Ahh, success! Most aim for it, yet it remains rather elusive. The design world is no exception to this trend. In the day and age of the self-employed, the remote workers and the freelancers, the title “Designer” certainly gets thrown around a lot. But what separates the good from the bad? What actually makes someone a successful designer?
Taking a step back, we can definitely tell you what makes an unsuccessful designer. Many a sad tale has been told of the eager entrepreneur, heading out into the big world to be a designer, only to close shop a short while later. The fact is, it takes some true grit to make it in this competitive field, and without determination, success is pretty much impossible. It’s easy to let life distract you.
A lot of would-be designers also realize that their creative juices can run dry pretty quickly. This can lead to a major no-no in the design world – copying. While a spin-off visual might get you paid faster in the short term, it’s never going to get you greatness. Copying is a tool of the lazy. It can also get you in hot water if you follow someone else’s steps too closely.
Another trait that can veer you off the course of success is being overly confident. While you might think you are coming off as cool or competent, your clients and co-workers may think otherwise. Successful people are easy to work with. Cocky people are not. If others are eager to be around you, it can only help you on your road to greatness!
Key Sections to Note
Traits of Success
So, now that we’ve highlighted what you don’t want to do, it’s time to switch focus. There are so many different factors that lead to success. While some of them are external, many can be cultivated by the designers themselves. Below, we are going to break down the top qualities that successful designers possess.
They Are Professional
If you work from home, it’s easy to get used to the comfort of being casual. But to a successful person, image trumps comfort every time. Dressing sharp and looking clean and kept projects your capabilities to your future client. They will feel more easy about handing over money to someone who looks like they own an iron – trust us!
Professionalism extends far past how you dress for a client meeting, however. It also includes the way that you interact with them. Are you difficult to get a hold of? Do you leave emails unanswered for days? Availability can affect how serious you seem about work. Communication is also key. While being friendly and approachable is a good thing, a successful designer keeps the conversation professional. This means avoiding informal ways of speech and writing.
Though it may seem like a pain to go the extra mile, being professional is definitely a step worth taking.
They Have People Skills
No matter how good you are behind a computer screen, if you’re successful enough, the day will come that you have to go out into the real world. While this comes naturally to some, for many creative minds, social interaction is a bit of a nightmare. But if you want to make it as a designer, you’re going to have to master the ability to sit in front of an actual person and converse.
Good eye contact is vital. It helps to build trust and it can actually make your clients perceive you as more skilled. Not many people are excited to bounce ideas back and forth to someone who won’t stop looking at the floor.
Communication goes one step further when you’re in the design business. As any designer knows, there are going to be times where you and the client just don’t agree. Having good people skills will help you to handle these situations in a way that leads to a positive outcome.
They Are Organized
The mind of a creator is truly an amazing place! That being said, it is rare for these personality types to excel at the art of organization. But for successful designers, being disorganized isn’t an option. Keeping clients happy enough to return or to recommend your services to others means getting work done on time. As soon as you have more than one client at a time, you’re going to have to manage your schedule.
A word from the wise is to allot time daily to focus on work. If you’ve booked yourself four, uninterrupted hours in your calendar, it’s unlikely that you’ll weasel out of it to binge shows on Netflix. Thankfully, even if you aren’t naturally an orderly person, there are ways you can develop this skill. There are so many apps that are made specifically to help you stay organized and manage your time. Use them! All of them, if you must! Your future, successful self thanks you.
They Back Down Sometimes
Yes, you are a creative genius, and yes, your ideas are the BEST, but sometimes, to save a project you just have to trash them. A successful designer knows when to yield. This doesn’t mean that the client is right, per se. It just means that the client pays you, and there are times where doing the job right means doing it the way you don’t want to.
A good designer can gauge when it is time to bend a bit. Often, it is our emotions that prevent us from letting go of our own ideas. Successful designers tell their egos to have a seat so that their inner business-person can get to work.
