August 24, 2022No Comments

The art of selling and presenting our designs

Written by Nguyen Le

Why is presenting and selling important?

Selling is not a dirty wood, I used to believe it was. Like somehow it would ruin the integrity of my work. I believe designers should change their mindset on this. Selling your design and ideas is the difference between landing a dream project/client, getting your work realised into production, or nothing at all. And it took me a good 6-7 years to get good at this. You gotta Don Draper that shit up and learn how to present it whether that is in person, via video conference or email.

Presenting and selling well is about education. Educating your client on your processes, getting them into seeing your perspective and how your design is going to hit their objectives.

How can you get better?

As mentioned you have to sell and answer their why. Why is the design you are proposing the right solution. Put it back to the objectives. How does your work relate back to the business goals? How will it serve users better and create value for them. 

We’ll use email as an example.

Consider these 2 emails. 

Hi Bartholemew Shoe,
Here is the homepage design. Let me know what you think.
Attached jpg.
Cheers,
Nguyen

Open ended, not very specific and offers no real insight. Versus.

Hi Bartholemew Shoe,

Here is the homepage design. It takes into consideration the key objectives that we are trying to reach as outlined in the brief.

1. Increasing user engagement to key section X, Y, Z. 
2. Increase conversions on target pages X,Y.
3. Decrease drop off rates on page X.

I also identified and focused on these users as I was mapping out the sections of the homepage. 

1. Staff - Outline specific needs and how we are solving them
2. Parents - Outline specific needs and how we are solving them
3. Teachers - Outline specific needs and how we are solving them
4. Students - Outline specific needs and how we are solving them

Send a link with annotated notes that relate to each user and what each section hopes to achieve. (Use Figjam or Figma for this)You can view my notes by hovering on the blue dots. You can aslo respond directly to my notes on these comps by simply click on the specific areas.

Also here is a prototype for how I think certain interactions can work, that can provide a simpler experience for the above users. (Send some prototypes of how the user flow certain interactions can work.)

With this we have a began a good foundation for the visual language for the rest of the site. Would love your feedback and to hear your thoughts to keep the ball rolling.

Cheers,Nguyen

With this piece of communication we've established 3 things. The overall business objectives, the user objectives and finally thinking about the smaller details in the production itself.  It makes the work more specific. It gives value to the creative. Taking the subjectivity out of it. This can example can be applied to any medium and the principles are the same. 

  • A big project case study on a website.  
  • A presentation for a RFP, both verbal and written. 
  • Presenting your work to clients.
  • Presenting your work to perspective clients via email.

Educate and outline how you can solve specific problems. Tie it all back to why your design and proposition works in relation to these objectives. Do it from a macro and micro level and that’s how you present and sell well. Now go crush it with your design concepts and presentations!

June 6, 2022No Comments

Raise your standards and make more money as a designer

Written by Nguyen Le

Your standards dictate your outcome and results. That sandbox that you’re playing in and that mental ceiling that you’ve created for yourself will create the results you’ll keep getting.If you believe that the maximum rate you can get for a job is $50 per hour. Then you’d be afraid or reluctant to charge that much. So perhaps you ask for $40 per hour instead. This is your standard.

If you believe that the maximum rate you can get for a job is $150 per hour. Then this is your standard.

If you believe the maximum rate you can charge is not hourly based, but the value that you can provide for clients. Then a day can be worth $5000 to $20,000 to you or it can be worth $800 or a lot more or less. This is your standard or your norm.

Each standard will most likely attract a certain type of client, job or business model. So from a financial point of view it will either be the top of the market (the top 10%) or it can be the bottom of the market (the bottom 30%). Based on our above examples.

Standards and pricing is a form of marketing and sales.

Something a lot of designers don’t want to touch with a 10ft pole. It’s uncomfortable and for most us doesn’t come naturally. We don’t mind being the unsung hero sometimes. And that getting to be creative is the privilege and focusing on the money is selling out.

But pricing and getting paid what you are worth matters.

It says to the world and prospective employers, customers, clients and leads that you are at a certain quality. That this represents your standard.  When you think of good quality vs. low quality what is a common determining factor?

Price.

As a rule of thumb poorly made goods are usually cheaper. While quality items usually cost more - yet people are more than happy to pay for them.

There is a market out there that is happy to pay you more. Attract and gain the awareness, interest, desire and action of that market. Whether it be a freelance client or an employer.

Have the audacity to say I can work hard to raise my standards, that do things that scare me a little but will help me grow.

