Being a web designer can sometimes feel like an exercise in extremes. Either you’re incredibly busy or left waiting for something (anything) to come your way. And your financial situation can be just as chaotic.
Then there’s the pressure that comes with pleasing clients. Plus, you’re expected to keep up with the latest trends and learn the latest techniques. Are you tired yet?
What’s hard to see is that a lot of what we do can be counter-productive. Even with good intentions, we may be shooting ourselves in the foot, so-to-speak, without knowing it. With that in mind, here are five things web designers should stop doing, as they undermine both our careers and overall happiness:
1. Stop Trying to Learn Everything
It’s easy to read about the “latest and greatest” in web design and feel like we’re falling behind. But the reality is that much of what we read about today won’t catch on tomorrow. In theory, you could spend a lot of your precious time cramming in knowledge, only to find out that you went down the wrong path.
Instead, look to be more selective when it comes to the skills you learn. Think about how it’s applicable to what you do. Will it enable you to work more efficiently? Will it help you make more money?
Most of us don’t have an unlimited amount of time to dedicate to learning. What time we do have should be spent on skills that are of real benefit to us. That’s why it’s important to look beyond the hype and narrow our focus.
2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Designers
When I was a bit younger (okay, a lot younger), I would constantly review the portfolios of other designers. I’d see their work and wish I had the same list of accomplishments. It always seemed to sour my mood.
While it’s perfectly fine to look at what other designers are doing, it’s not worth trying to measure up to them. In other words, don’t use their work and success to put yourself down.
Every designer has their own style, skillset and takes their own path. Be inspired by what others do, but don’t think that you have to be just like them. In the end, it’s about being the best version of yourself.
3. Stop Selling Yourself Short
When you no longer try to match what other designers are doing, you’ll develop a better sense of who you are. In turn, you can focus your attention on making sure that you are paid what you’re worth.
Too often, talented designers settle for low-paying, small projects. Part of this may stem from a lack of confidence. Sometimes, we simply fear the risk that comes along with taking on something bigger.
But your business should continue to evolve over time. As you become better at your job, you can charge more for your services. You also get to be a bit pickier regarding who you work with. This is one of the great benefits of being an experienced web designer.
Deep down, you know that you’re capable of doing more. Forget settling and start doing the kinds of projects that reflect your growth.
4. Stop Trying to Do It All
We all have our own strengths, weaknesses and preferences. Yet, we are often saddled with doing tasks we hate, are no good at – or (gasp) both. This is especially true of freelancers, who are responsible for virtually every part of their business.
Attempting to be the jack-of-all-trades can potentially lead to burnout. Even worse, it takes you away from the parts of your job that you truly love.
There are plenty of opportunities to rid yourself of at least some of these dreaded tasks. You can hire on another designer to do some of the grunt work you don’t have time for. And you can work with an accountant to handle finances. Or you can tweak the focus of your business to avoid specific items altogether.
The point is that you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Concentrate on what you do best and find help wherever you can.
5. Stop Placating That One “Difficult” Client
Have you ever dealt with a client who makes up a small portion of your revenue but takes up a disproportionate amount of time? You know, the one who makes a habit of calling for every little thing (just use email!). They’re the person who always seems to have a problem, each one sounding more desperate than the last.
In these cases, there is an old saying that is very appropriate: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Indeed, we tend to go out of our way to please people like this – often to no avail. Talk about being counter-productive!
Unfortunately, we can’t really run and hide from our clients. Doing so is highly unprofessional. But we can decide to not respond immediately. And we can set some healthy boundaries up. If that doesn’t work, we can start charging for each little phone call. The last step in a bad relationship is to just break ties, if possible.
Trying to make headway with such clients means that we take our eyes off of those who are helping us pay the bills. While it’s fine to help when we can, there is a limit.
Feeling Free and Productive
When you start to count up all the little things we do that either distract us or are unhelpful, you may be surprised at just how big of a list you come up with. The good news is that we have the ability to change most, if not all, of them.
Each of the items above are things that can happen to any of us. But by learning to recognize them, we can eliminate those behaviors from our daily lives. The result is that you’ll feel less stressed and, yes, more productive.
- Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Smaller Web Design Projects
- Being a Freelance Web Designer Isn’t for Everyone
- The Bright Side of an Increasingly Homogeneous Web
- Techniques for Documenting Your Web Projects
- The Future of Freelancing with WordPress
- The Five Inconvenient Truths of Web Design
- Tips for Working with Web Design Technophobes
- How Being Uncomfortable Can Make You a Better Web Designer