Make a little progress every day to reach the next level.

Building a successful design business isn’t easy. It takes skill, it takes time, and it takes effort, a lot of effort. Think of your design business’s success as a journey. One where you strive every day to make progress towards that next level of success.

Every business starts off new, with all the potential in the world. To grow your business, you need to have a destination in mind of what next level you want to reach. Then you get to work and make progress towards that goal.

Maybe that destination is to land that first paying design client. Maybe it’s to see something you designed in print. Maybe it’s hearing from your client that they’ve made their first sale on a website you built for them. Whatever your destination is, you need to work hard until you reach it.

Of course, reaching that destination is not the end. It's a new beginning. Once you've reached that destination and achieved that goal, the next step is to progress to the next level. You do that by setting a new destination for yourself and setting off on that path.

Maybe your new destination is to get your second client. Maybe it's to design something portfolio worthy. Maybe it's to see your design on store shelves.

Whatever your goals are, or whatever path you take, you get there by putting one foot in front of the other until your next destination is reached.

Overcoming doubt.

Like any journey, there will be bumps along the way that may cause you to doubt yourself.

Am I a good enough a designer to be doing this?

Why would someone hire me instead of one of the other talented and more experienced designers offering similar work?

Can I create a design that truly reflects who the client is?

Am I charging too much or too little for my work?

These are all normal questions to be thinking. Some designers don’t even realize they doubt themselves by asking them. But it's ok; all designers do it. And you know what? Doubting yourself is healthy. If you didn't doubt yourself, there would be nothing to keep you in check. Nothing to cause you to stop and think is this the best idea or direction. Nothing stopping you from taking a wrong path that leads you away from the destination you set for yourself.

The trick is to use that doubt to help you navigate to that next level. This goes for whether you’re just starting out in your design business or you’ve been doing this for many years. The next level is still the next level. It’s the place you haven’t been before with your business. Another step on the road to success.

One of the big challenges of reaching those next levels is self-doubt, the uncertainty and the lack of clarity about how to get there.

We all experience it. There have been several times over the years when I wasn’t sure about what I should do next, or how I should proceed with my business either. I doubted myself.

When I switched from hourly billing to fixed and value-based billing, I wondered if it was the right move. When I went from charging hundreds of dollars for a website to charging thousands of dollars I was worried that nobody would hire me anymore. When I decided to give up hand coding websites and focus solely on building WordPress websites I was worried that I wasn't being true to my design roots.

Heck, when I was thinking of starting the Resourceful Designer podcast I had doubts. I didn’t know how the show would be received. Would people like you enjoy it? Would you find the topics I talk about interesting and informative? Would you even bother listening to someone like me who isn't a big name in the design world?

All of these were next levels in my design career that I chose as destinations to reach. And I reached them by getting over my self-doubt.

Maybe you don’t have your own design business yet. Maybe you’ve recently started one and are in the process of growing it. Maybe you are running a part-time freelance business while working a full-time job. Or Maybe you’ve been at this a long time and already feel successful.

Regardless of where you are in your career, there will always be a next level to reach.

Reaching the next level.

If you want your design business to progress towards a next level, you have to be clear on what that next level is. Then do whatever you can to avoid distractions as you work towards it. Remember, How you get to the next level isn’t as important as what that next level is.

If your goal is to build $20k websites, maybe you decide to give up everything besides designing websites. You give up designing logos, posters, brochures, trade show booths, mobile apps, etc. and focus just on websites. You spend all your time working on one website after another, going from one client to another building up your skill and reputation until you land that big fish, the $20k website.

Or, maybe you decide to take it in smaller steps by building long-term relationships with your clients. You spend time helping them develop their brand and grow their business over months and years until they are big enough to pay you $20k for their next website.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it because how you get there isn’t as important as what your next level is.

Making progress

Once you know your destination, that next level, the trick is to make consistent incremental progress towards reaching it and being completely dissatisfied when you’re not making progress.

In other words, make progress every day. It should be your standard method of operation. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a little progress, like learning a new trick or shortcut to make something easier for you. As long as you make progress every day.

Can a brand new unproven web design business charge $20k for a website? There's nothing stopping them. However, they may find it difficult without any experience to show potential clients. Especially clients with deep pockets.

But a new unproven web design business with a focused goal in mind of one day designing $20k website, which spends its time working towards that goal every day. Month after month, year after year. There's nothing stopping them from eventually reaching that goal.

Remember that progress builds up over time. If you make a little progress every day, with a clear idea of where you’re going, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to stay focused and reach your goal.

Don't quit.

The final thing I want to say is, never quit.

Most designers, whether they are running their business as a side gig or as a full-time business, most of the ones that end up failing, they do so because they quit too soon. They set up their business thinking they would simply run it one day at a time and see what happens.

Those designers didn’t have a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve, and they didn’t know how to progress towards those next levels to reach their goals.

Yes, times may get tough. You may decide that putting food on the table is more important than trying to land that big fish client. Sometimes life’s situations may force you to seek other forms of income. And that’s OK. But that’s not a reason to give up on your goals.

Remember, a successful design business is a journey. And journeys take time and patience.

I know it’s easy to become discouraged when things are not working out. But you need to look beyond that. Maybe that discouragement you may be feeling can be overcome with some good advice about how to tweak what you’re doing and get back on track.

Maybe that discouragement is coming from your self-doubt of what you are capable of doing.

Find a business coach or mentor program to help guide you. Find places like the Facebook groups with people willing to listen and help. The answers are out there if you take the time to look for them. We all have these doubts from time to time that we need to overcome before progressing along our journey.

If you’re feeling discouraged or you doubt yourself, you need to figure out why that is and address it.

There are limitless opportunities out there for you to grow a successful design business. Don't let anything stop you.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Anees

Hi Mark!

I hope you are doing well preparing more content for us :). Well my question may be not new but I want to hear from you.

What's the difference between good and great design.

To find out what I told Anees you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Front-End Checklist

This week's resource is a website called frontendchecklist.io. Front-End Checklist is perfect for modern websites and meticulous developers! This site shows you all the different aspects of a website build with items divided into low, medium and high priority and allows you to check them off as you complete them. Filter the checklist into sections such as SEO, security, accessibility, performance, CSS, Javascript and more. If you develop websites, I think you will like this resource.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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