NDO Creative


The thoughts, musings, and recent blog posts on design thinking and communications, from the team at NDO*Creative.

Are You A Vendor Or An Expert?

Here’s a question you probably haven’t asked yourself: are you consulted for your expertise in a given arena, be that design or photography, or are you simply selling something? Read more in this article to understand why we shifted the positioning of our services and how it has made all the difference for our business.

Why do people come to your business in the first place?

Do they come to you for a product or a service? Here’s a better question: Which one do you want them to come to you for?

Many of us start businesses as freelancers, in which case we are providing direct services to clients; as designers, we are often creating logos, brand photography, or specific assets for clients: the client asks for a certain deliverable, you provide it, you invoice the client, and the transaction is effectively over.

Note: Transaction.


Especially after reading the “Win Without Pitching Manifesto” by Blair Enns, we are 100% committed to being in the relationship-building business. The second you treat a client exchange as a transaction, it becomes exactly that: a sale which becomes finalized and finished with.

When we take on clients through NDO, it begins a relationship with that client. Before even beginning the design phase, we spend the majority of our time in the discovery phase: understanding the needs, the goals, and the value the client/business is looking to provide, and how our services as brand strategists can help accelerate those. And if our services aren’t what the client genuinely needs, then we connect them to the right parties for the job.

Relationship building – not transactions – will lead to long term, recurring revenue for your company. It’s that simple.

Plus: when have you ever gotten a client on retainer from a transaction or a one-off project? Build trust – genuine trust – and you will have your business goals soar.

How To Position Yourself As An Expert/Consultant

Take Melinda Livsey for example: as the Designer and CEO of Marks & Maker, a brand strategy & design studio; her initial work rested primarily in logo development for small businesses, until one fateful conversation with designer/wizard Chris Do which led her to charging $5K for brand strategy services within six months.

As she joined The Futur and was mentored by Chris Do, she realized that logos were a small part of the design equation: when building brand identities, there is so much more to it, including typography, colour palettes, iconography, and other elements which build the true visual language of a brand.

And that’s not even mentioning brand strategy, which encompasses how to use the visual elements and language of a brand through your content and other touchpoints to truly engage your ideal customers.

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The main point here is this: being a brand strategist entails thinking beyond a singular asset, like a logo or wordmark; being a strategist entails expertise in a given field(s). Whatever your arena is, be that home repairs, graphic design, or running a clothing brand – customers appreciate being able to consult with you on their bigger picture.

And how exactly do you become an expert in your field? Time and study. Truthfully, becoming an expert on a topic or field is a matter of immersing yourself in the network surrounding your craft.

For example, if you are a graphic designer wanting to expand into the brand strategy arena, it’s worthwhile to learn a degree of copywriting, a few best practices for social media + content strategy, and some fundamentals about business and accounting. That way, you have a more thorough understanding of the overall picture, which is what strategy is all about.

Another way is to go as deep into the discovery phase as you can with your clientele: ask as many questions as you possibly can about their business goals, their needs, their customers – everything. Why? There isn’t any point recommending strategy or expertise if there isn’t a need for it; that’s to say some companies or brands only need a quick asset or deliverable. However, there are companies and clients who need more direction, and the only way to understand that direction and need is to understand the client themselves.

So now the question is this: Do you want to be a vendor? Or do you want to be an expert? The choice is yours.

What has your journey towards achieving expertise in your field been like? We’d love to hear about it below. 👇🏽