As a graphic designer it’s only normal to experience mistakes in your career. Don’t fret we all make them! We are humans after all. Some mistakes can discourage you from pursuing your design career but we can simply learn from them and try to avoid making the same mistake again. This is most common when starting fresh out the gate as a new and inexperienced designer.
I for one have made plenty of mistakes in my career only to learn and grow as a designer but you can avoid these mistakes. Here are 10 mistakes, in no particular order, that you can avoid while pursuing your career.
Don’t undersell yourself
Graphic design is your livelihood after all! Don’t sell yourself short. When starting out you may think to start at a low rate to build up your experience, but truth is those bills need to be paid! Projects take time to complete and expect revisions to be made. When scaling out any project set aside time for revisions otherwise you will be working for free. Other things are starting your rates so low that your time, which is the most precious cost, isn’t worth it.
I had started out doing Mascots on fiverr.com, which was ok to start out, but the amount of orders that I had and the time it started taking started eating into most of my waking hours and began intruding my full time job just for a few bucks. What I had created were good and you spend as much time as you think each project is worth but some clients start thinking that 5 bucks ($3.92 after 20% taken from fiverr and the Paypal fees) is equivalent to a $300 job and expect you to spend a few hours on it. The amount of time it would take to get gigs done would get you only a couple hundred bucks a month which still cant pay for much these days. Your skills are worth more and you need to have this in mind.
Designing on what you want it to be and ignoring your client
Designers sometimes get so involved in projects that they become deeply invested and have feelings for them and forget the client’s needs. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t invest and have pride in your projects, but ultimately you are designing for the client and not yourself. The client knows what they are looking for in terms of tone and audience for their business better than you do. You design out what the client wants even if you are embarrassed on the end result. They are paying you after all.
Losing your confidence and drive
As a designer (or in any career really) you may hit that wall a time or two…. The wall of starting to lose your drive and getting burnt out on a project. Even if your heart is saying “bail!” because of confusion or an unruly client, try to see to it to the end. You may not like the end result, but if your client does it makes it worthwhile.
Not scoping out your projects in detail correctly
Getting a broad overview of the project and not getting all of the details is a huge no-no. This can lead to some massive scope creep and you may end up doing way more work than you were intending to. You can even start losing money on a project if you don’t get your details down. Find out all of the little details and elements the project is going to need and when. This will prevent a headache and lost sleep later on.
There is a new season of Mad Men available on Netflix?! I can put that project that’s due in a couple days off until I finish my show-watching binge! Wait…. It’s due in a couple hours now??
Procrastination is a giant killer for people in general and can be your worst enemy. Try to set out some personal deadlines on yourself so you don’t end up falling short on the deadline and trying to pass it off as “minimalist” or “the new design trend”. You will be surprised that clients will start seeing through the smoke and mirrors and start using a different designer due to your inefficiency. The key is to keep your clients happy and keep coming back for more later on down the road.
Not keeping up with the times
It’s super crucial to stay on top of new design programs and trends. As a designer living in the tech industry you soon find out that trends never stick around for too long. Staying on top of trends will keep you fresh and have the “edge” over some that aren’t ones to embrace constant change. Always be looking out for new techniques as well to make your design process more efficient.
Not getting your projects down in writing
This can be one of the most important tasks to do while working on a project. If you don’t get it in writing, you may get taken advantage of your services. I’m not saying it happens all of the time, but its good to be protected in writing. This can make the difference of being able to pay bills or falling short.
Not updating your portfolio
Are you working a full time job that doesn’t allow you much design time? This can hurt a designer when it comes to trying to look for a new job and/or clients. A good way to stay fresh on your techniques and skills is by working on some projects for yourself or a family member. It might not be much but it’s something at least.
Failing to stock up an emergency fund
This applies to everyone even if you aren’t a designer. You never know if you are going to lose your job or are starting a new venture in the freelance world. The rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months of funds set aside just incase you have a lull in your projects and need to pay for some expenses.
Some designers actually don’t think networking is important when pursuing your career. You might be shy or awkward, but there are ways to network that doesn’t require you to be face to face with someone. People won’t know you exist and have some mad skills if you don’t put yourself out there for people to see and get to know at a professional level. A good method is to look to social sites for networking. You can follow fellow designers on twitter and start engaging in conversations with them. You may be able to get tips from others. Linkedin is proving important as well. Participating in groups and being active is sure to get you noticed as well.
Do you have some other tips to add to the list? What have been some mistakes you’ve learned from?