Every year it gets more difficult to earn a respectable wage as a web designer. We’re constantly being told the industry is dead, that tools have replaced the need for web design, and that it’s time to get a real job. Well, screw that. Because it’s only the generic designers with nothing special about them that risk getting left behind and that doesn’t sound like you.
Web design is no different from any other industry, in the sense that you’re only worth what your clients are willing to pay. And the best way to bump that price tag up is to specialize in something they can’t resist buying. So today, I want to run by 10 web designer USPs worthy of earning the wage you deserve.
#1: Specialize in an industry
When competition is stiff and it’s hard to get yourself noticed, the first thing to try is specializing in a specific industry. It almost doesn’t matter which sector you choose, there will be more than enough clients if you can prove you’re the specialist designer their industry needs.
It’s also much easier to specialize in one industry than try to take them all on. Design trends, audience expectations, branding concepts and countless other factors vary across every industry, but they’re more consistent within each niche.
After a while, you’ll know the industry inside out: who does what the best, who needs to improve, and how you can use those to better your own projects. Get it right and you could find yourself working with the biggest names in your chosen industry and earning some epic paychecks.
#2: Master WordPress customization
This one has become so common I almost didn’t include it on this list, but WordPress customization is the design process that refuses to go away. This has a lot to do with the constant improvement of customization tools—much like the drag & drop page builders we recently looked at. The quick turnaround times that come with WordPress customization is pretty attractive too, but there’s a key selling point for your clients: the control they get over their own content.
The ability to add pages, publish their own blog content, install plugins, and edit to their comfortable level are things you can’t get with many platforms. Use this selling point to full effect and you can hand over finished websites to your clients—in no time at all—and turn a sometimes generic WordPress into a specialty that sets you apart.
#3: Become a conversion specialist
What better USP to offer clients than designs that generate direct sales and pure profit? The challenge is you have to prove that claim with hard data, which means cozying up to Google Analytics or other tracking tools. The effort is more than worth it, though. Once you have a portfolio of proof that your designs bring in the money, they’d be nuts to go anywhere else.
A real deal sweetener with this USP is you can offer to test clients’ sites beyond going live and make the necessary changes to improve conversion rates even further. Those single-payout design project just turned into long-term gigs that your clients can’t really afford to turn down.
#4: Focus on UX design
It’s difficult to talk about conversion optimization without mentioning UX design and this is a USP that basically sells itself. One of the great things about UX design is it’s such a buzzword, you can almost picture those clients queuing up to get their hands on your specialist skills. But, there’s substance to UX design that goes way beyond trends or fads and that’ll shine through in your work. You’ll genuinely become the best designer you can be by focusing on user needs first and it’s hard to think of a better selling point than that.
#5: Content-first design
I was partly dubious about including this in our list as well, because it should be so damn standard you couldn’t even call it unique. Yet, here we are in an industry dominated by frameworks, templates, precoded this, and predesigned that. This leaves content getting crammed into divs, sections, and design spaces as an afterthought, when it should be the foundation of every design.
So here’s a thought: make it clear to prospective clients their biggest asset when it comes to selling products or services is content. Then, set yourself apart as the designer who builds your designs around that content to get the best selling power out of it. This couldn’t be more relevant in the age of responsive design either and it’s amazing more designers don’t make this a priority.
#6: Become a visual content producer
Whether you take the content-first approach or not, it’s visual content that’s shaping the corporate web and your clients are screaming out for the stuff. The demand is well and truly there, but the supply of decent images, graphics, and video footage is painfully short. So, turn some of those graphic skills of yours into visual content and you’ll be a major asset to your clients.
Whether it’s custom icons, hi-res images, infographics, animated videos, or whatever else you can make profitable, your clients are craving decent visuals. Supply that demand and you’ve got yourself a niche that bumps you up a few steps on the designer ladder.
#7: Target B2B industries
Most of the articles you read on the web about design, development, marketing, and best practices are geared toward consumer or service industries. What you rarely see is an article focusing on B2B web design best practices. And that’s partly because B2B lags behind the latest trends in many ways and some of the best practices we love to promote simply don’t apply in the same way.
This opens a large space for designers to step into and make their own. There are some major benefits that come with this particular niche too. Bag yourself a decent B2B client and you’re talking serious money. Make a name for yourself in this field and you’ll see how far you can really go as a designer. Connections rule in B2B sectors too, so every gig can be a link to various others. Scale up the caliber of your clients over time and you could climb to heights that make you dizzy.
#8: Multilingual web design
This is another high-stakes USP for the ambitious at heart. Companies with various audiences across the world have a range of content, design and development needs to consider. Translating words doesn’t even come close. There’s international SEO to think about (not to mention execute), domain structures to consider, website localization, and a bundle of UX questions to be answered.
Even the location of your clients’ servers needs thinking about when they have global audiences to reach. Creating a multilingual online presence really is incredibly in-depth and failing on an international scale is not an option for any brand. So position yourself as the designer that creates websites worthy of global recognition and watch the big players come to you. How do you say cha-ching in Mandarin?
#9: Become the biggest name in your area
If conquering the world doesn’t sit well with you, then becoming a force in your local area is a fitting way to specialize at the opposite end of the spectrum. This depends on how large your area is, perhaps, but you can always cheat and make another area your own (I won’t tell anyone!).
You can reinforce your selling point by specializing in local SEO, designing branded material, or conducting case studies in the area to reinforce your design choices. Most serious clients also like to meet designers face-to-face at various stages of the design process, which can make all the difference when landing a gig. So, if you have a fixed location, use it to your full advantage.
#10: Design nothing but the best
Here’s a novel concept: forget the gimmicks, USPs, and whatever else, and focus on designing sites the top-paying clients can’t refuse. This is by far the most daunting USP, but the most rewarding if you can pull it off. It means ditching those Google Fonts, forgetting all about WordPress, and laughing in the face of free design resources.
These clients settle for nothing less than the premium of everything and they understand they need to pay for that privilege. Your challenge is to match that standard by designing an entire online brand that not only stands out the extra mile, but performs flawlessly at every stop.
You don’t have to aim for the top from day one and you probably won’t be able to. But this should be the long-term aim of every designer: that your skills are the USP, not any design trend, or concept. It’s not easy, of course, and if you don’t quite make it to the top, that’s fine. But you’ll reach as high as you possibly can by giving it your all to get there.
Hopefully, the web designer USPs we’ve looked at today offer up some fresh ideas on how to carve yourself a larger place within this overcrowded industry. If nothing else, I hope it’s clear that you’re better off targeting a more specific type of client rather than aiming for everyone. Don’t think of it as limiting yourself and losing out on potential clients; think of it as winning a higher caliber of clients within a set niche who need your specialist skills.