employer for a raise; or, if you’re a freelancer, increase your fees by a set percentage every year to make up for inflation and increased cost-of-living expenses.
9. Trends vs. innovation
As noted, understanding and being able to apply contemporary design trends will land you more work and keep clients happy. At the same time, you need to differentiate yourself as a designer. How will you balance design trends vs. design innovation?
10. Value perception
It’s unfortunate, but graphic designers have been devalued by the same digital world that has created so many opportunities. Supply and demand dictates that marketplace, and designers are a dime a dozen online. That’s why it’s so important for you to work to change the perception of designers – or, at least, your own design work. It’s critical to demonstrate the value of what you do to your clients’ overall goals in order to lay a foundation for long-term success.