My Thoughts On: Business Tips

Creative Business : Believe in Yourself

Why you should believe in yourself as a creative! (don’t worry, this isn’t a touchy-feely post, its more of a believing-in-yourself-will-make-you-a-better-designer type of post. )

1. When you believe in yourself, you value your work

believe in yourself

One of the most common questions I hear from my students is about charging. Should I charge my family and friends? How much should I charge? How do I know when to raise rates? These are all excellent questions (and I answer them in this class), but before you can ask these type of questions, I think you need to ask yourself, do you believe in yourself? Do you value your creative work?

When you value yourself, this question of “how much should I charge” changes to “what is the value of the work that I am providing, and what price is that best reflected? ” Do you see the difference of that mindset?When you believe in yourself, you value you work, you value your time, and it is easier to charge people.

 

2. When you believe in yourself, you work with others

believe in yourself

I find that it is all too easy to look at other’s websites and their talents, and then start to devalue your own. This can be paralyzing, and super detrimental. When you believe in yourself, you look at others with talent as inspiration, and not with jealousy. You see a chance to learn, or someone who would be a good friend, and you stop trying to compare yourself.

When I find myself starting to think, “oh man, this person is AMAZING. I wish I could do something like this” I know these are warning words. That’s when I know its time to meet the person behind the website. I try to get to know them, and I oftentimes try to work with them in some capacity.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many dear friends I have been able to work with and get to know because of this process.

Isn’t that great? When you believe in yourself, you change these feelings of jealousy into an opportunity to work with others, to learn and grow from them, and admire that person as the person they really are.

 

3. When you believe in yourself, you put all of your guts in

put all your guts in

When I first started my own business, I was scared, nervous, and super anxious. I worried about my design skills being enough, and I worried about getting clients, I worried about balancing it all, and ok.. well.. about EVERYTHING. I was a big hot mess. And then one day, it dawned on me: I had NOTHING to loose. Literally. When I realized I had nothing to loose, I was able to believe in myself, and put all of my guts into each project. And that was a great place to start, because when you put all of your guts in, you win! Your work reflects that. Your clients sense that, and you reflect that in your attitude and in who you are. It’s an amazing thing.

4. When you believe in yourself, you live the journey

live the journey

Believing in yourself doesn’t mean that you will succeed right away. It doesn’t even mean that you won’t fail. You probably will. Working with all your guts is a risky business. But when you believe in yourself, you know that each failure brings lessons you couldn’t learn any other way. (It’s true, my greatest failures & mistakes as a designer have taught me the most important lessons)

It will take years to create what only you can envision. But when you believe in yourself, you know it takes time. You know that each triumph is important, wonderful, and something to celebrate. When you believe in yourself, you live the journey. You love being creative, and you love your job

Creative Business: When Things Go Wrong

Obviously when you are running a business, you don’t plan for things to go wrong. However, when you are hustling and working hard towards your goal, things are going to occasionally go sideways. No one is perfect, and so it goes without saying, no business will be perfect. You are going to make mistakes, and these can range from: printing something the wrong size, accidentally offending a client or incorrectly estimating how long a project will take to complete. (I will note here that I have made all of these mistakes at some point!)

When I have made mistakes in my business and when things have gone wrong for me professionally, I have a found the following things can make all of the difference:

  1. Remember that all successful creatives have made mistakes in their career.

As I mentioned above, no business is perfect. If you take the time to talk to other business owners, you will find that  one of the biggest unifiers of successful entrepreneurs is failure. But what makes a successful creative different is that they have the courage to accept these mistakes, and move forward. Knowing that I am not alone and that other’s have made big mistakes as well has helped me tremendously.

I remember the first time I had a client who was unhappy with me. I had worked super hard on the project and though they were happy with my work, they were furious at the cost. I had explained my rates over and over, but looking back, I probably didn’t do a great job at explaining the time that I had to put into the project. My client felt that I was taking advantage of him, and I felt like my client was taking advantage of me. I was so anxious about what to do — I wanted to be paid for the work I had poured into the project and I had been counting on that money. However, I struggled knowing how to handle the situation in a way that we could both win. Thankfully, I was able to talk to another business owner who had been in the same boat before — they helped me decide what to do and eased my stress about the situation.

  1. Remember that every client is different and that you are not a good fit for every client.

In the past 5 years, I have worked with dozens and dozens of clients. All of them have had different personalities, opinions, and creative views. This has made it a constant learning process for me on how to work with different types of people. Most of my clients have been a dream to work with, but occasionally, I have had some challenging clients. Sometimes the fault has been mine, sometimes it hasn’t… and sometimes it is just a matter of different creative views!

