Good habits come from reminding ourselves over and over of how we strive to be until it it happens on its own. This is equally true whether you’re trying to improve your posture (you’re slouching right now, aren’t you), eat better, or be a better designer. Below are eight axioms that I try to remind myself of often so that they will become habit. They’re all simple and common sense, but they are also easy to lose sight of.
“I am not the target audience”
Your personal tastes and preferences are bound to have huge influence on your work, and that’s only natural; it’s how you develop your own style. That being said, to be successful designers we need to be versatile and keep the target audience of our work in mind. I may like grungy, textural design, but if my client has an older, conservative customer base I need to provide a design that is clean, respectable and appropriate to their target market.
“The most satisfying solution is not necessarily the most effective solution”
We do creative work because it’s what we love, and it feels great when a project is challenging and uses our skills to their fullest, but sometimes the project calls for something simpler than that. Learning to recognize these situations is an important skill, and can be as important as the skill you’re being paid for.
“I am grateful for the clients I have”
We’ve all been in situations where a client is driving is us crazy and their project feels like a curse more than a privilege. It’s only natural. At times like these I take the time to remind myself of two things: where I would be without my clients (the answer, of course, being unemployed), and how much worse it would be dealing with obnoxious clients if I were doing a job that I hated. I know I’m incredibly lucky to be getting paid to do what I love, and reminding myself of that point from time to time makes the tougher times a lot easier.
“The client knows their business better than I do”
Have you ever been in a situation where you think your client is wrong? They ask for revisions that make your design ugly, or makes the website harder to use, and you reluctantly do as they ask because they’re paying the bills. I’m sure this sounds all too familiar, and it’s frustrating to see your work picked to pieces like that. Remember, their business is at least successful enough that they can afford to hire you, so they must be doing something right. They spend most of their waking hours thinking about their business; it’s reasonable to presume they know it better than you do. You’re entitled to your opinions, but learn to let go of them when you need to.
“I’m successful when my clients are successful”
This is a big one. It means switching your focus from achieving your goal (successful and profitable completion of the project) to the client’s goals (what they’re trying to achieve with the work they’ve hired you to do). If you learn to keep this mentality you’ll take more pride in your work, you clients will thrive (which means they can hire you more often), and they’ll be falling over themselves to send referrals your way. Genuinely caring about your clients’ success is possibly the single best thing you can do for yourself, your business, and your clients.
“My existing clients always come before a potential client”
It’s no big secret that it takes way less time and effort to keep an existing client than to get a new one. Why, then, do we so often lose sight of this when courting a potential client? Maybe it’s the thrill of the hunt, or a particularly appealing client, but many of us make the mistake of impressing the new client at the expense of neglecting our existing client base. We need to be careful that if the new client doesn’t pan out, we haven’t lost others in the process.
“The coolest client is not necessarily the best client”
It’s easy to be dazzled by the “cool” clients. These are the clients that sound really impressive when you tell people you’ve worked with them. There are definite benefits to working with cool clients: it looks great in your portfolio, gives you clout, and can often be a lot of fun. The down side, however, is that everyone wants to work with them, so they may expect you to work cheaper than you normally would, or you may find yourself ever-extending to make them happy. When the cool factor is involved, make sure to take a rational, objective look at the job and make sure that the pros balance out the cons.
“Every piece of work is a portfolio piece”
Treat every job, no matter how small, as if new clients we going to judge the quality of your work based on it. This may seem obvious to some, but on smaller, or less exciting, jobs it can be easy to slip into the “just get it done” mindset. If you approach the project determined to make something great (even if it means a bit of off-the-clock time), you’ll end up with a product that your proud of, and the client may just get asked “hey, who did this for you?” by a new client-to-be.