Other times, backing down and finishing a job can free up your time so you can get onto better things. Why waste time going back and forth with someone who has their mind set? A successful person has their eyes on the big picture, so they don’t get hung up on the silly little things.
They Set Realistic Expectations
This is a big one. Ever heard the expression, “under-promise, over-deliver”? Imagine you take on a job that you feel confident you could finish in two weeks. When talking to the client, you want to please them, so you commit to finishing in just ten days. Life happens, there are issues with one of your long-standing contracts and you fall behind schedule. You’re setting yourself up for an uncomfortable conversation – to say the least!
Now, go back to that first scene. How different would the whole experience be if you committed to three weeks, even though you knew you could finish in two? Imagine the feeling you would have, calling the client and letting them know that you had finished ahead of schedule! Successful designers give themselves a buffer, because life happens.
They Look for Inspiration
A designer has to constantly put their ideas out into the world. Those who are successful realize that they need to also be consuming new ideas just as rapidly as they are spewing them out. A regular staple of your work day should include time designated for getting inspired. Yes, we know, you can’t plan what is going to inspire you. But, chances are, if you are setting time aside to seek out new ideas each day, you’re bound to find some that spark your mind’s ignition.
That’s why you’ll find so many designers who’ve already made it big on networking and sharing sites. They want to be involved with the design world. They want to bounce ideas off of other people. And, they want to take in new information – all of the time!
The beauty of taking a break from your normal jobs to look at innovative designs is that it also helps stop you from getting burnt out. Sometimes, all that you need to get reinspired is a mental break from whatever you are doing. If you find yourself in a rut, follow the habits of great designers and take a breather!
They Have a Process
While we creative types like to think that all great ideas have to happen organically, once we start taking on more work, it becomes painfully obvious that some procedure is necessary. Great designers keep track of what works so they can use it again. There is no “one size fits all” solution, but similar jobs can be done in similar ways. Whether this involves a timeline or some simple steps, repeating a process that works can help you reach success.
This can also help prevent you from spending too much time on one aspect of a project. While you may be a perfectionist, often what you are pining over won’t matter to the client, or to the public in general. Your established process can help save you from yourself!
They Have the Right Mindset
Being a designer sounds pretty glamorous – but the truth is, it can be brutal. Your creative mind is going to be constantly commented on, criticized and discredited at times. Once again, having strict control over your emotions is key to not losing confidence in yourself.
Going into the process with a positive attitude will help you stay on top of this. Yes, you are going to hear things you don’t like. Yes, sometimes the criticism will actually be right, even though you don’t want to hear it. No, it isn’t a personal attack on your worth as a human being, even though it feels that way.
Successful designers look for ways to take constructive criticism and use it to get better. When you start to see the potential benefit from these sometimes-uninvited statements, you begin to use them to your advantage. Great designers view these stumbling blocks as stepping stones to success.
They Never Stop Learning
Even if you’ve been at the top of your game for decades, a time will come when your tried-and-true methods become outdated. Designers who not only achieve greatness but keep it, know that you can never have enough knowledge. Your clients will change. Their needs will change. Technology is constantly changing. If you aren’t improving, you’re falling behind.
And with the never-ending amount of training literally at your fingertips, there is no reason to get left in the dust. Successful designers are always teaching themselves. Be the one who is introducing new ideas to your clients, not the other way around! This way, you will never be seen as passé.
Continuing your education will also help you revise your current way of doing things when better ideas come along. This leads to faster processes with better results, and who doesn’t want that?
Tricks of the Trade
We’ve looked at nine of the top attributes that successful designers have. But the best designers also know about some shortcuts to success, as well.
While building a website, you could painstakingly create every single image from scratch on a Photoshop or illustrator program, but why? If you could get high-quality, excellent graphics in a fast and unified way, wouldn’t that be better? We think so. That’s why we’ve made graphic creation fast and painless, so that you can spend your time where it counts!