If you’ve been working as a web designer for awhile, you may find yourself in an interesting position: Resident Expert/Guru. Friends, family, colleagues and clients will ask you for advice regarding the web or other technology-related topics.
I’ve been asked for advice and opinions on all sorts of matters over the past 20+ years. Even when I was the youngest person in the office, for some reason people sought out my perspective. I never quite understood why. Perhaps it was because the web was fairly new then and not a lot of people really understood it. Technology was also just beginning to shape our lives in ways we couldn’t yet imagine.
The Freelance Designer Toolbox
Unlimited Downloads: 500,000+ Web Templates, Themes, Plugins & Design Assets
After awhile, I stopped questioning the reasons behind it all and just enjoyed helping others. If I know something that can help make someone’s day easier, I’m glad to do it.
Don’t Believe the Hype
The downside of being appointed a guru is that you might start to actually believe it yourself. Not that you become a narcissist of any sort. It’s just that, when everyone’s asking for your help, you might get the idea that you know more than you really do. That can have some nasty side-effects.
For one, it’s easy to overcomplicate things. Recently I had a request from a client that seemed to me that it would be an arduous task. My initial thought was that I’d need to carry out several steps to make it all happen. As it turns out, absolutely none of it worked.
I reached out to a tech support rep and they provided an answer that was far simpler than mine – and it worked perfectly. My first reaction was, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
I’d completely outsmarted myself. Somehow, I approached the task in exactly the wrong way.
The Lesson: Think of the simplest possible solution to whatever challenge you face.
It’s Not Always Rocket Science
When you’re used to dealing with difficult problems on a regular basis, you start to see everything through that lens. You may think, “If it’s something that I have to deal with, then it must be hard and complicated.”
Maybe it has a relation to something you dealt with in the past. It could be the same software or even the same client who had a really complex problem. That can lead to feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all (“Oh, no. Not another issue with XYZ!”). Perhaps you’re not thinking as clearly as you’d like.
The truth is that each challenge you face is its own separate entity. That doesn’t mean that you can’t reference your past experiences. It just means that you don’t need to pile old problems on top of new ones – stressing yourself out before you even get started.
With that in mind, it helps to have a process for your problem-solving endeavors:
1. Define the Challenge
Don’t worry about the solution just yet. This is all about going back to basics. Identify what the task at hand is before you go any further. This will allow you to create some separation from past dealings.
2. Find the Simplest Solution
Now that you have a clear definition in your head of just what the task is, you can start to think of a way to handle it. You may have several ideas in mind. Choose the one you believe to be the simplest. It’s fine to jot down other ideas just in case you need to come back to them later on.
It’s time to get to work using the solution you chose in Step 2. Give it an honest effort. If it worked – great! If not, you can always revisit the previous step and try to find another way to get things done.
Keeping It Simple (and Real)
Problem-solving can be one of the most tedious aspects of this job. And there is real pressure when others are regularly looking to you for answers. It’s easy to lose yourself in the moment and feel like you’re never going to figure things out.
By simplifying your thinking, you might find that the solutions come to mind a bit easier. With that, your stress levels will also be lowered.
A quick three-step process won’t by itself solve all of your problems. But it will give you a solid place to start.