How can you raise your standard?

  • Read and learn more to build the mindset and confidence you need to take the next step
  • Get a mentor to benchmark yourself against them and their blueprint
  • Keep yourself accountable with the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly actions
  • Does your output reflect the standards that you have set for yourself? If not work to close that gap. Through practice, through repetition, through execution, through consistency
  • It starts with mindset to action
  • Do something that is slightly out of your comfort zone and keep building on top of that.

Standards are a belief and a value system, if you have a higher standard than the average population – it will require you to think differently than the most and it can be a difficult thing to do. Because that’s the conditioning and the messaging that you’ve been given by mass media and perhaps the people around you.

It applies to other areas of your life as well. If you have good healthy standards and habits it will influence other areas of your life. Like your health, relationship and finances. Eat healthier, move more, invest better, be a better listener. These are all standards you can set for yourself. The most important thing is don’t fret or be hard on yourself if you fail. The journey of improving and closing the gap is reward. The results will be the cherry on top - for the actions that you are taking to meet those standards.

Start reaching your highest potential. One day you’ll look back at the beautiful but arduous path you’ve crossed that got you to where you dreamed to be.

And made you who you are today. 

This is not just written to you dear designer friend, but a conversation to my past self. This expanding of the sandbox had me from making $20/hr in my early years to $200/hr, to now approaching 7 figures. If a chump like me can achieve it, through continuous growth, nudging my comfort zone and changing my mindset through time by learning from others. You can too. It was hard no doubt about it, but I just want you to know that it's possible.

If you would like to continue ways of earning more as a designer, I highly recommending checking out my free money workshop video here.

July 24, 2021No Comments

A strategy for accomplishing your goals

Written by Nguyen Le

"How do you prioritise in order to accomplish your goals? If you're trying to learn new technology, if you're working on projects, reading, business, family etc. How are you able to effectively manage and juggle these tasks? That's where I struggle the most, trying to get everything done. I think I tend to put too much pressure on myself but trying to get everything done can sometimes be overwhelming." This was a great question sent in by Ian one of our readers.

I used to never set goals, I just went with the flow. And that worked for a while – until life threw all sorts of shit in my direction that made winging it a lot less productive. So I wanted to be more purposeful with how I planned my time. And how I could get the most shit done on top of family life, health, work, business and just having a fucking good time.

How do I get so many things done?

The key is focus, which comes through prioritisation. So how do I prioritise and focus? What I do is to pick just 1 major goal for the year. So think of it as a pyramid.

At the top is your goal. Let's say hypothetically it’s:

1. Goal

Get a new job at a top tier tech firm. 

2. Strategy

Next in the pyramid is brain storm as many strategies as you can which can help you accomplish your goal: So for example you could -  Connect with hiring managers/design leaders, get better at the design process, create a wicked folio, learn how to code etc. Out of all the strategies pick the few that you are excited about, find effective and execute them throughout the year, which leads to step 3. 

3. Actions

At the bottom of the pyramid is the actionable stuff. What do you have to do day to day and month to month to support your strategy (which will move you closer to your goal) So you can say after every weekday I’ll spend 1 hour learning how to code. So you’ll do that for 1 month. Which will make you more proficient in that area. Then in month 2 you can connect with influencers via twitter and dribbble where you spend that hour everyday tweeting people in the industry and building relationships. 

So you focus on small day to day tasks that aid with 1 big goal. This will help you move whilst still managing to balance other important areas of your life. If you respect the process the results will come. If you try to do too much at once it leads to spreading yourself thin without much progress or impact. Worst yet you might feel overwhelmed or even burnout as you try to juggle too much. When you focus and see little results it also allows momentum to occur. Make yourself accountable to these daily tasks even if it’s just an hour a day. Cut out TV or anything that is not bringing great value to your life.

Effectively achieving your goals is about reverse engineering small actionable steps that help you execute on your strategies, when your strategies align together they position you closer to reaching your goal. They all stem from daily bite sized actions rather than lofty goals with no direction that you try to achieve in one night.

If you are feeling overwhelmed for prolonged periods, take a break because it'll lead to burnout. Don’t be too hard on yourself – patience is key. 

Another tip is to pick a goal that by proxy will support other areas that make you happy. You should push your comfort zone a little, and some days will suck, but overall you should be enjoying the little steps. What is the point of reaching your goals when you are hating every step required to get there everyday. 

