What We Learned at SXSW: “How to be a great designer”


Source: sayshityeah.com
Source: sayshityeah.com


One of the best sessions I attended at SXSW 2015 on a personal and professional level was one led by Michael Nieling, Founder and Creative Director of Ocupop. He is one of those people who has you laughing constantly and is always testing his boundaries with the things he says and does. This makes people respect him even more, which is something that drew me to his session. During the 2014 SXSW Interactive he gave a session that was a huge hit, so they invited him back and unsurprisingly it was standing room only.

When working with clients or prospects we all have to realize that there are two types of clients; those who have the money to spend on your services and those who don’t want to spend the money.

Differentiating these types of clients is very important to your business and maximizing the use of your company’s’ time. Michael touched on a few points from his talk last year and one of them was about proving that you are an OLLOW (1)expert and being able to tell clients no. Positioning yourself as an expert is what clients love.

“We don’t give clients what they want – we give them what they need,” he said.

When clients come to you they are doing it because they need your services – not because you need theirs. This is something to really keep in mind. Options are great, but giving too many options can sometimes be a mistake. People have enough trouble deciding what to wear in the morning, let alone what graphic to use as their logo.

3 Life Hacks for Personal & Professional Growth

When it comes to progressing personally and professionally Michael gave 3 things that he tries to live by, which are to hustle, be charming, and to give!


Work really hard when you are young. You have so much less responsibility than when you are older, and if you get an awesome opportunity then jump on it!

Exercise! And Eat well.

Make people believe in YOU and get in front of decision makers!Source: sayshityeah.com


Swear a lot, people love it! (This is obviously something that works with Michael’s personality type, but not everyone’s, it goes along with his personal humor and charm – figure out what works for YOU!)

Have your “go-to” cliches and words that you can use that are really powerful to you. It is okay to be cliche sometimes.

Don’t be afraid to have boilerplate emails about your project processes etc. to send to clients and/or prospective clients. You shouldn’t be afraid to use what works over and over again because if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it, right?

Have a lot of perspectives – know a lot about a lot of different things – you should be able to have a conversation with everyone you meet about something.Source: sayshityeah.com


Write thank you notes – handwritten. Emails. Texts. Take people to lunch, dinner, etc. At least one of these mediums is better than none at all. It shows respect to your clients and appreciation, which in turn typically generates REFERRALS and repeat business! :)

Even if you feel like you are the one that deserves to be thanked – thank them!

Position yourself as a charming individual that you would want to be around. Personally, I have learned to look at good qualities I don’t have and then I will think about people who do have those qualities. After that I am able to strive to take on some of those qualities by becoming more like that person.

If you want to check out more awesomeness from Michael Nieling, check out his website!