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Do you want to know the secret to a satisfying design career?Let’s face it; it’s impossible to be completely happy and satisfied with whatever career choice you choose. I mean, even being a professional chocolate taster has its drawbacks.
But out of all the gazillion different things you can do with your life. Being a graphic or web designer, at least in my opinion, is one of the more satisfying options out there. Then again, I may be a bit biased.
But just like every other career choice out there, being a designer has its ups and downs. You get to make money using your creativity. You get to design things that change peoples’ lives. Your creations are displayed for everyone to see and admire.
But there’s the flipside. Clients don’t always have the same vision as you. Some people are demanding to work with. And don’t get me started on taxes and all the administrative work involved with being a designer.
As I said, ups and downs. Luckily, and I’m sure you’ll agree, the life of a designer is filled with more ups than there are downs. That’s what keeps us going.
But what if I told you that you could increase the number of ups you experience? What if I told you there’s a very simple secret that will allow you to have a happier and more satisfying design career? That secret boils down to four words.
But hold on, before I tell you those four words, I want to share a scenario with you. Something you’ve probably experienced yourself at some point in your design career. And if you haven’t, give it time. I’m sure you will.
Let me know if this sounds familiar.
You’re hired to design a logo for a client. Being the good designer, you are you hunker down and get to work sketching out dozens, if not hundreds, of different ideas for the logo.
Most of these will be dismissed almost as soon as you make them. Some of them you know even before you make them that you won’t use them, but you have to get the idea out of your head. Or am I the only one who does that?
After a while, you are drawn back to a handful of your ideas that show merit. Some of them you play and tweak, trying this and that until you realize they won't work and discard them. But there are a few that are promising. So you concentrate all your talent and design skills on making them just right.
In the end, you are left with two or three logos ideas. You then create a nice presentation, including various mockups to showing how each one would look in real-world situations. Then it's off to present to the client.
Even though all three ideas are good, you secretly have your favourite from the bunch. You know, The one you’re already picturing in your portfolio. The one you can’t wait to show off and let everyone know, “Hey, I designed this logo.” Yes, you always have your favourite.
Then, of course, there’s your second favourite. You don’t like it as much as the first one, but still, it’s a damn nice logo. Not that there’s anything wrong with the third logo. After all, you wouldn't present a logo to a client that you didn’t think was good enough, would you? I didn’t think so. But logo number three, even though good, doesn’t compare to logo one or even logo two.
You present your three designs to the client. You may even try to upsell your favourite logo a bit more than the other two. There’s no harm in doing that. And then you sit back and wait for the client’s decision.
You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
Regardless of your effort and your desires, the client chooses the third logo.
You put on your happy face as you pretend to share in the client’s enthusiasm, but in your gut, you feel let down.
How could they choose logo number three? Can’t they see how great the first logo is? Or even logo number two would have been fine. But no, they chose logo number three.
I’m sure this exact scenario is why some designers practice the one-concept approach. They don’t offer their client’s any options. Instead, they offer them one concept-take it or leave it. If that’s how you work, then more power to you. But that’s not the way I do things myself.
Why did I share this scenario with you? It’s because I was hoping you could think about how you would feel in that situation. You were so sure the client was going to fall in love with the same logo you loved. And they didn’t.
You feel confused.
You feel torn.
You feel let down.
You feel dejected.
Remember I told you that the secret to a happy and satisfying design career came down to four words? Well, here they are.
IT’S, NOT, ABOUT, YOU.
It’s not. It has never been, and it never will be. A happy and satisfied designer knows that everything they do is about the client. When you embrace this concept, your design career becomes so much easier.
You may have liked logo number one better, and that’s fine. But that wasn’t the client’s choice. To them, logo number three is the best one. And you know what? They’re right. At least for them. It’s not about what you think. It’s about what they think. The client is more than happy with their decision to chose the third logo. And so should you be. After all, they hired you to create something for them, not something for you.
Sure, you wish they had chosen the first logo so you can showcase it on your social media and in your portfolio. But it’s not your logo; it's theirs. Once you move on to the next design project, you’ll give their logo very little thought. On the other hand, the client is going to embrace and live with your creation for hopefully a very long time.
So regardless of your preferences, it was never about you. It was always about the client. Remember that.
But “It’s not about you” doesn’t only apply to client preferences in logos. It applies to many aspects of your business.
The RFP (Request For Proposal) you submitted gets turned down. The person reviewing it had their reasons for saying no. Maybe you didn’t match their criteria. Maybe someone else submitted a better proposal. Maybe the person judging the RFP already had a preference in mind, and the process was just a formality. Regardless, It’s not about you.
A client turns down your website proposal stating the price is too high. Did you overprice the project? No. You priced it where you thought it should be. The fact that the client thinks it’s too expensive is not about you. It’s about them. It’s about their expectations.
Now you do have some control over client expectations. The way you present your proposals, the way you explain the value you bring, the way you show how much of a benefit working with you can be. All these things can help sway a client’s expectations. But ultimately, it’s not about you. It’s about them. They make the decision they think is right for them. And even if you feel it’s the wrong decision. It’s still not about you. It’s all about them.
If you remember that it’s not about you. It will make every hurdle in your design career much more palatable as long as you do the best that you can. As long as you present the best options. As long as you’re sincere and honest in your dealings. Then the results will never be about you. You can be satisfied that you’ve done everything possible. The final decision is in their hands, and therefore, it’s all about them.
Hopefully, you'll learn something from the process, take note of it for next time, and then put the whole thing behind you and move on.
“It’s not about you” applies to smaller things as well.
The client doesn’t like a suggestion you make. It's not about you.
The client doesn’t like the colours you chose. It's not about you.
The client doesn’t like the font you used. It's not about you.
The client doesn’t like the web feature you added. It's not about you.
None of these are about you. And therefore, there’s no reason to get upset about them.
And even if the client does agree to your price and hires you. Even if they love your choices and ideas, even if the client praises your designs, it’s still not about you. You may feel good about it, and you should. But It’s still all about them and how they feel.
When you learn to embrace an “it’s not about you” attitude and learn to let go of all the little things that may upset you about this career. You will notice that your life as a designer will be much happier and much more satisfying.
Always remember, your goal as a designer is to make the client happy. You’re there to serve them to the best of your ability. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you think, because it’s not about you.
And when your clients are happy with what you do for them. When they come back to you over and over again with more design projects. When they tell everyone about the great services you offer. When they treat you as a trusted partner, well, at that point, maybe it is a little bit about you.
Resource of the week Backblaze
There are not many tools on my must-have list. Even Divi, my ultimate choice for building WordPress websites, isn’t a must-have.
But one thing everyone with a computer should have is a backup strategy—a way to safeguard all those precious files you have. And an extra hard drive is not enough.
And that’s why I believe that no backup strategy is complete without BackBlaze.
Backblaze is a cloud backup solution that gives you peace of mind, knowing all of your precious files are safe and secure, regardless of what happens to your computer.
You may be thinking, I don’t need Backblaze. I have DropBox or Google, or One Drive. Let me tell you that those platforms were never meant to be a backup solution. They’re great for storage and file sharing but not for backup.
For a true cloud backup solution, you need something that was build just for that purpose. And that’s Backblaze.
I’ve had Backblaze installed on every computer I’ve owned for the past decade. And it’s well worth the low yearly cost of the service.
Give it a try. You won’t be sorry.
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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 email@example.com