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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business

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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
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Now displaying: April, 2021
Apr 26, 2021

Do you remember every design job you've ever done?

Please think of this as a PSA, a public service announcement from me to you. Remember what you’ve done.

This week’s topic came about after three separate incidents this past week. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but after the third time, I just knew I had to talk about it.

Incident #1

The first incident happened this past weekend. My son asked me if I had a certain Tom Clancy book. Rainbow Six, to be exact. He’s looking for something to read and wanted to give it a try. So I told him I’d have a look.

I keep most of my books in rubber storage bins in my basement. I have a tough time parting with books I've enjoyed and have several large bins full of them.

So one night this week, I went digging through our storage area in hunt of this novel. We don’t just have books stored downstairs. There are all sorts of things down there in bins. As I was sifting through them, I came across a plastic bag. Inside was a baseball cap with an embroidered logo I had designed for a client. It was a logo for an over 50 beer league hockey team. The team was called the Old Timers.

The logo I designed was an old-style alarm clock. You know, the kind with the two bells on the top. The clock face was one of an old man. And the clock had legs and arms and was using a banged-up hockey stick as a walking cane.

Seeing that logo brought back so many memories. I designed it 15 or 20 years ago. And I had completely forgotten about it. So much so that if you had asked me before that if I had ever designed a logo for a hockey team, I would have only thought of one. The one I created for our local minor hockey league. I would never have remembered that old-time hockey logo.

Remember what you've done.

Incident #2

The second incident happened a couple of days ago. I was on my way back home from Walmart when I saw flashing lights ahead of me. It looked like a big accident, and I could see cars making U-turns and coming back my way.

Instead of driving up only to be forced to turn around, I decided to turn off and use side streets to go around the accident. This took me through a part of town I hadn’t been in for several years.

As I pulled up to a stop sign, I noticed a business on the opposite corner. A storage facility where you can rent units to store your things. It had a double horseshoe logo that caught my eye. There was something familiar about it. Then I realized it was familiar because I designed it almost 25 years ago when I worked at the print shop. Trust me. It's not a logo to be proud of. In fact, I might have based the two horseshoes off a stock image I had found.

Here again, within just a couple of days was another design I had completely forgotten about.

Remember what you've done.

Incident #3

The third incident happened yesterday. I have a filing cabinet in the corner of my office. I use it to file away receipts, insurance papers and whatever else you store in file cabinets.

Yesterday I was filing away some investment reports when one of the sheets slipped back and fell behind the bottom drawer.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to remove a drawer from a filing cabinet, but it’s not that easy to do. Especially when it’s full. But after tugging and grunting, I finally managed to get it free. As I retrieved the sheet of paper, I saw something else on the bottom of the cabinet—a book.

As I picked up the book, a flood of memories came back to me. The book is titled Of Curds And Whey. And it’s a history of cheese factories from our area. Not real a page-turner, I know. But as I flipped through the first couple of pages and there it was.

Copyright 2005.
Cover and interior design by Mark Des Cotes.

I spent the next 20 minutes or so flipping through that book, remembering the time I designed it.

Once again, within the span of a few days, there was something from my past that I had completely forgotten I had done.

Remember what you've done.

These three incidents got me thinking. What else have I forgotten over the years? This leads me to dig out an old hard drive containing client files from 2010 and older. I spent time going down memory lane. I found logos, and websites and print jobs that I hadn’t thought about in years. Many for people or businesses who are no longer around. It actually made me a bit sad, wondering what else don’t I remember doing?

I spent 15 years designing stuff at the print shop. And I don’t have a written record of what I did back then. How many great projects have I designed that are lost to memory? Thinking back, I wish I had kept a record of them.

I know for websites, I used to keep a bookmark folder of all my client sites. Even if the site was gone, I kept the bookmark as a reminder. But for some reason, I haven’t added any bookmarks to it in a long time. I think I’m going to start again.

But what about other work? How do I keep track, so I don’t forget all the amazing projects I work on? I really don’t have an answer.

We used to print out and frame every logo we designed and hang them on the wall for everyone to see at the print shop. But once we ran out of room, we stopped adding new ones. I’m not going to do that here. But I would like to find a way to keep track so that 20 years from now, I can look back and see everything I’ve created.

