Design Insights

Misconceptions about design consultants

Jul 2018

4
min read

The world of web design consulting is full of misconceptions from both the inside and the outside – and designers are no exception. Find out more about the reality of being a design consultant from the inside.

By Simon McCade
Jul 2018

4
min read

Some people outside of the consultancy world often assume that our lives are filled with mundane and insignificant work that leads to unfulfilled careers. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Most consultants experience and enjoy a level of independence that can’t be obtained in many other ways and the foundation of that is a true appreciation of the work that comes with it. 

In most cases, this independence translates to flexibility for the businesses that hire consultants, so they can be a real asset to companies and agencies large and small. 

Here are the most common misconceptions I’ve experienced in my time as a consultant:

“People consultant because they are in between jobs…”

Many consultants actually choose to work independently. I know I did. After years in a full-time job in the creative industry, I craved the independence, flexibility and valuable experience that consulting would bring me, so I took the plunge. 

It wasn’t the case that there were no better options. It wasn’t a fall-back. It wasn’t a last resort. It was a conscious choice to find the freedom my creativity craved.

Consultants get greater control of their own future and a stronger grasp, if all goes well, of their finances with multiple streams of income in economically uncertain times. 

“All design consultants are introverts…”

Some designers are introverts. Some, of course, are extroverts. But consulting doesn’t define those personality traits. The personality traits simply define how one approaches consulting.

I personally thrive on collaboration and interaction with clients and colleagues. There have been many opportunities in my time when I’ve got to work closely with creative and development teams onsite and the lessons those experiences have given me have been invaluable. 

The business community in a thriving, vibrant city like Bristol offers up an abundance of opportunities to build relationships, to build my portfolio and to build on my career – whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert has nothing to do with that. It all comes down to drive. 

“Aren’t you tired of working with small companies all the time?”

Another common misconception is that one-man bands only get to work with companies of a size relative to their own. Some people believe that opportunities with large companies will be limited. 

It’s the same as any other line of work. Some clients will want full-service agencies, but that isn’t to say that they will never hire a consultant or a contractor as well

The double helping of benefits that a consultant can bring is in the relationship between a diverse background of experience and a flexible approach to work, so they can respond in times of need when internal teams are experiencing heavy workloads. 

The specificity of a consultants work is conducive to an efficient work process, too, since they can be drafted in to execute certain tasks when the time is right and not be sitting around in an office waiting for something to do or, indeed, getting distracted by other busy projects.

It is this openness and versatility that has led me to work directly with large companies such as DAS Insurance Expenses, Nationwide Building Society, HP and HPE over the course my consultancy career to date.

“Consulting is easy…you don’t really have a job…”

This is one of the most common misconceptions of the consultancy life. It’s often said in jest, but it’s just as often said in the firm belief that consulting isn’t a genuine job. 

In actual fact, design consultants are expected to manage their entire creative business, covering everything from project management and execution to finances and forecasts. 

It’s more than a single job.

They must market themselves and they must single-handedly manage and meet client expectations. Some people would and do crumble under the pressure of knowing that a single mistake can cost you time, money and a good reputation. 

This means that the strong-willed will succeed and that, in turn, clients get to work with strong-willed and determined people. 

Consulting is not for the faint-hearted, but it is better than you might think…

If you are thinking of launching a career consulting or you are part of a business that’s looking to hire a consultant, don’t let these common misconceptions influence your decision. 

Consulting is a very rewarding business on both sides of the fence and it’s often difficult to see that before you’ve tried it. 

Web design consulting can be misunderstood

The good stuff

The not-so-good stuff

This article represents the opinion of experience design consultant, Simon McCade, who has no association or affiliation with the company or the app in question.

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