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Developing Skillsets - And Your Character - As a UX Designer

Developing Skills As UX Designer | Freelance UX Designer
Kat Shepherd
Kat Shepherd
March 9, 2022
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With more focus than ever before on user experiences online, brands are investing more time and budget on improving the journeys for their audiences. There are many aspects of UX design that need to be considered and one of the most valuable things clients can learn, according to UX designer Gavin McFarland, is to:

Be open to involving users early on in the design and development of your product or service.

Having over 12 years of experience in design, we asked Gavin to share some of his own advice as a Freelance UX designer, some of the challenges he’s faced during his career, and what makes a great client project. We asked him how clients can prepare projects when working with UX design professionals, to which Gavin shared;

A good onboarding is key to successfully getting a professional setup to help you with your project. It's vital, introductions are made, so they know who they're working with and who they can reach out to for questions. Creating a whiteboard with useful info like links, research, screenshots, tools you use, and the details of various people in your team can go a long way to getting them set up.

As design is typically a subjective area, we asked Gavin how he balances his own creative ideas with client briefs;

I think part of being a designer is being able to be objective about your choices. By constantly involving your customers in the development of your service or product it's easier to avoid it being about opinion and more about what's right for them and your business. However, inherently some of your personality will always be present in the work you do.

Sharpening skills within an ever-evolving industry takes some dedication and as a freelancer, there has to be a balance between ‘earning and learning’. We asked Gavin how he maintains his own creativity and how he develops his design skillset further;

When I get time I like to create tools and resources that other designers can use in their work. Recently I created a couple of Figma plugins that help designers manage their design systems. One, in particular, helps designers create and maintain tables when designing in Figma.
Table plugin Gavin created

One of the continued discussions within the design world is learning coding as a particular skillset to enhance a job and make them more attractive to clients. We asked Gavin to share his own thoughts on whether freelance UX designers should consider learning additional skills such as coding

This seems to be an age-old question. Learning to code is a good way to understand the medium in which your designs are used. It can help you better understand the limitations and opportunities of what you're designing. Learning to code can be very rewarding if you like to see your designs come to life. I think wherever you concentrate your efforts it will show in the work you do.
There are so many roles that combine multiple disciplines, for example, motion designers, growth designers, UX engineers. I don't think you should be pressured by anyone to learn a particular skill, just think of it as a role-playing game. You have X amount of points to spend on developing your character, where you choose to spend them is up to you.

Working for yourself exposes you to many different clients and projects so we asked Gavin, since being a freelance UX designer, what was the best advice he’d been given;

The best advice I've received is to keep a journal when you start a new project. Record key events, achievements and failures. Then when the project finishes it'll be easier to write your case study.

We asked Gavin to share how he personally handles criticism when working on projects for clients, as design often draws opinions;

While it's great to receive compliments on your work it's also really important to acknowledge where you can improve. I believe it's important to leave your ego at the door. Focus on the needs and wants of your customers (both users and the business) and the solutions will follow. I like to think that I am objective and I value any criticism that will improve the service or product I'm working on.

And finally, we asked Gavin how he felt being nominated for the Freelance Awards 2021;

I was speechless really. Being a freelancer can be lonely at times and you don't always get the opportunity to be recognised for your work. When I heard my peers had nominated me for a freelancer award I felt very appreciated.

If you’re looking to work with an experienced UX designer, why not book Gavin today.

AspectEmployeeIndependent Contractor
Control and supervisionDirect control over how, when, and where to workFreedom to set their own schedules and methods
PaymentRegular wages; taxes withheld by employerPaid per project; responsible for their own taxes
BenefitsHealth insurance, retirment plans, paid leaveMust arrange their own benefits
TerminationOften requires notice and may include severanceCan usually be terminated at any time without benefits
Tools and equipmentProvided by the employerTypically use their own tools
I’m a very pragmatic and versatile designer. My core strengths lie in problem-solving and translating customer and business needs into intuitive products. I have a balanced skillset with a technical and creative background in designing and building websites.
Gavin McFarland, Senior UX Designer
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