If you know of a good way to keep track of your work, I would love to know. Or better yet, leave a comment below for everyone to see.

Take this as a warning. You are creating amazing things. Things that deserve to be remembered. What are you going to do so that 5, 10, 20 years from now, they don’t fade from your memory and are forgotten? Do something today so that you can remember what you’ve done.

Apr 19, 2021

Have you ever had to chase delinquent clients for money?

The life of a home-based designer, a freelancer, is a precarious one. You spent a lot of time learning your craft. Whether you went to school or learned on your own, you invested a lot in yourself to get you to where you are today.

Now clients hire you to design wonderful and functional things for them. You spend hours, if not days working on and perfecting each project until you and the client are satisfied.

After doing all of that, you expect to be compensated accordingly. So you send your invoice to the client feeling good about your accomplishment. And then you wait and wait, and wait some more, but no payment is forthcoming.

Has the client stiffed you? Have they simply forgotten to send your payment? Are they purposely delaying things? Did they even get your invoice, to begin with? These are all things that go through your mind when a client fails to pay your invoice within the allotted time.

Luckily this is the exception to the norm. 99.99% of clients will pay you for your work. But it’s almost inevitable that at some point in your design career, you’ll have to deal with a delinquent client.

In the 16 years I’ve been running my design business, there have only been three invoices I was unable to collect.

The first was a local embroidery shop. It was in my first or second year of business, and the owner of the shop hired me to vectorize images for his embroidery machine.

We had an agreement where he would send me images throughout the month, and I would keep a tally and invoice him at the end of each month. It was an easy and well-paying gig.

Then one day, the owner called and asked me to hold off depositing his $300 cheque. He told me there was a mixup at the bank and needed to wait until the following week to deposit the cheque. He was a good client, so I thought nothing of it.

The following week I called to see if It was OK for me to bring his cheque to the bank, and he informed me that he had declared bankruptcy. The cheque I had was no longer any good, and he would not be paying my last invoice.

What could I do? He had declared bankruptcy, and I was out $300.

The second time I was unable to collect on an invoice is a bit of a mystery. The client was a chef who owned a local restaurant. His 10-year-old son had died a few years prior, and he asked if I could photoshop his son’s head onto an image of a young boy in a chef outfit. He wanted to frame and display the photo in his restaurant.

We agreed to a price of $100, and once done, I emailed him the digital file and an invoice. A few days later, he called to say I could drop by the restaurant any time, and he would write me a cheque. However, when I stopped by a couple of days later, the restaurant was closed. I tried several more times over the next couple of weeks, but it was never open.

One day as I was driving by, I noticed someone inside, so I stopped and knocked on the door. The woman who answered told me the chef was her brother and he had disappeared a few weeks earlier and nobody has seen him since. They found his wallet and keys in his apartment, and the police were investigating.

I saw the framed photo of the chef’s son on the wall, but there was no way I was going to ask his sister to pay the past due invoice. I never found out what happened to him.

The third delinquent client was the owner of a paintball field my son frequented.

While talking to the owner, I mentioned in passing that I was a graphic and web designer. He asked me if I would offer suggestions for his old, outdated website. I took a look and offered to build him a new one for $600. This was back around 2007-08 when I was charging low prices for websites.

He agreed to the price, and I got to work. I transferred his domain to my registrar and moved his old website to my hosting server. A couple of weeks later, I presented him with a brand new website. He loved it, and everything seemed fine. But when it came time to pay, he kept delaying things and giving me excuses as to why he hadn’t sent the money yet.

This went on for a few months to the point where I took down the website and told him I would put it back up once I received payment. I even threatened legal action if he didn’t pay my invoice. He called my bluff and told me to go ahead and take him to court. I mentioned this to my accountant, and he told me $600 wasn’t worth the time and effort to go after, and I was better to write it off. It was this third instance that convinced me to start using contracts for design projects.

The point of telling you these three stories is to say some clients won't pay their bills for some reason or another.

I was lucky that I only lost $1,000 between these three clients. And all three of them occurred within the first three years of my business. They taught me a lesson, and I’m happy to say that I’ve never failed to collect an invoice since then. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent time chasing down payments over the years.

I hope you’re never in that situation. But in case you ever are, I want to share ways to get delinquent clients to pay.

