I passed by a run-down tuxedo shop on my way to visit a client yesterday. In faded, chipped window paint, it had a sign in the front that read “We’re your prom headquarters.” I wondered about that: really, this is where kids go for prom? I found that hard to believe. Anyway, I’ll talk more about this later.
The shop, which was housed in a decrepit building, featured a parking lot that was in gross disrepair and shop windows that were so dirty that it was tough to see through them. To cap things off, the store plunked down cheesy-looking astroturf instead of grass, and they had a logo and brand name that is as old (maybe older) than I am. I remember this tuxedo shop when I was growing up, and it doesn’t look like they’ve done much to “get with the times” since then. The store, the logo, and the brand are dinosaurs. It was kind of sad. The store is so out of touch that I felt embarrassed for them--sort of like a fat, balding uncle that still thinks he’s cool, even though everyone else knows that he’s not.
I know, you’re asking, “Who cares? What’s this got to do with graphic/web design freelancing?” Well, as I mentioned, the store claimed to be “your prom headquarters,” but I couldn’t help but wonder what high school student would want to get ready for his prom in a dingy, decrepit store like this. I wanted to walk into the store and declare, “You might have been prom headquarters in the 1950s, but you’re not now. This place is a dump.”
Prom’s a wonderfully exciting time for kids--it’s a time they want to feel great about themselves. For guys, in particular, they want to look cool and feel cool. However, there’s nothing about this store that’s cool. It’s a drab, boring stop on the way to something that will be cool (going to prom). It's like having to stop at a dirty, neglected gas station to fill up your car on the way to Disneyland. My ranting aside, the point is, the feeling people get during their purchasing experience is just as important as their result (at least in most cases). Sure, some high school kid could get a decent tux at this broken-down store, which is fine, but he’s missing out on a priceless experience and a memory of really enjoying himself while he’s picking out his tux. What, for example, if the store invested some money to modernize their look? Perhaps they could install widescreen tvs, a slamming sound system, offer free Red Bulls, and even hire attractive (hot) girls as salespeople. Could you imagine how many boys would visit the shop? How many of them do you think would tell their Facebook friends, “Dude, you’ve gotta go to this place. It’s unbelievable!”
Think about this idea of customers/clients needing to get good results from working with you, but also feeling good throughout the process. Your clients don’t want to feel cool (well, maybe some of them do) the majority of them want to feel hope. They want to feel that working with you is going to bring in new and better customers, boost their confidence, and allow them to charge a premium for their products/services. As a designer, you have the power to help people turn their business around--to change how they feel, and their customers feel, about it. You might not have a store, like the tuxedo shop I’ve talked about, but everything about working with you should make your clients feel more confident and hopeful about their business. Providing exceptional design will help make you a success as a freelancer--providing exceptional design while making your clients feel like they can take on the world will make you a star.