So if this has happened to you — take a deep breath! Everyone has different creative opinions and that is part of what makes our world so beautiful. If we all envisioned and created the same type of art, the world would be a boring place. We need different perspectives, different opinions, and different definitions of beauty.

I used to beat myself up when I couldn’t create the “perfect” design for a client. Now after several years of experience, I recognize that when a client approaches me, one of the first conversations I need to have with them is to determine if me and my design style is a good fit for them. And I have learned that sometimes I am not. You will have to learn to say no to clients! It is hard, but it will save you hours of headaches and anxiety in the long run.

But what do you do if you already agreed to work with a client, only to find that after hours of work, you have different creative views? This brings me to my next point.

  1. Stay calm and positive and “own up to your mistakes.”

In any bad professional situation, staying calm and positive is essential. It sounds obvious, but sometimes you have to stop and remind yourself! Staying calm can help you hear out an upset client without turning anxious or defensive. Staying calm can help you think clearly through how you may have miscalculated a cost, missed a deadline, or misprinted a final design. And staying positive will help you to continue to be creative — when I am bitter, resentful, or upset, my designs are NEVER good.

So whatever trick or game you have to do to help you be positive, do it! I know for me, working out and exercising has solved dozens of design problems, and helped me work out aggressions so I can stay positive and calm when I revisit the frustrating situation.

And at times, when all was said and done, I realized that I have sometimes been at fault. Maybe I hadn’t done a great job at calculating my time or been late on a few emails. I have always tried my hardest, but again, nobody is perfect and I have been the culprit. Own up to it! Sometimes all you need to say to a client is, “I am sorry, this was my bad.” That can instantly turn around a bad situation and get you on your way to making it good again.

  1. Learn from it and let it go!

Sometimes when things go bad, it’s not your fault and it might really be nobody’s fault. That’s just one of those stinky parts of life. When that happens, the only thing left to do is to let it go. Let it go, and realize that these lessons and failures will actually make you a better creative. If there is anything that I can say with conviction, it is that the failures and things that I have done wrong have made me a better designer. Though some of them have been tough, I  have learned more lessons from 1 failure than from 1,000 successes.

 

Learning from failure

I remember sitting around in college, looking at the long list of majors and future career choices. Many of them seemed overwhelming, (I knew anything medical was completely out since I pass out at large quantities of blood and I have no idea how the body really works), many of them seemed uninspiring (accounting . . . yawn), and then there was a few that I had never heard of. The listed “graphic design” caught my eye as it was in the art section. I am completely embarrassed to admit that at that time, I had never heard of graphic design. In fact, I didn’t even know any professional artists growing up.

I began reading about this unknown “graphic design”, and asking anyone and everyone what this career entailed. The more I heard, the more I wanted to learn, and the more I learned, the more determined I came to be a graphic designer. Even my parents’ fear of a “starving artist” on their hands did not deter me from my vision of one day being a designer.

brittany scott painting

painting by Brittany Scott

The years have gone by, and what started out as pure ignorance of graphic design has grown to a full obsession. I eat, sleep, and dream it–it factors into almost every decision I make (what products to buy, what book to read, what movie to watch, what restaurant to eat at, etc). I work more than I want to know, but most of the time I feel like I am playing. I love what I do.

I am not saying that this journey has been all roses. In fact, I have to pay a hefty price and learn a lot, as all of us do. There are no free tickets in this life, and I can’t even begin to tell you the many failures I experienced in my journey to learn design. I will tell you that a) most of my professors disliked me, and did not even know my name, b) I am well acquainted with rejection letters and statements that you will never succeed, and c) any success comes at a painful price.

My college education was a difficult tumultuous time, and I left wondering if I would ever be able to be successful. In fact, when I started my business–I cried almost everyday, wondering if I would ever succeed and if anyone would ever hire me and why hadn’t I majored in something useful like accounting (sob).

Thankfully after a lot of works, tears, sleepless night, and a lot of self imposed learning, I have been able to carve a small space out for myself. I would not trade the last ten years for anything in the world. I have learned more from my failures, then I could have ever learned from success. Through my failures, I allowed myself to learn and study more, and garner a determination that I would be successful no matter what. I learned to look around me, and read as many books/blogs that I could. I reached out to others, eager for them to teach me all that they knew.  I learned to ask questions and not be afraid of the answers.

This love of learning has made all the difference in my life. As a mother and teacher, I constantly try to instill this love in my own children, and in my students. I want to help them learn from my failures, and know that they can succeed. I want them to be ready for their own failures, and to know to keep pushing, because big failures mean big successes later on, as long as you  work your way through it with determination and zeal.