First, let me emphasize that different clients, especially larger ones, have their own internal payment policies. This doesn’t mean they are not paying, just that they have a longer than normal payment window they work in.

When I did work for our local shopping mall, I learned to expect a 90 day wait until I received payment. My local municipal government has a 60-day payment policy. Some companies send out payments at the end of the month. So if you invoice them on the 25th, you’ll get your payment in five or six days. But if you invoice them on the 1st, you can expect to wait the full month for your money.

These are not delinquent clients, just clients with longer than normal payment policies that you’ll have to learn to live with.

But what if payment policies are not the issue?

Protect yourself in advance.

The best way to deal with delinquent clients is not to have delinquent clients to begin with. Lay out some groundwork to protect yourself from situations like these.

  1. Make sure you have every client sign a contract.
  2. Make sure your clients understand your payment schedule.
  3. Make it easy for clients to pay you by using an online payment portal.
  4. Whenever possible, get paid upfront.

Don’t Assume Anything.

When payment doesn’t arrive as expected, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the client is delaying payment for some reason. But until you know the situation, don’t assume anything. Just because you sent an invoice doesn’t mean your client received it. Even billing software that tracks when a client opens an invoice sometimes registers a false positive.

It's also possible the client did receive your invoice but didn’t see it. Have you ever clicked on an email, realized it’s not the one you were looking for and clicked on another without giving it a second thought. That first email is now marked as "Read," even though you never looked at it. Maybe that's what happened with your client.

Before jumping to conclusions, send a reminder message saying you just wanted to make sure they received your invoice.

Confirm the recipient.

If you’ve emailed the client and haven’t heard back, try picking up the phone and calling them. Don’t feel bad about checking up on a past due invoice. You never know. Maybe the person you emailed it to is on vacation or maternity leave and didn’t set up an out-of-office response. Or maybe your contact is no longer at the company, and nobody is checking their email.

Any time you call a company about a past due invoice, always ask for accounts payable. This gets puts you in contact with the person in charge of sending out payments. Be understanding but firm when you explain the situation, and hopefully, it can all be handled right there.

Decide if it’s worth pursuing.

At some point in this process, you need to ask yourself if going after the money is worth the hassle.

Yes, what you do is valuable, and you deserve to be compensated for your work. However, sometimes you could end up spending more time chasing the money than it’s worth. Figure out if the amount owed to you is worth pursuing.

Offer a payment plan.

If, for some reason, your client is hesitant or straight out tells you they are unable to pay. Before getting angry or threatening them, perhaps you can offer a payment plan. A client who wants to maintain a good relationship with you might agree to an option of paying by installment.

This is a great way to build client loyalty. They’ll remember your understanding once they’re back on their feet.

Offer a discount.

Depending on the situation, you may want to offer a discount. If it sounds like the client is hesitating, you may want to offer them a deal if they pay their invoice immediately or within the next couple of days.

A limited-time discount may entice a strapped-for-cash client to pay the bill now to save some money. It’s better to lose a little of what’s owed than risk losing all of it should the client not pay at all.

Seek a legal solution.

Before starting legal action, send a letter warning of legal action. This will inform the client you plan on seeking legal action without actually starting anything. Give them a deadline to submit payment and if it isn’t met, Follow through.

Do not threaten legal action if you don’t plan on going through with it. Oftentimes the mere mention of legal action is enough for clients to find enough money to pay your invoice.

When all else fails, your last resort is to seek a legal solution. Let me emphasize. Seeking a legal solution should only be used when nothing else has worked. Even offering a discount is preferable to taking a client to court.

If nothing else worked and the amount owed isn’t too big, you can take the client to small-claims court. This will require you to take time away from your business, so weigh the option against the amount owed and decide if it’s worth it.

If you are going after a larger sum, a letter from an attorney may be all you need. The thought of litigation is not something to take lightly, and most clients will want to avoid it when at all possible.

Be careful of going after larger clients in this way. If they have an attorney on staff or retainer, they may be willing to battle your complaint.

Communication is key.

If you’re lucky, your situation won’t escalate to the point where lawyers get involved. Your best option is to communicate clearly with the client and work out a satisfactory solution for both of you.

Don’t stress over it.

