Building your own web design business into a success isn’t easy. It can take years to build up a great reputation and a winning portfolio. You get there by doing great work along with being responsible and reliable. Clients need to know that they can count on you to do the job right and to be there when they need you. It’s great – but it also comes with a lot of pressure.
In my own time as a web designer, I’ve tried to be reliable and exceed expectations. Overall, I think I’ve done a pretty good job (albeit far from perfect). It’s probably what has kept my business going for so many years. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some drawbacks.
Let’s take a look at some situations and side effects that come along with being a responsible web designer. After all, it’s not all rose petals and money falling from the sky (there’s also some rain).
You’re Expected to Know Everything
We have all had to deal with someone who is unreliable. Maybe it’s a tech support department that takes forever to respond – only to provide you with a non-answer. Or perhaps it’s a plumber who routinely keeps you waiting well beyond the time they said they’d be there. It seems like there is no shortage of those who either lack responsibility, organization or both.
So when you find someone who does respond quickly and helpfully and does keep to their word – you may think that you’ve struck gold. As a web designer, displaying these traits can lead clients to ask you for advice on all sorts of subjects – including those unrelated to web design.
For example, I’ve been asked to troubleshoot everything from email issues to printers. While I certainly don’t mind someone asking a question, I’m far from an expert in these areas. And it ends up being mutually disappointing when I don’t have the answers. So, because I pride myself on being helpful…
You Take Responsibility for Things You Shouldn’t
Sometimes, being responsible makes you feel like everything is your responsibility. Like when someone asks you about their email or printer issues – and you feel like it’s your duty to find an answer.
Personally, I’ve been in situations where I felt that I simply had to be responsible, only because I figured no one else would. If I don’t take care of it, who will?
This opens up a whole can of worms that can lead to trouble. While it’s great to do favors for a good client, there’s a fine line. You don’t want to nominate yourself to be the point of contact for things that have nothing to do with your day job. Fix that printer once and who do you think they’re going to call the next time they have a paper jam?
Even as it relates to web design, your bid to be responsible can cause problems. For example, you probably shouldn’t go in and randomly update your client’s CMS if you aren’t asked or obligated to do so. While you might be doing them a favor, what happens if something breaks? What if you updated 20 of these sites and a buggy plugin broke them all? You’d find yourself on the hook for fixing something that you really shouldn’t have been involved with.
If you really want to be the grownup in the room, there are better ways to go about it.
In the case of the printer, it’s fine to offer advice. Just preface it by stating that this isn’t your area of expertise and that you can’t offer any sort of regular support. In the case of the outdated CMS, you might want to let your client know that their software is out of date and should be updated. Provide them with a cost estimate for updating and leave the decision up to them.
In other words: Be proactive about these situations rather than burdening yourself with them.
Your Mistakes Really Hurt
I don’t know if anyone could possibly make me feel worse about a mistake I’ve made than me. True, there have been a few people over the years that have been less than kind when it comes to pointing out my shortcomings. But, in the end, I’m my own toughest critic.
When you’re entrusted to do things right and you don’t live up to your end of the bargain, it’s natural to feel really bad about it. Of course, someone who isn’t responsible at all would probably blow it off as just another “oops” (and then continue playing video games). For us adult-types, we don’t heal so easily.
The key here is to remember that responsibility does not equal perfection. While we often think that they go hand-in-hand, it’s just not realistic. No, true responsibility is standing up and making things right even after you’ve messed up. It’s about burying your ego and realizing that you aren’t above making a mistake.
Balancing Responsibility with Sanity
Who knew that being responsible came with so much responsibility? Bad jokes aside, it really is a great personality trait to have. I think it makes you better prepared to run your own business. You pay greater attention to the details and you’re more likely to keep up with project deadlines.
On the flip side, you may also feel a bit more of a burden. Days off and (gasp) vacations are tougher because being carefree isn’t part of your daily routine. It also means that you tend to take responsibility for the thankless tasks no one else wants to do. While that’s great for leadership, it’s not always the best thing for your peace of mind.
The good news is that you can find balance. Remember to be proactive and consult with others, rather than robotically taking charge of every situation – whether it’s your place to do so or not. Understand that, as a human, you are entitled to make a mistake here and there. Take time to go outside and do something that requires little-to-no responsibility at all.
Sure, there are downfalls to being responsible. But there are also some great upsides. Learn to use them to your own advantage.
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