Web design and development are huge subjects. And it seems that everyone within the industry is expected to know. There is a story that sees us as omniscient beings who can solve any web-related problem.
However, buying into this story means putting a huge amount of weight on our shoulders. Whatever the actual expectations of our clients, we may feel the need to project an image that it’s all under control.
The truth is that we are not superheroes – even if there is pressure to act the part. And that’s okay. We don’t need to be perfect.
But letting clients see us as we are – flaws and all – can be stigmatizing. But today, I’m going to argue for dropping the facade and learning how to be yourself. It might be the best thing for your career, your client relationships and your mental health.
A More Comfortable Professional Form
Now, I’m not suggesting that you start showing up to meetings (virtual or in person) in a tank top and flip-flops. You must still look presentable and act professionally and courteously.
What am I time saying that not every question needs to have a perfect answer. And it’s okay if a particular skill is missing from your resume. You don’t even have to be right for every project.
If there’s something you’re not sure about or doesn’t match who you are, say it. There is freedom in being honest.
This not only relieves you of internal pressure, but breaks down a wall between you and your client. Instead of acting as if you hold the keys to the online universe, you can have an honest discussion about client needs and the challenges of meeting them.
The result may be that you see each other as truer people. It takes a level of confidence that can be almost impossible to achieve when you’re in a role, rather than just interacting with people.
The Potential for Better Projects
This newfound authenticity can also give you a renewed sense of confidence—especially when it comes to the projects you do. Without pretending to be a conscious designer, you can freely say if something doesn’t fit well.
For example, I have been approached with projects that require skills that are outside of my expertise. And sometimes, they take a level of commitment that I can’t fit into my schedule. For quite some time, I even had to undertake a potentially life-changing project.
Early in my career, I would often force myself into projects that I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable with. But I have learned that the best policy is to face my worries.
If a project isn’t a good fit for me, I let the potential client know. If it requires me to get up to speed with a particular skill, I will readily admit it. The result is that sometimes we move forward together, and other times we don’t.
You might be thinking about the potential benefit of admitting your shortcomings. Not all clients will be happy with your answers. Doesn’t matter?
I believe that if a project is over my head in some capacity, it will eventually manifest itself. That can show up in the form of a mistake. Or maybe we hit a roadblock in the middle of the process. One way or another, we will probably have to face this reality at some point.
It is better for everyone to know this from the beginning. Clients can understand my limitations, although I don’t feel the need to pretend.
When in doubt, just Be Yourself
It’s hard to be more authentic with clients. After all, everyone wants to put their best foot forward. Besides, nobody wants to be unqualified for the gig.
But the reality is that not every project will succeed. Wouldn’t it be better to achieve this right away rather than six months into the job?
Authenticity helps you filter out less desirable opportunities. And it enables you to establish a better relationship with your clients. When someone knows who you are, they are more likely to give the same level of honesty in return. This fosters a better working partnership and increases the chances of a successful outcome.
The bottom line is, no, you don’t have to be a superhero. But it is enough to be yourself, however imperfect.