If, for one reason or another, you never receive the payment owed to you. Try not to stress too much over it. Your time is better spent working with your paying clients and trying to land new ones than it is fretting over your loss. No matter what the sum is, it’s only money. You’ll make more of it. And one day, you’ll look back and realize it wasn’t as big a deal as you made it out to be.

Get advice

If you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Many people have been in similar situations before you, and they’ll be more than willing to offer their advice.

Remember, clients, are rarely being underhanded or petty. Most of the time, they don’t pay your invoice because they simply forgot or hadn’t gotten around to it yet or perhaps they needed to delay payment for a very valid reason.

It’s extremely rare to have to go to extremes to collect what’s owed you. But it’s nice to know the options are there should the need arise.

Apr 12, 2021

Do you pitch retainer agreements to your clients?

In the Resourceful Designer Community Slack group, we have a channel called #Bragging-Rights. It’s a place where community members share their most recent wins. Things like Katie telling us her client approved the logo she asked us to critique a few weeks ago. Or Brian sharing the completion of a huge website project with an extremely tight deadline. Or Mike sharing yet another signed design proposal.

Whether it’s landing a new client or having their design business showcased in a magazine, everyone in the Community is genuinely happy for the person sharing the good news. That’s what being part of a community is.

But nothing seems to garner more congratulations than when someone says they’ve landed a new retainer client. We don’t even have to know the details. The fact that it’s a retainer client is huge and worth celebrating on its own.

You see, having a client on retainer is considered the pinnacle of client acquisition.

What is a retainer agreement?

So what does having a client on retainer mean?

  • It means guaranteed work.
  • It means guaranteed income.
  • It means a fixed schedule.
  • And most importantly, it means better clients that you can create long-lasting relationships.

A retainer means your client pays you in advance, regularly, in exchange for whatever work you outlined in the retainer agreement.

You see. One of the drawbacks of being a freelance designer is the unpredictability of income. You don’t work a 9-5 at a set hourly rate. Nor are you working in a salaried position with a guaranteed income. There’s no predictable paycheck arriving on a fixed schedule. That’s one of the sacrifices we home-based designers make for the freedom of working for ourselves.

But a retainer brings us closer to that predictable, guaranteed income. It creates a steady cash flow you can count on. This is great since you know how much money you are guaranteed every month, which helps with monthly expenses.

Not only that. But a retainer helps provide both stability and consistency in your work instead of learning how to deal with new clients every project. It reduces the need to pitch and win new design projects constantly.

On top of all that, Retainer agreements attract better clients and allow you to build a deeper relationship with them. Plus, clients treat designers they have on retainer with more respect and as an expert and professional.

These clients understand the long-term benefit of working with you. They are not looking for the least expensive designer. No, they’re looking for someone who can consistently contribute to their business. They want an expert and are willing to invest in one.

Another benefit of retainers is your schedule. In most cases, you know in advance how much work you will have from your retainer clients every month. This makes it much easier to plan your schedule. If you’re contracted to create a weekly blog post image and want to take a two-week vacation. You know in advance that you need to create three images the week before you leave.

Knowing your schedule in advance allows you to manipulate it when needed.

How does a retainer work?

A retainer is a contract between you and a client that states the service or deliverable you will provide them regularly in exchange for how much.

Most retainer agreements work monthly. A client pays you a fixed fee every month in exchange for what you provide to them.

You can also have a yearly retainer payment where the client agrees to pay for the full year in advance. Or a lump-sum payment where the client pays you a certain amount, and you work it off or supply deliverables until the money runs out, at which time the agreement is ended or starts over.

Retainer benefits to the client

Why are retainer agreements appealing to clients? Oftentimes, retainers have built-in discounts that make them more appealing for the client.

For example: If your rate is $100/hour, you might offer a retainer of $900 for 10 hours of work each month. Your client saves $100 each month, and you sacrifice $10/hour in exchange for the guarantee of payment.

If you don’t charge by the hour, you can set up retainers for deliverables.

For example, you agree to create four blog post images and 16 social media images every month for a fixed rate of, let’s say, $500 per month. The client can then budget $500 every month knowing you will deliver the images. It gives them peace of mind knowing it’s taken care of.

How do you pitch a retainer to a client?

The idea of pitching a retainer to a client can seem scary if you’re not used to it, especially if the client came to you with only one project in mind.

