Before I really dive in, I want to begin by saying that my journey towards design and creative work as a profession has certainly been a work in progress. Though I studied Graphic Design and Mass Communications in college, I never allowed myself to rely on design as a source of income because, honestly, my fear got in the way. I was scared to fail. Legit. So before I say anything else, I will say… that putting your work out into the world requires bravery. You have to be willing to risk critique (and you will get it), but it has to not break you. I’ll share a little bit more about that a bit further down.
I have been designing in projects, internships, and various commissions for over 15 years, but it wasn’t until 2019 that I took the plunge to really dig into making Brand and Web Design into a legitimate income. I was pregnant in 2020, and knew that I wanted to do as much as I could to be home with my kids, so though the idea of really investing in building a business seemed like a high mountain to climb, it also felt worth it. So that’s where this started.
Since then, here are the top 5 things I’ve learned as a design entrepreneur:
1. There will always be someone better, and that’s okay.
As a designer, it is so inspiring to look at other’s work – there is much creativity out there – and that’s all well and good. But when it starts to cripple you from doing your own thing, you may want to put down the phone, and take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “Do I love to create?” “Have I been told that I have creative skills?” And if the answer is yes, then it might be time to let go of the comparing, and just put your nose to the grindstone and work. There will always be someone better. Always. Get over it. You are you – and your designs can be unique, if you are willing to be brave and create!
2. Ideate and sketch first, before looking for inspiration.
This is a big one – and a challenge to myself as much as anyone else. With so many creative resources out there, it is waaayy too easy to jump onto the computer and start digging around for the best ideas related to your project. But this can send you down hours of rabbit trails, and build up that Imposter Syndrome until you have yourself questioning whether you can create anything good at all!
Instead, put down your computer, pull out a sketchpad, a good pencil, and just. start. It won’t hurt, I promise. It may feel like a waste of time, but it’s not. This will give you a direction to your design, and help you direct your clients towards a vision before you put a ton of work and time into building designs via computer.
3. Stop overthinking.
Just send it. I am speaking from the trenches here. Stop messing with it. Just send it.
I have spent so many needless hours on teeny-tiny revisions of a project, only to have the client not even interested in the particular logo or design I spent so much time on. I have learned that I can’t get too close to any single design – because it may be totally a different direction than what the client is looking for. Instead, I have learned to just put a few designs out there, even if they’re not absolutely perfect, and allow the client to give me the feedback I need in order to move forward.
4. Project timelines actually remove stress.
It wasn’t until I had 8-10 web design projects under my belt, before I realized how important building an appropriate timeline for launch was. I now usually estimate 6-8 weeks for a full web design project, depending on the complexity. I always build my timeline backward from the finished product. This helps me assess what pieces need to be completed and by what date, in order to set the client’s expectations, and… BONUS… it actually eases the stress, because it keeps me from feeling the need to create everything all at once. Without the pressure of trying to pull overnighters and build a site with little sleep and too much coffee, this gives me fresh eyes, fresh vision, and fresh coffee to keep a project flowing the way it should.
5. Even if you are scared, start. You will be glad you did.
This. If I could tell you any ONE thing right now, it is THIS. The sooner you start, the greater the opportunities you will have to grow, learn, expand your skills and knowledge, and become the creator you would like to be. I wish I would have started much sooner with taking web and brand design seriously. For so many years, I played and did commission work, but I wish I would have trusted myself enough and my skills to take the leap.
One piece of advice: find a design mentor. It really helped my confidence to work under a web designer who had years of experience hosting, building, and developing sites. He was someone that I knew in real life, but if you can find someone in a Facebook Group, an influencer, etc., anything is better than nothing. And honestly, I have used Google and YouTube a TON for technical things – there are so many great resources for support out there if you need help building and creating. And there are a ton of free resources, you just have to be specific about what you’re looking for.
If you love creating, and don’t know where to start, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to point you in some good directions, and give you some tools for success. And if you’re looking for a great website or branding, check out my portfolio and fill out my inquiry form for more info.