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Freelance product design consultant: What I do and how much I make

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I'm Michaela waters I'm 27 I'm a product design consultant and I make a hundred and twenty thousand a year as a product design consultant I am hired by companies who are interested in enhancing their design experience for their consumers my role is to study what the product serves for the user and how to enhance that experience to make it easier and more fluid as a product design consultant you need to be able to do web design mobile design industrial design and graphic design and a lot of those require some user research so going out and talking to consumers about their experience or their workflows and then integrating their answers into your designs as a graphic designer you'll do things like create the user interface so actually designing what someone sees on a product web design is more it envelops a little bit of marketing being able to put different marketing messages onto a website and understand how someone wants to learn about a product you need to be able to design a website to answer all of their questions so that way they actually want to purchase the product and they understand what they're purchasing when you do mobile design you have to think about quick questions that people are asking and how they want to digest information really easily in small pieces because they're looking at their mobile phones so it's a lot smaller screen you need to be able to condense information and even come up with icons or images that they're gonna see to answer questions and then be able to design things like menus different pages and where information goes inside of a website or an app industrial design is usually physical product design I don't do too much of that but it's really cool it's like everything that you interact with usually an industrial designer has had their hat hands-on in the physical world it requires some engineering thinking some material design understanding so you you need to know quite a bit to be an industrial designer one of the projects I'm currently consulting on is cuvee it's a smart wine bottle company they help consumers find wines that they love and allow them to drink wine by the glass they have a smart bottle that keeps wine fresh for 30 days and a smart dispenser which I'm designing the interface for that allows you to rate while you're drinking your wines get feedback on what the pairing and tasting notes are for the wine and really envelop yourself in the winery experience so you learn about where your wine is from how it was made and where it was made one of the major projects I'm working on right now is redesigning their navigation I first went out with a colleague of mine and interviewed quite a few of their current consumers people who we think of as super users who use the product all the time and through that discussion we found out that they were asking for a lot of features that the product already has so that led us to believe that some of the navigation and the menu needed to be redesigned in order to really showcase features that are already available so a big part of being a product designer is not necessarily coming up with new ideas but also ensuring that people know how to access existing ideas cuvee is my first luxury product as a product designer which means that the entire experience has to feel really personalized and upscale the consumer needs to feel that when they go to the website or either on their phone or on their computer and then when they purchase the product to getting the product unboxing the product trying it for the first time trying the wine for the first time that entire experience needs to feel cohesive really clean really seamless really effortless so they continue to use the product and then continue to enjoy the wines so as a product designer you're responsible for making sure that all of the interfaces line up all of the graphics line up everything looks and feels really rich but also the same my salary is a hundred and twenty thousand a year I charge hourly so I can make a range of salaries annually comparatively to others in my field I would say that I'm I'm in the middle in terms of what I charge I think you can always go up when you consult on your hourly rates it just depends on if there are clients available to pay that because I work with early-stage companies I don't necessarily have the luxury of clients with a ton of money backing them it can depend on if they've raised or not so it's really up to you when you're consulting who you want to work with if you're excited about the product and they might not have as much money it's kind of your own choice whether or not you're deciding to take a cut for really interesting portfolio piece that could end up providing you with a full-time position at the company if you're going to take a full-time position you may end up taking a pay cut for some security versus actually having a little bit more income at the moment but not really the security of knowing if the job is going to continue if you're doing consulting versus a full-time position at a company as a product design consultant you need a mixture of both hard and soft skills soft skills being good communication skills good time management the ability to budget to communicate with clients about if a project is going to be on time or if your deadlines are slipping and why in terms of hard skills you need to be able to use design programs on your computer to produce mock-ups for your clients it also helps if you can understand a little bit of code just so that you understand the limitations of the work that you're doing and then you can also speak with the engineering team which a lot of clients appreciate one of the harder parts is just ensuring that you're able to communicate through drawing or through other channels than just verbally it takes a while to be able to turn an idea into something on paper as a skill that's definitely something I learned in architecture school so moving from an idea in two different iterations sketching it out trying it in different versions building different models of it and deciding which one's the best usually with clients you present multiple version so that way they have things to choose from as opposed to just a single solution what's tough about my job is that it's sometimes unpredictable especially as a consultant and working with early-stage companies you can't really rely on everything working out next week next month next year so you have to be good at planning for the future and making sure that you're saving money just in case the worst case scenario ends up happening you also want to make sure that you're not pinning all of that responsibility on yourself because in an early-stage company it's very personal you are working so hard you your heart gets put behind all of your work and so if things don't turn out exactly how you hoped it feels personal it feels like you've failed but it's not just you what I love most about my job is that I get to take a deep dive into lots of different topics and different markets so one day you can be learning all about education one day you could be learning about healthcare and healthcare policy and then one day you could be learning about wine I think it's really interesting to get to know a lot of information really quickly from experts and then try to endorse all of that information into a product for consumers to learn as well and to feel like that knowledge is coming across in the design of the product
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