The trick is to determine what value you can provide to the client beyond the project they brought to you. What service or deliverables can you provide them regularly that benefit their business?

Some things to consider could include.

  • Monthly newsletters
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Social media imagery or posts
  • Blog post images
  • The list is endless.

Website maintenance plans are a form of retainer. You agree to update, backup, protect and upkeep the client's website for a fixed monthly fee. Web maintenance plans are a great form of a retainer and guaranteed income.

For any retainer to work. The client needs to understand the value and be able to explain it to others within their organization.

Get to know the client.

Before you pitch a retainer to a client, you need to get to know them and their business and figure out how you can use your skills to advance their interests.

Luckily, getting to know the client is part of any good project brief and discovery meeting. While you are prepping your project proposal, you should also be looking for ways to help the client beyond the project.

Do they have a monthly newsletter? If so, is there any way you can help them with it? And if not, could they benefit from one?

Are they active on social media? If so, who handles it for them? If it’s an employee, could you take that off their hands and allow the employee to be better spent their time on other aspects of the business?

The more you understand about the client and their business, the easier it will be to figure out how a retainer agreement will benefit them and convincing them you’re the person to have it with.

The retainer pitch

Once you’ve figured out how you can help the client on an ongoing basis, it’s time to pitch your retainer idea.

Some designers like to pitch the retainer idea as part of the project proposal. In comparison, some like to bring up the idea after pitching the project. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

I prefer to do it at the beginning myself. I personally think it helps build some credibility by showing the client you’re not just in this for the one project, but you are willing to build a long-term relationship with them.

This works especially well with website projects. You can show that you will understand the client and their needs by the end of the web project, allowing you to better support the website you build for them and provide some ongoing support to help them grow after the launch.

Bringing up the retainer agreement at the end of the project also works since the client has had a chance to get to know you and see how you work and can see the value you can bring to their business.

So there’s no right or wrong way as long as you do it.

How to structure a retainer agreement

The two most popular forms of retainer agreements are for deliverables or hours.

A retainer agreement for deliverables means the client pays you a certain amount in exchange for a fixed number of deliverables, such as social media images. This allows you to bill for the value of the actual work you create, not your time.

When using this method, it’s important to clarify a fee should the client require more than the allotted number of deliverables or what happens should the client not require the full amount that month.

The second option is a retainer agreement for a fixed number of hours per month. When choosing this method, it’s important to determine what happens should you need to go over the allotted hours or what happens should you not use up the allotted hours. Are extra hours billed at a discounted rate or your standard rate? Are unused hours lost or rolled over to the next month?

There is a third form of retainer that is not as popular. That’s for a client to pay a monthly fee for priority access to you. This puts you at their beck and call. Meaning they pay you to drop whatever you are doing and work on their project any time they need you.

I don’t recommend this third option as it could jeopardize your relationships with other clients, especially if you end up missing a deadline because your retainer client needed you.

A Retainer Agreement is a contract.

A retainer agreement with a client is a contract of its own and should be signed separately from any project contract you enter into with the client.

A retainer agreement contract needs to clearly define the work expected of you to prevent scope creep. It also needs to outline exactly what happens should extra work be needed or not enough work in a given month.

The agreement also needs to outline what is not covered under the contract. If your retainer agreement states you provide social media images and the client asks you to design a brochure, for example. Is there a condition for additional work? Or does your agreement stipulate that additions work requires a new contract?

The agreement should also stipulate timelines. If you agree to provide 16 social media posts per month, is that 4 per week or can you provide all 16 by the end of the month?

Retainer Agreement Time Frame

An essential part of your retainer contract is establishing a time period for the agreement. This can be anything you and your client agree upon 1-month, 6-months, 1 year, or more.

Whatever timeframe you chose. Your contract should indicate when you can renegotiate or terminate the agreement. Perhaps you raise your rates every year. Or you realize the work is more involved than you expected and want more compensation. Or, you decide after a time that you no longer want to be doing this kind of work. Make sure you have it in your contract when you can renegotiate or get out of the agreement.

Stipulating a payment schedule for the retainer agreement.

The whole point of a retainer agreement is a guaranteed steady income. To accomplish this, you need to state a payment schedule. Will the client pay a lump sum upfront, monthly, quarterly?

Or perhaps they pay a fixed price per delivery. For example, the client agrees to pay you a certain amount for every 10 blog images you create for them regardless of the time frame.

