“Hi, I’m a graphic designer” – BZZT!
Let’s talk about your elevator pitch. As a professional, you’ll be making a lot of them to prospective employers, clients, and co-workers. It’s important that you get things off on the right note. What you might not be aware of is just how little time you have make that first impression, which could turn someone from a stranger to your new best friend.
It’s literally seconds.
According to research by Princeton University, it takes one tenth of a second for us to make up our minds about people. This makes it imperative to get that first impression right – that one tenth of a second starts the selling process and begins the relationship. If you’re a graphic designer, what does that first impression look like?
Let’s say you’re at a party and someone says to you:
“What line of business are you in?”
Do you reply?
“I’m a graphic designer.”
If you do, you’re most certainly not alone. But you may be missing out on a key opportunity to speak about your personal brand.
Why graphic designers find introductions challenging
Thinking creatively comes naturally to designers but it should come as no surprise that you reserve most of your creative brain power on satisfying the needs of others – whether you’re decoding a client’s design brief or collaborating on a concept for an award submission.
Let’s face it – graphic design is a big talent pool filled with talented designers, eager for attention and paid work. How you approach your introduction is often a direct reflection of your work ethic, goals and the relationships you hold with your immediate network. Most designers going through a professional transition – whether moving from freelance to agency or vice-versa – might not have had the chance to redefine their personal brand let alone practice how they communicate it.
The power of getting to know who you are
Choosing to define your personal narrative is the first step in creating an ironclad introduction. Your personal brand creates a framework for your value as a designer, so it’s important that it is both authentic and honest.
Start with asking the basic what and why questions about your work as a designer. Choosing the right important questions will depend on your experience so if you are stuck, aim to nail few rather than tackle a whole list.
Ask family and friends as well as your co-workers what they think of you. Also, look at feedback that your previous clients have given you. You’ll likely notice trends in the kinds of responses you get. Hopefully these trends that will help you to stand out from all the other graphic designers.
Your personal brand will be what you use to build rapport with clients and colleagues so try culling down your responses to a form a few personal statements and test how they work in everyday scenarios before deciding what you’ll feature in your intro (yep, nothing like some old school role play).
If you’re doing something wildly different then you’ll guarantee that some clients won’t be interested in you… But you’ll also guarantee that some clients will be very interested in you. While it’s normal to let your personal brand take a back seat, it pays to put effort into creating an honest narrative which helps set you up for the right conversations in your preferred niche.
How to make the ten second introduction more personable
Okay, so now that you’ve realised that you’re an individual with your own quirks and aesthetic tastes, and you’re ready to make sure the world knows that you don’t stand for the middle road.
How do you distil that down to the all-important ten second introduction when meeting new people?
1. Don’t give yourself a creative job title
Remember when we said you should be authentic and honest? Giving yourself a wildly creative title is neither. You’ll give your business card to a prospective client and before you’ve even opened your mouth they’ll be rolling their eyes at you if you’ve called yourself a digital wizard or design maestro (and yes, we have seen both of those cards).
You’re a creative, and your job is interesting enough as it is. Be yourself.
2. Create a story in a sentence
Ten seconds gives you one sentence. Make it a good one. We believe that the best approach is to devise a sentence that explains what benefit you give to your clients. Turn it into a one-sentence story. It’s about attention to detail.
“I believe in the power of elegant minimalism in a world increasingly saturated with garish colour.”
And there you go. You’ve told everyone what you stand for, without once using the term ‘graphic designer’.
3. Make your mission statement your sentence story
If you’re not sure where to get this single sentence story from, think about your mission statement:Why did you get into graphic design in the first place? From that paragraph or two you should be able to draw a one-sentence summary.
How to use your new weapon
Now that you’re equipped with the power to win friends and influence people (and we’re not even joking about that), you’re probably itching to find opportunities to use it.
One of the best times to lead with your intro is when you’re setting salary expectations or quoting for a project. If you’re able to convince that person that you’re a professional go-getter with a strong personal brand, you’re going to be able to command much higher value for your work. And make sure you keep eye contact.
Take the below scenario as an example:
“I’m a graphic designer… over the last five years my design studio has specialised in annual reports where we take a bundle of boring, but essential information and use design to make it much more interesting and readable.”
This says that you’re a graphic designer, have a business and it’s been going for five years. You are a specialist in annual reports, you add value for your clients and you help the end user. This is all valuable information. But it’s also something that you should have reworked into your single sentence intro. Imagine the impact that you’ll have with this:
“For five years, I’ve been turning the important (but dull) information in annual reports into vibrant, exciting works of visionary thought leadership that excites directors and investors alike.”
Just like that, you are worth so much more to the stressed-out executive that needs to turn bar charts into something that makes his work over the last year look like a success.
Beyond the 10-second intro
Whether you’re working independently or as part of the team, the 10-second intro is just the foot in the door. Your career as a graphic designer is always evolving so be sure to keep your finger on the pulse for opportunities to be part of the right conversations, networking events or otherwise.
Remember that if you are part of a team, it’s a good idea to also develop a good 10-second introduction across the entire team as well – after all, we are all salespeople and if everyone says the same thing it builds a more consistent studio brand – make it a sales pitch.
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“I’m a graphic designer who believes project management software can be beautiful, fun and save me time!”