Being great at design doesn’t automatically set you up to be a great web designer. There are a few other skills that can help set you up for success as a web designer. Chances are you’ve probably seen some of these “soft skills” listed on job postings. Soft skills, in this case, are non-design skills that make you an overall better employee. Skills like being a team player, goal-driven, timely, and being a good communicator. It’s very easy to overlook these skills and even believe that these skills are arbitrary. However, they will make you an overall better designer.
The first soft skill we will take a look at is project management. As a web designer, your schedule a lot of times will be based on client timelines. These timelines can become very hectic and can be maddening to manage by yourself. This is especially true if you decide to become a freelance web designer. When you’re a freelance designer, you don't have the luxury of having someone create manageable timelines and pacing out your workload. Project management is an important skill even if you are able to work alongside a project manager. No one knows how long it’s going to take you to complete a design better than yourself. Having the ability to predict accurate timelines and set milestones will set you apart from other designers. If you do choose to work as a freelance designer, consider using some project management software to help you monitor your time and stay focused.
The next soft skill to look at is being a good communicator, especially with client communication. Most people think they are good at communication, but the truth is, a majority of designers are pretty bad at communication. It’s important as a designer to be able to set boundaries and let the client know what they should expect from them. You should speak on the client's level and not above them. Talk on terms that both parties can understand. Be professional with every exchange you have with a client. That means keeping your cool even when a client is nasty. Most importantly, it’s your job to know when you should listen. Clients will generally tell you exactly what they want, you just need to listen to be able to ask the right questions.
The last, and most important, soft skill is problem-solving. As a web designer, your job is to solve a large problem. You have to create or redesign a website for a client who doesn't have the time or ability to do it themselves. Along with the initial problem of designing a website, there are many other problems that fall under that umbrella. Problems like: “We want to display our social media channels on our homepage. What’s a good solution?” or “What's the best way to get a user to sign-up for a newsletter?” As the web designer, you need to be creative in the way you think and flexible to provide all the necessary solutions. Another side of this is being resourceful. Are you able to use the correct tools to investigate an issue and fix it? Don’t be afraid to use Google! Chances are somebody else has had the same exact question as you and it has probably been answered!
Project management, strong communication skills, and problem-solving. Mastering these soft skills will put you leagues beyond other designers and make you a valuable asset to your company. Today there are many opportunities to be a web designer and even work for yourself. Even if you don't pursue web design, you can apply these soft skills to any other position you seek out. Set yourself apart from the rest and master these soft skills!