Example of the framework in action

1. So if my goal this year is I’d like to help and reach 2,000 new Process Masterclass students. To achieve this goal I will need to continue to learn and apply new things (which I love doing). I will need to provide value and help students 1 on 1 as much as I can, which allows me to talk to students and see their growth which is awesome. It will allow me to support my family financially. So 1 goal can actually touch on other aspects of your life positively during the journey and not just the end result. 

2. Some strategies that could work. Build awareness for the class by upping traffic from Dribbble, sponsoring Design Newsletters, Start a Youtube channel, Build my email list to bring more awareness to the class and to provide upfront value etc. 

3. So 1 day to day task that I can be applying from January-March is to be posting daily on to Dribbble. Which brings people to my newsletter and the Process Masterclass site – read some of my content and see if I am a right fit for them. If I just work on this I know I will be moving a step closer to my goal. And from here I execute on various strategies every month or so. 

You can use this framework to achieve your big goal for the year. What is the 1 big thing you hope to achieve this year? 

I’d love to hear it – comment below, email me or tweet at me. If I can help in some small way, I would be more than happy to help you on your journey. 

July 24, 2021No Comments

My productivity hack for getting things done

Written by Nguyen Le

Today I'd like to share with you a super simple productivity framework that I use. I get asked a ton of questions about, design, career advice, freelance and how to get things done in general. So how can we get the most of “what we do” to achieve the goals that we want. This is how I approach my work most of the time.  

“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.”

DALE CARNEGIE

It's about prioritising

The hack is simple. Do the most important tasks first. Or more specifically do the thing that will give us the most amount of impact. It’s about the output of high value activities vs. time. And then try prioritise those tasks first everyday and tracking it. 

If you could only do one thing a day that would drive the most results what would that be?

Once you’ve done the high impact activities – the activities that really move you close to your goals.

Then you can move on to the secondary tasks that come our way. Answering emails etc. Don't get distracted by the secondary tasks first.

Our capacity to operate at an efficient and optimal level everyday is arguably only a few hours. 

Think back to your day, how long was your most productive AND creative stretch? That’s the window that you want to maximise. 

So you have to prioritise and use that peak mental energy effectively. 

To be productive don't get sidetracked

Everyday, month, and year we are bombarded with a ton things that we have to do. Tasks and activities we perform that zap our mental energy. It takes up most of our time, yet it’s output doesn’t necessarily add any extensive value to what we want achieve. 

It’s this vicious cycle of meetings. 

Replying to emails. 

Checking and consuming social media. 

Working on our folios when we should be out building relationships and getting leads with clients. (If you want to freelance)

Working on tweaking our logo rather than going out there and doing the HARD thing like generating revenue. 

You get the drift, it’s the law of diminishing returns. 

The goal is to reserve that peak mental energy of a few hours everyday and use it for high impact activities. Prioritising like mad. 

20% of the work creates 80% of the results. Focus on that high leverage work.

So you don’t have to work yourself to the ground to get results. The hard part is being honest with yourself, what is the most important thing I can do to achieve the outcome I want. What can I today? This month? This year. It won’t always be the easiest tasks, but it’ll be the most important thing you can do to leverage high volume output. 

Once you identify the outcome you can brainstorm different ideas for getting stuff done. 

Example of a goal and high impact activities

If my goal as a freelancer was to get clients. High impact activities would be:

  • Identifying who my ideal clients are
  • Identifying where my ideal clients exist and how I can get on their radar
  • Creative ways I can get the attention of my ideal clients. Creating a roadmap and strategy that I could execute against. 
  • How to generate value and build relationships with prospective clients.
  • How to turn prospective clients into leads by building trust and that upfront value. 
  • How to turn leads into paying clients. 
  • How to turn clients into repeat clients and brand advocates. 

You need to prioritise and focus most of your energy on this. Everyday I would pick a cross section of this and work on it.

80% of everything else that you do won’t matter.

Revenue is the lifeblood of a business. Your optimal time should be used to work on high impact activities as a priority. The reason we avoid these activities is sometimes we don’t face the music. It’s feels more satisfying ticking our random to do list off, even though it's not really doing anything that is generating much value, but it's easy to do and it feels like we are doing a lot.

Continuing on from the above example. 

Don’t spend 6 months working on a folio in isolation. 

Instead get in front of your ideal clients. Try cold emailing (it’s a lot of rejections and it’s hard, but done right it can yield results), creating content, providing value, connecting, and building awareness with that audience. Those are the hard things that you should be doing. 

