There are two things I started doing that have helped me provide a better service to my clients. Which, in turn, makes me a better designer as far as they are concerned. I've been doing one of them for quite a while, while the other I only started doing a few years ago, and much more so since the pandemic began.
What are these two things, you ask? Contemplation and Revision.
Take time to contemplate after a design project.
When you have a busy schedule, it's easy to finish one design project and immediately jump to the next. After all, with deadlines and clients to satisfy, you need to stop diddle-daddling and start that next project. If this is how you work, you are doing yourself a disservice.
Some of the best insight you can gain is by taking time to contemplate after finishing a project. Think about the ups and the downs. What went right with the project? What went wrong? Were there any parts of the project that slowed things down or helped things along?
Take the time to think about all aspects of the project and ask yourself, what could I have done to make things better? Is there anything I can learn from this project that I could use to improve my SOP, Standard Operating Procedure, so that future projects go smoother?
If you have a team, talk it over with them. Ask your team if there's anything that could have made their part easier?
Do this after every design project, and you'll quickly learn ways to make your life easier.
I do things differently now than the way I did things when I first started my business. Heck, the way I do things now is different from how I did things a few months ago. All because I regularly take the time to contemplate how I've been doing things and if there's anything I can do to improve upon the way I work.
Now I know you're probably thinking. I already do what you're suggesting automatically. If something works on a project, I'll implement it on future projects.
That's well and good. And we should all do the same thing. But that's not the same thing as what I'm suggesting. Discovering something new and implementing it on future projects is great and should be automatic for you.
But what I'm saying is that by dedicating 15, 30, or 60 minutes, depending on the size of the project, to contemplate the ups and downs of how the project went, you can learn valuable insights you may otherwise gloss over.
Perhaps the way you've always done things isn't the best. Only by contemplating what you do can you spot areas for improvement.
You get the idea. It's hard to remember and even harder to try and fix problems if you don't think about them again once a project is over. The same can be said of things that go well. If something goes very well with a project, you should figure out if there's any way to implement it in future projects.
Contemplation: Dedicating time after completing a design project to figure out what went well, what didn't and how what you learn can improve your SOP on future projects. I've been doing this for years, and I can honestly say I'm a better designer for it.
Record your conversations.
The second thing I wanted to talk about that helped me become a better designer is recording my conversations with my clients.
This one kind of started by accident. When I first started my side business, Podcast Branding, I began interviewing clients over Zoom in a quick discovery meeting. And even though I took notes, I would often need to follow up with a client for clarification.
After doing this a few times, I started recording my Zoom meetings. And this became a game-changer for me.
Now, If there's something I can't remember or I'm not quite sure of, I can rewatch our Zoom call and find the answer most of the time.
Sometimes it might be a few days between when I talk to a client and start their project. I now make a point of rewatching the Zoom call before starting every project to ensure I do not forget anything.
As I rewatch our meeting, I follow along with the notes I took. Sometimes, I'll pause or rewind to add to or clarify my notes. And I'll often catch something I may have missed during our live meeting, or maybe I didn't fully comprehend it at first but listening back helped me understand.
Yes, relistening to your meetings adds more time to a project, but you would be amazed at how much it makes working on the project easier.
Not just that, but listening again with fresh ears allows me to create better artwork that better meets the client's needs. And the clients appreciate how diligent I am, especially when I refer back to our conversation.
It helps you become a better communicator.
The other benefit of recording your conversations is you'll be able to pick up on things you said or didn't say and how you communicate with your clients.
Listening to yourself on a recording will help you improve your communication skills. Did you sound confident? Were the questions you asked easy to understand? Did you answer your client's questions to the best of your ability? The more you listen to yourself, the more you'll improve.
I've been doing it for years with my podcasts. I hear every episode three times. Once while recording the episode, again while editing it, and yes, I listen to it a third time after it's released. And I think I'm a better podcaster and communicator because of it.
Record all meetings.
Recently, since we can now meet people face to face again, I've asked clients if I can record our conversations in person. I use the Voice Recorder app on my iPhone for this. I put it down on the table between us and press record.
I explain to the client that I'll refer back to the recording should I need clarification on something I may have missed during our conversation. Plus, it gives us a recorded record of what was said during the meeting. Which eliminates the "I thought you said this" scenario.
So far, I haven't had a single client refuse to let me record them.
Ask for permission before recording someone.
In most places, it's illegal to record someone without their consent. Luckily, Zoom notifies participants they are being recorded before they join a call. By joining, they consent to be recorded.
During in-person meetings or on the phone, the best practice is to ask for permission first, and once given, press record and ask for permission again, so you have it on record.
Once I have the client's consent for my meetings, I press record and open with this statement. "Today is [date], and I'm with [name of the client(s)]. Do you consent to be recorded for this meeting?" and have all parties present say yes.
Since I started recording client meetings, I've found it so much easier to work on their projects. I no longer have to ask silly questions such as, "I can't remember. Did you say you wanted this or this?" I just listen back to the recording. And through listening, I'm becoming a better communicator, which will benefit me in my next client meeting.
I know these two things; contemplating after a project and recording your meetings sound simple, and maybe you're already doing them. If so, good for you. But I can tell you that these two things have helped me become a better designer, and I know they can do the same for you.
After your next design project, dedicate time to contemplate the ups and downs of the project and note how you can do things better the next time.
And during your next client meeting, ask if you can record it. Your clients will appreciate how diligent you are at understanding their needs.
Do these two things, and you too can become a better designer.