Insights // Talking Shop

Now that's a total pro move...

Last updated November 14, 2017

When we're not helping clients with design and marketing, the cable box frequently finds itself on Food Network.

One of the shows that has came out in the past few years is Cooks vs Cons where professional chefs compete against talented but amateur home cooks.

Much like the format of Chopped or Top Chef, it's a cooking competition but with a twist: who is the cook and who is the con?

Even professionals like Geoffrey Zakarian have found themselves saying "Now that's a pro move...." and later find out the contestants were really advanced amateurs.

Being a professional is often a commodity. Anyone who exchanges money for goods or services is the textbook definition of "professional."

Our clients expect us to be professional. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to spot the difference.

So how does this relate to marketing and design?

In this industry, it can be especially hard to tell the fly-by-night amateurs from the professionals. These days, it's easy to setup a professional-looking website and call yourself a freelance designer or digital marketer.

But unlike in culinary arts, a bad website design is not just eaten once. Your business relies on this particular design as a source of income, leads, or any other metric we strive to meet.

These days, websites are more than online business cards.

Also, in a restaurant setting, chefs are mandated to follow certain health standards. There are no such "standards" in design. Anybody can call themselves a "website designer" or "marketing consultant" with a computer and minimal knowledge.

Some organizations offer certifications, which are better than nothing, but oftentimes to pass a certification, it's simply multiple-choice, rote memorization.

The sharing economy

Compounding on this problem, it used to be to get something fixed, you called a company. With more of the workforce going out on their own, there's now more self-employed people looking do all sorts of things. And some of these people even pose as companies.

Unlike a handy man coming to fix your bannister, design and marketing can be very subjective. Unless you know what to look for, there's a lot that can go wrong.

There's a big difference between being resourceful/working outside your comfort zone (which helps you grow and get better work) and fraudulently learning on the job and misrepresenting your work experience and capabilities.

Just enough to be dangerous

A good example of this is we see a ton of misrepresentation in the web design space. People know just enough to be dangerous, they install a WordPress plugin that makes their website be an e-commerce store or a lead generator form, for example, and claim they are "designers" or "developers".

In reality they barely have any idea what the building blocks of HTML, CSS, PHP or MySQL even are or how they function. They are basically good "Googlers" and "button pushers."

It's like claiming you're an expert tourist translator, but you've never visited the country before. What happens when you find yourself in a bad spot?

Reality check

We believe it's super important to be upfront with our clients. If you've never done X, but have similar work in Y or know someone who can do it, that's being resourceful.

It's the people that try to do everything themselves that scares us. We all have limits.

If you bill a client by the hour and you're also learning on the job, that's a big no-no. This is one reason why we ditched hourly billing for example... it's borderline fraudulent sometimes.

When do you turn the meter on: when you're learning or when you've applied the skills? It's a super tough call. And to make matters worse, even some bigger agencies are doing this with interns.

This industry is also in a constant state of flux and what worked last month or last week, can sometimes break today.

Can we get you results?

At the end of the day, it comes back to results. Can we do what we say we can do?

If a client is paying us money, it's our duty to give them what they paid for and to give them results. In fact, we've lost money a few times to make sure our clients get exactly what we promised. We learn from our own mistakes and do better on the next job.

A classic mistake: promising too much, too quickly, and too cheaply!

Is there a culture fit?

To do the best work we can for a client often comes down to a gut check.

  • Do our values align?
  • Do we feel the client is hiding something?
  • Can we actually do good work this this client?
  • Can we trust them?

Those are good questions with no so easy answers. We ask our clients to go through a similar process to vet agencies.

Bottom line

That's what 20 years in the industry gets you. If the roles were reversed, we'd want it no other way. Can you relate?

Can we help you with something?

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