Web Designer Reputation: Convincing the World You Know What You're Doing
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The legitimacy of web design as a profession is firmly established at this point. But in many ways it's still a vocation in limbo. We're caught somewhere between computer science and art—two fields that have previously been viewed as polar opposites. And specializing in either of them doesn't necessarily qualify you to be a web designer. Some of us work alone managing all the aspects of web design from start to finish. Some of us work on teams where all the little parts of web design process are broken out and divvied up. But in the end we all end up with a similar product—a website. So how do you build up a reputation in an industry that has no real standard—where similar products are being produced by such a diverse group of people with diverse skill sets? In this article, I'm going to list and discuss five areas that require serious consideration if you want a good reputation as a web designer.
Work and Conduct
This is the most obvious and effective way to build up your reputation. The concept is simple: produce excellent work and don't act like a baby. Consistently accomplishing these two tasks will create lasting buzz around your work that will produce clients who respect your talent. This is true whether you're an independent freelancer or an employee. If you focus completely on the quality of your work and the way you conduct yourself in business, you will have a good reputation and you will be successful. You could honestly forget about the other items on this list and live happily ever after. But let's continue anyway.
Web Design Awards
Since there is no official acedemic degree in web design, the next best thing is the web award. But If you're going to pursue this track, keep in mind that it's a crowded scene and there's no real guarantee that winning an award will produce meaningful business relationships or employment. It's risky. On the other hand, it never hurts to have a Webby Award in your back pocket to flash around when you need establish your competency. My recommendation is just to build great websites. If one happens to be exceptional and you think it could win an award, submit it. Just don't put all your eggs in this basket.
Blogging is really a no-brainer for web designers. But it's common for us to think that just because we can't do it full-time and make a living on it, we shouldn't mess with it at all. This isn't true. If you work as a web designer, then you have meaningful experiences that other designers could benefit from. If that means posting once a week or once a month, do it. A blog has a multi-faceted effect. First, would-be clients will be more likely to select you when they see you speaking intelligently about your craft. Second, other web designers who benefit from your blog will be more likely to choose you as a collaboration partner for future projects. And lastly, with every new post, you're getting your name out there. It's important to be visible if you want to build up a good reputation.
Online Social Networking
Social networking and social media are big buzz words right now, but they are very important to managing an online reputation. You don't need to be involved in all of them. In fact, I don't think that's even possible anymore with social networking sites popping up every other day. Choose a few that are more specific to web design and stay involved. Answer questions and make friends. Also, make sure that you have a consistent image across all the social sites. Use the same avatar and the same user-name if possible. Help your friends and peers recognize you when they jump from one site to another. This helps build a strong singular online image.
Guarding Your Name
When we hear the term "identity theft" these days, we automatically think about credit card theft and fraudulent loans. But just as common is social identity theft. It just takes one jerk using your identity to stir up trouble online that can severely damage your reputation. There are actually several paid services that guard your online identity but you can also set up a Google alert on your name, user name, business name, etc. to keep tabs on where and who is using your name. It's easy, it's fee. There's no reason not to do it.
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