Work harder and smarter

Hard work is always part of the equation, but working yourself to the bone won’t necessarily garner better results, if the person who is productive leverages their time better AND works hard. Their results will be worlds apart from the person who just works hard. Focus your energy on that 20% that generates most of the results and prioritise it. The more focused you are the more it keeps leveraging on itself, creating a compounding effect. 

When I’m at my best that’s how I operate. I have a clear overview for 1 month, what I hope to complete in that time, my hypothesis for what those activities will yield results wise. (Which I measure at the end)  And then every week I track what I will be doing. Each day I have 1 key thing that I hope to complete. And usually 5 secondary things that are optional that I can do if I have time. 

In summary

  1. To be at your productive best, leverage and prioritise your best mental energy (which is usually in the morning, but you can define when that time is best for you) and focus on doing the hard tasks that output the highest amount of results and leverage first.
  2. Focus on delivering on that 20% that delivers the most results.
  3. Focus and try to accomplish 1 key thing a day.
  4. Track your month. What were the results? How much was useful and optimal work?
  5. Track your year and then repeat the framework. 

July 24, 2021No Comments

Mentors = Growth

Written by Nguyen Le

Mentors I’ve had throughout my career have been instrumental to my growth as a designer. They helped guide the way and gave me that little push that I needed to realise more of my potential. The moments where I was lost and didn’t know if I was good enough to be a designer, or how to improve my work, or whether or not I could quit my job and run my own business. I looked at my mentors who paved the way for so many of these big decisions and actions that I took. Both through their own actions and their advice.

And so I ask you do you sometimes feel unsure about where your career is headed? Or wonder what’s next? Or you feel a lot of pressure because where you are now and where you want to be is not in alignment.

I did sure did,  when I first started I wondered if I was good enough often. I’d lay awake and wondered maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. But then the passion continued to burn bright, I put my head down, listened as much as I could, pushed my comfort zone and continued to do the work. And a lot has changed over the last decade.

You may be having these feelings and that’s ok. And it’s where mentors can come into play. They can help inspire you, make you think bigger and give you the fire needed to take the actionable steps needed to progress.

And so I want to share with you a simple guide with how I approach mentorship and my influences.

1. Learn from people many steps ahead as inspiration

These are the people that have done incredible things. People who can expand your thinking and mindset about what’s possible. The people whose stories and lessons you can take as inspiration and insight.

For me personally, there have been so many over the years so I can’t name them all, but these are the people that I’m currently looking to and learning from. Phil Knight – co-founder of Nike. Brian Chesky co-founder of Airbnb, Ben Horrowitz - VC from Andreessen and Horrowitz. So you see mentors don’t necessarily have to be people in your office or neighborhood, or someone you can have a coffee with. They can be found in books, online or in videos. These inspirational mentors are for growing your mindset about what’s possible. The inspiration to allow yourself to dream bigger.  

It all starts with your mindset and what you think is possible. I know it sounds hocus pocus, but it works. As your context expands, your potential expands with it. 

2. Learn from people a few steps ahead for actionable advice that you can apply immediately

The first type of mentors are great but they serve more has the high level values and not necessarily the actionable stuff that you can implement. Your position, ability and mindset can’t make the many steps required to operate at the level that the first mentors operate at.

If you are learning how to hit $100,000 next year, whilst trying to do your best work with clients, perhaps learning how to run a billion dollar business isn’t the best way to learn actionable advice. So this is where people who are just a few steps ahead come into play. Whatever pain points you are facing there are other people out there who’ve solved them. Whatever your goals are there are people out there who have done just that.

I’ll give you a very real current example. I just committed to investing $2.5k to join a mastermind group. This group is a bunch of entrepreneurs who all run businesses much larger than mine. Founders running multi-million dollar businesses. All people I can learn from who are a few steps ahead. It’s run by Mitchell Harper the former CEO of BigCommerce – who scaled his business to $200 million in revenue. A very knowledgeable but also very down to earth and nice guy.

He knows a thing or two about running business and what it takes to scale a business from 6 figures to 7 figures. (Where I am at the moment) Plus he’s a fellow Aussie which helps 🙂 But this information would have been useless to me, when I was starting out.

So the right information has to come at the right time for it to be useful. That’s why you need to find people who are just a few steps ahead and not light years ahead. Because that mental shift may be one that is too big to take.

From being a junior designer, just getting my feet wet, trying to get better at design and earning just over $100 a day. To today where I am aiming to scale my business to $1million by next year. It’s something I haven’t done before, it’s scary and bloody challenging. I’m prepared to be the little guy, and learn from these people who are a few steps ahead. They know what challenges I will face and what actions I need to take and how I can be accountable.

