Be honest, how many times have you sat down to start a client project, and thought “oh, I’ll just pop over to Instagram or Pinterest for a second to see some inspiration and get those creative juices flowing…”
Then in 5 minutes flat you go from being totally stoked about winning that new client and being paid to do something you love, to convincing yourself you have absolutely zero decent ideas, and everything you create looks like crap when you hold it up to all the unbelievable talent there is out there.
If you’ve ever felt paralyzed by comparison, you’re not alone! Those uber-successful designers who’s portfolio you love to low-key stalk? Believe it or not, they’ve felt it too.
You’ll never truly put an end to comparison (because hello you have eyes) but in today’s videos I’m sharing a few of my favorite mindset shifts and actions steps you can take to make sure comparison doesn’t get in the way of you confidently working towards your goals as a designer!
When we are constantly holding up other designer’s work and businesses for inspiration, there’s no way we aren’t going to feel self-conscious from time to time.
And that’s because when you see something you admire, it’s pretty hard unsee it.
But I promise you, when it comes to attracting the people you want to work with as a designer, ‘Different = Good.’
In fact, ‘different’ is everything!
‘Different’ is what is going to get you picked from a sea of other equally talented, hardworking, and (let’s face it) hungry designers.
‘Different’ is what is going to make someone read the first sentence of your about page and think “Oh my gosh. You are my spirit animal. Please take my money!”
So next time you are tempted to compare yourself or your business with another designer, take some time to focus on what makes YOU different, and lean into that hard.
Make a physical list if you have to.
Because right now there are thousands of business owners out there wishing they could find someone who actually ‘gets’ their weirdness.
Are you known for being over the top dramatic or ‘extra?’ Own it!
Infuse it into everything you do in your business and suddenly you become the super obvious option for those ‘extra-in-a-good-way’ clients.
Trying to be someone else will make it extremely hard to consistently attract clients, because people tend to naturally vibe with people who look and sound just like them.
Not to mention your potential clients will instantly pick up on any inconsistencies between your online branding and your actual IRL personality the second you hop on that consult call.
Nothing will stall your growth and confuse your potential clients faster than trying to be a mashup of other designers.
(And if you can’t think of a single thing that makes you different, ask your closest friends or family to help you brainstorm! Could be fun!)
Ok, so we just talked about how being different is everything.
But there’s one area of business where I’m going to go ahead and suggest you be a total cliche…
And that is to pick a week or even a month where you do a full-blown social media cleanse!
A few weeks ago, I logged into my Instagram account and I unfollowed literally everybody. My family, my friends, the businesses I follow….
The whole internet. Gone.
I’m not saying I won’t ever hop back on and cheer on my friends, or support my fav creators through a like, comment or follow, but sometimes your business calls for a season of zero distractions.
You don’t have to go deleting the app (though I have done that before too and it’s amazing)…
And who knows, you might not miss the extra noise once you see how well your business is thriving with this new level of focus.
As designers, we don’t just wake up in the morning and go “well, lets see how my business is doing today” and open up Instagram to find other businesses to compare it against.
Usually, it’s a little more subtle and sneaky than that, like comparison creeping up when we are innocently out searching for inspiration.
Maybe we just landed a new client and we need fresh ideas for their home page.
Or maybe we decide our portfolio needed a facelift and so we pop over to Pinterest to see all the creative ways other designers have come up with to showcase their work.
If this happens to you, then I’m hopeful this video will be the wakeup call you need to recognize those patterns and be intentional about forming new ones!
The easiest place to start (once your social media cleanse is over, of course) is to follow accounts that are not web design related, but are still in super visually driven niches.
Think: custom cookie decorators, stationary makers, travel bloggers, fashion influencers, painters, brand photographers, interior designers, and macramé weavers…
Whatever they do, find examples of their work that speaks to you (or you think would speak to your ideal person) and find a way to translate that concept into your own unique designs.
If you need help thinking outside the box when it comes to where to go for inspiration, I share my 6 favorite unexpected ways to find inspiration as a web designer in this post.
If the goal posts are invisible and always moving, how are you going to know when you’ve scored?
And if your eye is always on someone else’s game, it’s wayyyy more likely you’ll go dropping the ball in your own court.
Why the extra cheesy sports analogy? Because goal setting in business is no different!
When you compare yourself to other designers, whether you recognize it or not, you are setting a standard in your mind of what it looks like to win.
And suddenly all your decisions start to be informed by what’s going on in someone else’s business instead of your own.
So when you see some sort of win or success in another person’s business you think you might like to have for yourself, write it down.
And when you make a decision, write down your reason for that decision so that when you are tempted to let comparison change your course, you can go back and see why that decision was right for you.
It’s easier to stick to your true priorities and your ‘why’ for starting your business and for making the decisions you do when you’ve got a physical reminder or “goal posts” to refer back to.
There are a bajillion reasons for why people choose to ditch their day job and become web designers, but in some form or another, they all seem to point to two main reasons for starting a business:
They start their business for financial reasons.
They start it to fulfill some sort of creative outlet or passion they have.
Finances are definitely the most clear cut way we have for measuring whether or not a business is thriving. But as designers it’s easy to get caught up in the income comparison trap just as much as the idea comparison trap.
So the next time you are setting financial goals for your business, why not also set a few that can’t be assigned a monetary value, or that don’t even really revolve around you.
Rather than try to just stop all comparison cold turkey (which is honestly not realistic, because it’s just part of human nature), why not set yourself some boundaries for how you will use comparison as a healthy tool in your business.
Ideally you’d set a boundary that the only comparison you care about is comparing yourself to where you were 6 months ago.
This is really the only accurate measurement of whether or not you are actually getting anywhere. ♀️
Again, when you are always looking outward for signs of whether or not you’re ‘making it,’ the goal posts will be constantly moving.
But with the right mindset, it is possible to use comparison with others for some healthy industry research.
For example, when you are first getting started, you are not really going to know how to price your services without at least taking a peek at what’s out there.
Or when you are deciding on a business model for your web design business, it makes sense to look at people who’ve been at this for more than a minute to see what’s been working for them.
Then if you need a reference for comparison, make it your mission to seek out people who are in the same stage as you. This gives you the opportunity to network, cheer each other on, collaborate and even commiserate when needed…
…which feels a whole lot more life-giving than viewing everybody as the competition.
So the next time someone else’s success starts to trigger feelings of self-shame or comparison, I want you to remember two things:
Their success does not diminish your chance of success.
There is not some limited number of spots that are quickly being snatched up by everyone but you.
There are enough seats at the table. You just have to bring your own chair.
Unless you happen to be this person’s IRL bestie and therefore the person they bare their soul to, you are really only seeing their proudest moments.
You aren’t seeing the disappointments, the tough calls, the mistakes, the do-overs, and the days of doubt that any of this is possible for them.
The most accomplished, talented, successful, and inspiring person you know still struggles with comparison.
So cut yourself some slack, focus on the next right step for YOU based on where you are actually at right now, and leave the heavy task of worrying about everyone else up to someone else.