I’ve been doing a lot of work (finally!) on my own portfolio with the same central goal I have for most of my digital clients: telling the story of my business.
Its an old cliche that “stories sell”, but cliches stick around because they are mostly true. In my case, the story is more convoluted on the surface than a typical business. Even though its my stuff, it still took awhile to figure out how to clearly articulate what I do, how I work and why it works.
My first challenge was to come up with a way to unify disconnected content , experiences and projects– I’ve worked in a LOT of different mediums and most often, my projects have involved taking on a certain amount of responsibility for final outcomes that distinguishes them from simply “freelance” work.
Now, I’ve always described my basic contracting method in two steps:
- Setting a clear definition of client expectations and project success.
- Establishing the conditions required for to produce successful outcomes.
Reflecting on this brought me to my first unifying term for what I do: “project design”. Most people talk about project management, which is part of what I do, but I realized I always start now with a rough map of project components that I test against previous experiences, weigh against the personalities involved in and the stated goals of a new project and edit before I write a proposals or take any actions on behalf of my clients.
In hindsight, I find this to be true of everything I’ve done: custom fine art paintings in the studio, faux painting in private residences, commissions for public or commercial art, website design, social media strategy development, whatever. I think its because most of the work I do involves things that, in many ways, haven’t exactly been done before, and so requires an extra clear vision, additional explication, client education, etc.
This was easy to see doing custom artwork, for example because many of my clients had never commissioned a piece of art before. In the entertainment world, most projects revolved around a unique vision or design that required a mashup or reconstitution of methods and approaches used on past gigs, and usually the development of some new techniques to create a distinctive product.
As a professional artist, I had pretty much sole responsibility for successfully delivering something that most of my clients wouldn’t be able to completely imagine or understand until the project was mostly complete– at which point its usually too late to revise or revisit without taking a loss as a business in terms of additional time, money and/or materials required to make it “right” in the eyes of the client.
This is how I see the natural evolution of my business into providing specifically digital project design solutions. Because many of the clients I work with are still not clear on why they need a website, or what their website should do, what LinkedIn is for, why they should use Twitter, etc, I’m doing something that, for them, has never really been done before.
So while I produce actual websites, keyword writing guides, social media profiles, strategies and the like, the heart of what I do today for my clients is to put these digital tools into the context and perspective of their real world organization to empower their ultimate effective use, usually by people who are relatively new to digital marketing, search optimization, and/or social media.Just like in mural or faux finish design, I usually need to help my digital clients articulate their various goals through dialogue laced with education before anything else can happen.
Understanding all that, the question became, how to tell the story so people could get it.
I’ll throw out some maybe answers in the next post.