I for example through this newsletter may be a mentor to you, I may be a few steps ahead or I can be more of the inspirational type, depending on where in your career you are. I share and will continue to share my journey with you in the hopes that you can learn and also grow from my experiences.

3. You scale your influences and mentors as you progress

Your list of influences and mentors will continue to change as your mindset, expertise and capabilities grow. The people I learn from changes as my knowledge, circumstance and experience changes. When I first launched my course amazing people such as Paul Jarvis, Gary Vaynerchuk, Sean McCabe and Nathan Barry – were people I learnt from and very instrumental to my growth and actions.

When I was learning how to be a better designer, I looked to Dieter Rams, Massimo Vignelli and people such as Anton Repponen and agencies such as Fi. Now I have much different influences and mentors. Your influences should change, because that is a sign of growth and progress.

So scale your influences and mentors with your own growth.

So to recap:

  1. Learn from people many steps ahead as inspiration.
  2. Learn from people a few steps ahead for actionable advice that you can apply immediately.
  3. Scale your influences and mentors as you progress.

Go find and learn from mentors who align with your values and have achieved what you want to do. They are out there, you just need to put in the effort to look. Stand on the shoulders of these giants, so that you can see further. Use their wisdom and experience to carve out your own path and journey.

July 24, 2021No Comments

How to break down a design project

Written by Nguyen Le

I have a simple method for breaking down a design project. And it starts with answering these key questions.

The 7 key questions for a design project

  1. Who are the key user types? (Identify them)
  2. What are the “jobs to be done” for each user type? What do they want to do efficiently?
  3. What are the success metrics for the project team/key stakeholders? If we completed everything successfully- what would success look like? What are the key Metrics/Outcomes we are trying to move?
  4. What is the projected timeline for the project?
  5. What is the project worth?
  6. Who are the stakeholders involved and what are each of their goals?
  7. Who is on the project team?

Once you have this information you can synthesise everything together into a cohesive roadmap, strategy and execution plan with stakeholders and the project team.

All wanky sounding terms. But essentially it’s gather all the above information, make sense of the above information into a clear set of goals, create a plan based on said and agreed goals. Put the plan into action with the team. Design, Prototype, Test, and Iterate across the lifecycle of the project. Once you make things put it in front of people. But not just anyone the people who will use the product/service you are designing.

I use an agile methodology. We test and learn along the way. More partnerships with everyone involved. Vs. Let’s make everything in a cave do a big reveal with the client. Then just launch everything into the world at the end in a step by step manner.

Project example

Let’s have a look at the above project in action for a hospital website.

1. Who are the key user types? (Identify them)

  • Patients
  • People to be admitted
  • Visitors/Family+Friends of patients
  • Staff/Doctors
  • Staff/Nurses
  • Staff/Administrators
  • Carers on behalf of patients

2. What are the “jobs to be done” for each user type? What do they want to do efficiently?

  • Patients - need to find a specific room
  • Patients - need to know appointment times
  • Patients - need to know which ward and wing they are admitted under
  • Patients - want to learn more about doctors and surgeons
  • Patients - want to get in touch with a specific doctor/surgeon
  • Etc. Do for all user types

3. What are the success metrics for the project team/key stakeholders? If we completed everything successfully- what would success look like? What key Metrics/Outcomes we are trying to move?

  • Reduce inbound support calls
  • Be able to schedule patients in seamlessly
  • Have clear patient data that is accessible to admin staff
  • Improve the current mobile experience

4. What is the projected timeline for the project?

  • Tenders will be reviewed. A vendor will be selected on 21 January. The project will commence on the 1st of February with a projected completion date of 14th June. (We will be advised further by the selected vendor)

5. What is the project worth?

  • $285,000 budget for design and development

6. Who are the stakeholders involved and what are each of their goals? (Add goals to each of these stakeholders by interviewing them)

  • Head of Marketing - Sam Plight
  • IT lead - Vinesh Ramjik
  • Admin & Operations Manager - Stephanie Rice
  • Project Lead - Hanh Zo
  • CEO - Amanda Francis

7. Who is on the project team?

  • Creative Director - Nguyen Le
  • Design Lead - Justin Grathje
  • Copywriter - Tait Hill
  • Producer - Varenka Schill
  • Director of Technology - Lauren Powell


Once you have all this synthesize it together. Collaborate and divide and conquer together 🙂

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