Introduce retainer agreements to your design business.

That’s retainer agreements. As I said at the start, they’re the pinnacle of client acquisition. Having several retainer clients can give you peace of mind, knowing you don’t have to spend as much time trying to acquire new clients. Instead, you work with a small handful of clients regularly as you build long-term relationships with them. It’s a win-win for both sides.

One last thing to remember, Any time you enter into a retainer agreement with a client, there are three parties to consider.

  • How does it affect you?
  • How does it affect the client?
  • And, how does it affect your other clients?

Before you enter a long-term agreement with someone, make sure the work and time commitment won’t interfere with your existing clients and commitments.

The next time a client approaches you with a new design project. Take some extra time to figure out how you can help them long term and pitch them on the idea of hiring you on retainer. You never know what will happen.

Resource of the week Lambdatest

Lambdatests offers Cross-browser compatibility testing tools. Perform live interactive cross-browser compatibility testing of websites and web apps on the latest mobile and desktop browsers, different operating systems and even differing resolutions. You can also test geolocation from over 27 different countries.

These are not screenshots. Lambdatest lets you take control of whatever browser you want on whatever system you want.

Their free plan offers 60 minutes of real-time browser testing per month. For unlimited testing, they offer a $15/month billed annually plan.

No more guessing or calling your friend that has that specific Android phone and asking them to check a website for you. You can do it all from the comfort of your own chair with Lambdatest.

Apr 5, 2021

Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, the stress of everything we’ve had to endure over the past year. But lately, I’ve seen more and more designers struggling with Imposter Syndrome. I’ve seen it in the Resourceful Designer Community. In Facebook groups. And just talking with people, I know in the design space.

I don’t know what’s causing so many people in our profession to doubt themselves and their abilities. But if you’re one of them, let me tell you a little secret that may make you feel better. Although everyone feels Imposter Syndrome at one time or another. It’s most often felt by high achievers who have trouble celebrating their success, no matter how large or small. So if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, there’s a good chance you’re a high achiever. That’s a good thing and something that should make you feel a bit better.

In case you are unfamiliar with the term Imposter Syndrome, it refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. In other words, you don’t think you’re as good as other people think you are.

Imposter Syndrome

An internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be

I suffer from Imposter Syndrome when it comes to illustrations. If you’re a long-time follower of Resourceful Designer, you’ve heard me on several occasions say that I am not an illustrator. And yet, the truth is, I can draw. I’ve been drawing my whole life. Maybe not regularly; I haven’t honed my skills, but it’s not like I’ve never doodled before with some degree of success. And I’ve had many people over the years tell me I’m good at it. But in my mind, I’m not.

I look at what others like Andrew or Kat, or Krista from the Resourceful Designer Community can do, and my skills pale compared to theirs. In my mind, the only reason people tell me I’m good at illustrating is that they don’t want to make me feel bad by telling me the truth. That’s Imposter Syndrome.

And you know what? In this case, it’s ok. It’s ok because I’ve never wanted to be an illustrator. So if I don’t think I’m good enough, so be it. I’m ok with that. But that’s not the issue I’ve seen lately among fellow designers.

Imposter Syndrome becomes serious when it involves what you are trying to do to earn a living. What I’m seeing is a lot are people with the skills, talent and knowledge to do something well but who feel they are not good enough to be compensated for what they’re offering. People who are competent web designers but don’t think they’re good enough to charge $5,000 or $10,000 or even $50,000 for a website. Or people who are talented logo designers who have never charged more than a couple of hundred dollars for a logo project. That’s Imposter Syndrome.

These people have this idea in their head that if they charge that much, others will think they’re a fraud, and they’ll be exposed. These people are afraid to approach clients they really want to work with because they don’t think they’re good enough to work with them.

Is that how you feel? Are you unable to internalize your success because you’re afraid of being outed as an unqualified fraud?

Let me tell you something. You are not alone. In fact, everyone battles imposter syndrome at one point or another—even those who seem to have it all.

Actors Tena Fey, Emma Watson and Tom Hanks have all said in interviews that no matter how well they do, they always feel inadequate and that at any moment, someone’s going to find out they are not good actors and don’t deserve the success they’ve achieved.

