Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Guest Post: Being a Designer for a Startup - Some things to expect

Startups are everywhere and when opportunity knocks for a UX designer to join in, should you answer? If you've found the right startup for you, what's next? In this guest post, Danielle Arad, Director of Marketing and User Experience Specialist at WalkMe.com, talks about what to look for and what to know before negotiating. Danielle is also chief writer and editor of WalkMe's  UXMotel.

Getting into the startup arena can be fun and exciting, but it’s something that needs to be handled properly. There are literally hundreds of different developers and entrepreneurs with whom you can work and there needs to be some special guidelines when working with one. If you are not careful, you could essentially lose out on a special opportunity that may boost your professional career. Another real possibility working in startups is not getting paid, so contracts are critical. Getting some money upfront can alleviate this problem in the short scheme of things, so remain persistent on building a contract.  Take the time to ask questions so that you understand understand what is expected of you and the entrepreneur so that there are no headaches later on.

Young talents won’t ask for a lot of money, but many are visual designers who aren’t familiar with the finer points of user experience, such the business impact of a user interface layout. As a designer, you are already familiar with how a layout of the user interface can impact ROI and what needs to be done to have the best impact for the business. You are also already familiar with what deliverables the founder may request, whether they are wireframes and whiteboarding, and factors such as time on the site. Many entrepreneurs are not taking the risk of seeking an amateur designer; rather, they are going straight to a well-seasoned UX designer, one who has experience with interface design and experience design Cut: how to design interface based on what the user needs and wants, and knows how to utilize it in a positive manner. This designer is the startup’s secret weapon.

Now, let’s say that you have the skills and experience, a great portfolio and you can prove your value to the startup. How much equity or salary should you expect? If you accept a low rate that could anger you or make tensions high when they press for revisions or upgrades to the site.

Before you jump the gun, there are a few key components that you want to critically think about. Firstly, are they already funded or do they need to be funded? If they haven’t been funded yet, they won’t be able to pay you off the bat. If they want to give you a portion of their revenue, make sure you are aware that they must compensate you a few months down the road. Some of you might be okay with working for free, seeing the potential benefits down the line, while others of you might not be too fond of this.

If the startup is pre-funded, but they can’t pay you regardless, consider requesting to be a co-founder. This is a fair request because you will be putting a lot of time and effort into the work and need some compensation for it. Remember that the site or app would not be possible without your help and becoming a co-founder is not a bad business move. Take note of the fact that many corporate laws don’t allow issuance of equity for future services, so the startup may need to invest equity after a certain period of time. This may be a tough sell, but if you believe in the business idea and the co-founder’s ability to make things happen, this could put you in a great professional position.

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