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This is the guy who answers the phone.

Beat Digging Ditches is my blog and latest projects portfolio. I’m self-employed so naturally I think about design and branding 24/7. This also means I understand the business on a deeper level that someone who works for a firm. When I’m talking with a CEO or company founder about their new product and how we are going to best position them in the marketplace, I’m not just talking to them as their designer, or their brand consultant, I’m also talking to them as a fellow entrepreneur.

Working with decision makers for the last twenty plus years, and often in the early stages of brand creation, you pick up a lot of things.

You learn never to trust a dieline. Print it out and see if it works for real. The old contractors expression “measure twice, cut once” applies to graphic design as well.

You learn not to just rely on your keyword tools to design an SEO plan for a new website and to also leverage your instincts honed from over a decade of building, tweaking and testing websites for maximum search engine results.

You learn to respect the power of words and the difference between body copy that adequately fills space and copy that spins a compelling brand story that drives sales.

You learn that your job is more than just executing your client’s wishes; it’s giving them the tools to succeed. If your client just wanted a low level design slave to push pixels, they would go to any number of freelance sites, post their specs, and take the lowest bidder.

You learn that your clients, while generally not branding experts or professional designers, know a heck of a lot more than they let on. They think about their product or company from sun up to sun down and this day to day immersion in their passion provides some startling insights. This means their suggestions often improve a design, not make it worse. And when it does make it worse they generally know it too.

And you also learn that people just need someone to talk to. So that’s why I pick up the phone myself and treat the person on the other end with the respect they deserve. Sometimes they are just a student looking for some career tips. Sometimes it’s a dreamer with little grasp on how things work, and even less money to make it happen. And sometimes it’s the CEO of a successful company and they need an expert to get something done now. It doesn’t matter to me.

If you take the time to reach out to another human being for help or advice, the least I owe you is five minutes of my time. Whether it ends with a huge paycheck, a new career direction, or the realization that the person I’ve been talking to for the last five minutes is just blowing smoke, is irrelevant. A sincere answer is everyone’s right – or more accurately, the right thing to do.

File Under: Design Philosophy – Principles for Running and Owning a Graphic Design Business and Sustaining Healthy Client Relationships – How to Run a Successful Design Business

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