“Hopefully, no matter how many roles I'm juggling, I will always be considered a teacher.”

I’m a designer. Sometimes I try to be a developer. Other times I’m asked to be an illustrator. There are even scenarios where I get hired by a client and am expected to be a calligrapher. Hopefully, no matter how many roles I’m juggling, I will always be considered a teacher. I’m not talking about anything formal. I did not study art education or go to grad school to become a college professor. I simply want to be someone that constantly shares the knowledge that’s been given to me.

There are three key “teacher” relationships that I’ve constantly seen popping up in my life:

  1.  The client-teacher relationship: What an honor to be hired and trusted by a client! Not only are you responsible for creating but you’re also just as responsible for teaching. You are doing a disservice to your client if you simply deliver your creation and walk away. You should be educating them on how to use it and how not to use it. It could be as formal as a style guide or as casual as a conversation
  2. The family-teacher relationship: You’re a designer. Everyone should know that. If that’s the case, then you should take the knowledge that you have attained and share it with your family (and friends)! Just as my uncle may lend advice regarding my renters insurance, I think it is my responsibility to tell him not to use comic sans for his client memos. It’s just the right thing to do.
  3. The stranger-teacher relationship: I have found this relationship to be the most rewarding because I don’t necessarily expect anything in return. There have been so many instances where I am able to share advice and tips with complete strangers regarding design. Some have resulted in clients but some haven’t. I constantly meet people in social or professional settings that are interested in a new website or branding but have no idea where to start. We should all be sharing our knowledge whether they want to hire you or not!

After a great meeting with Amy Schmittauer last week, she was able to remind me that sharing is not a bad thing. Amy states, “When you share information about your industry to your audience and give it away (without expecting anything in return) you show authority.” She explained that there’s this misconception that if you give someone else valuable information, you won’t gain their business. I truly do believe that the opposite is true.

There are various ways in which you can be a teacher. Perhaps it’s starting or continuing a blog, offering to speak at a conference, giving seminars, connecting two likeminded people who can benefit from a relationship, or even starting a podcast.

What do you think? Do you think that designers are too quick to keep information to themselves? How can you incorporate this idea into your business? How far are you willing to talk to someone before you consider it consulting? I would love to hear your thoughts.