Best-selling author John Green, who’s won several literary awards and whose books have been turned into major motion pictures, says he feels like a fraud all the time. He’s said that he doesn’t feel like he knows how to write a novel and doesn’t think he ever will. He finds pleasure in the process of writing, but he thinks everything he writes sucks.

If talented, successful people such as this suffer from imposter syndrome, what chance do you have? The truth is, you have as much chance as them and as everyone else.

To overcome that feeling, you have to realize that everything you’ve done in your life so far, every achievement you’ve achieved, no matter how small, was something you were not qualified to do before you actually did it. You weren’t able to walk - until you did. You weren’t able to ride a bike - until you did. You weren’t able to use the software you use daily - until you did. You weren’t able to complete a design job for a client - until you did.

You are the person you are today because you’ve successfully achieved thousands, if not millions, of things you were previously not able to do. That’s life. It’s how we grow. It’s how we mature. And that means that everything that you don’t think you’re qualified for right now is just something you haven’t achieved yet.

I want to share something with you, and I wish I could remember where I first heard it to give credit where credit is due. But I heard this many years ago, and it changed the way I look at life.

Somewhere, right now, there are people who are less skilled, less talented and less knowledgable than you are, doing the exact thing that you don’t feel you’re qualified for.

Think about that.

Regardless of your abilities, there are designers out there who are not as good as you, who are succeeding at the thing you want to be doing. When I first heard that statement, it changed the way I look at life. It helped me breakthrough my inhibitions and become the person I am today. I no longer look at obstacles as something I’m not good enough for. I look at them simply as things I have not achieved yet. That mentality has helped me grow and achieve things I once thought impossible.

I faced Imposter Syndrome before starting the Resourceful Designer podcast. I thought, “who am I to be talking to you about running a design business? Many other designers are much more successful than I am.” But I pushed through anyway and launched this show. And even though I know I’m not the most qualified person to instruct you; I still have something to share. And the thousands of people who listen to each podcast episode must think so as well, or they wouldn’t keep listening. And neither would you.

You don’t have to be the best at something to overcome Imposter Syndrome. It just means you have to be willing to try. There is no such thing as perfections. What there is, is good enough. Nobody can ask any more of you than that.

If you can design a $200 logo, there’s no reason why you can’t design a $2,000 logo. If you can design a $1,000 website, there’s no reason why you can’t design a $10,000 website. It’s not because you are not qualified. It’s simply that you haven’t done it yet.

Work, just like life, should be a challenge. You need to reach if you want to get anywhere. Because you too can succeed. And you know that’s true, because of all the less qualified people than you who are doing just that. Succeeding. Don’t let them show you up.

And you know what? If you try something, and you fail. Chalk it up to a learning experience and then try again. You’re only human, after all. Remember, feeling incompetent isn’t the same thing as being incompetent, and I know you’re not the latter because if you were, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

If you’re feeling Imposter Syndrome. Find someone to talk it out with. Sometimes, all it takes to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to talk it through with others. Especially people who understand you. That’s where places like the Resourceful Designer Community are great. We’ve all been there and know how it feels, and we’re more than happy to guide you through it.

In case you are suffering from Imposter Syndrome right now and what I’ve said so far hasn’t helped you, I want to share something from Valerie Young, an internationally recognized expert on imposter syndrome.

As Valerie puts it in her TED Talk. The only difference between people who feel Imposter Syndrome and those who don’t is that the same situations that trigger imposter feelings in some trigger different thoughts in others. That’s it. That’s the only difference.

So The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter.

For example, someone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome might think they are not as good as the others in their group and be afraid they’ll be discovered as a fraud. Whereas those who don’t suffer from imposter Syndrome know that even if they are not as good as the others in their group. That’s OK. They can’t be the best at everything, after all. Valerie has literally written the book on Imposter Syndrome. I highly encourage you to watch Valerie’s TED Talk. It’s only 6 minutes long and well worth the time. And here's a link to Valerie's 10 steps to overcome Imposter Syndrome, which you might find interesting to read.

But if you take one thing from this today, I hope it’s what I shared with you before. The statement that made such an impact on my own life.

Somewhere, right now, there are people who are less skilled, less talented and less knowledgable than you are, doing the exact thing that you don’t feel you’re qualified for.

So get out there, and do it.

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