If you spend a bit of time in the web design industry, you’ll undoubtedly run into someone who just doesn’t understand the value in what you do. What’s amazing is that, even in this high-tech world in which we live, there are still those who think that anyone can do our jobs.
Years ago it seemed very common. As a young designer I can remember a few co-workers (and even my boss) literally having no idea what I did. But in those days, web design was a fairly new concept in the mainstream and so I never took it as any sort of malevolent ignorance. It was just a matter of not everyone being up-to-speed with what was happening just yet.
But now technology is everywhere. People hold the entire web in their hands. And yet, we still run into people who think we’re all hipster rip-off artists. Recently I had an encounter like this and I was a bit puzzled. The inference this person gave was that, because they themselves could make a few clicks and perform a few tasks, web design was just manual labor. Designers were simply needed to click the right buttons and didn’t have any value beyond our mouse handling skills.
Before I go any further down the rabbit hole, I should acknowledge that there are plenty of people who use DIY tools to create their own sites – and that’s fine. But it’s also not the point. Rather, it’s about having a basic respect for someone else’s profession.
Things Only a Pro Would Know
Oddly enough, around the time of this encounter I saw someone in another profession do something I thought was amazing. I watched a carpenter build a deck at our neighbor’s house. More than once I said to myself “I wish I could build something like that”. His precision and the relative ease with which he did his job reminded me that every profession has its intricacies – ones that only the true experts can navigate.
Web design is certainly in that category. There are challenges that require an eye for design and a brain for code. Things like knowing what desktop feature will scale down nicely to mobile or how to customize shopping cart behavior are the result of experience. They’re not tasks that just anyone off the street can do. Just like that carpenter knew exactly how to cut wood, web designers know how to solve problems specific to their craft.
It’s easy to write off a certain profession as “easy” or surmise that “anyone can do that” – but it’s also dead wrong.
Dealing with Non-Believers
There’s a reason web designers seem to celebrate each other so often – the job is difficult and full of challenges. So when we see one of our peers accomplish something significant, we often want to spread the word as a reward for a job well done. We often share in each other’s success – especially when it inspires us to do better ourselves.
Outside of the industry, you can’t necessarily expect that same kind of recognition. But you should expect that others respect your time and your value as a professional.
When you do run into someone who just isn’t buying what you do, here is my advice: Don’t lower yourself to work with them.
It’s just not worth working with someone who doesn’t value your skills. You’ll find that they (most likely) won’t want to pay the going rate for your services. They’ll expect everything to be done on the absolute cheap (it’s just clicking around a web browser, after all). It’s also doubtful that they’ll accept your advice, anyway.
If they casually mention that they could do the work themselves – encourage them to do so. Maybe they’ll accomplish what they need with a pre-built theme and a couple of plugins. If so, then more power to them. But eventually they’re bound to run into an issue they can’t solve with a few clicks. When that happens, perhaps they’ll start to realize that they need an expert to come in and clean things up.
They Call it Respect
In some ways, I almost feel petty for diving into this topic. The world is made up of all sorts of people and not everyone makes an ideal client. It’s easy enough to move on to bigger and better things.
But I think that this is also about a designer’s ability to stand up for themselves. A younger version of me may have just accepted this situation as truth. It might have led me to lower my own standards (not to mention my prices). But who does that help?
To be clear, just because someone doesn’t agree with your pricing structure doesn’t mean they don’t respect you. Negotiating over price is a much older practice than web design and applies to just about every line of work. Instead, it’s more about how someone perceives the value of your services.
More than anyone, you know your skill level and how hard you work. If someone questions that – you don’t need them.