Have you ever found yourself doubting your abilities as a designer?
Maybe you secretly dread consultation calls, because you just know your client is going to ask for something you don’t know how to do…
Maybe you’ve been putting off raising your rates for months now, believing deep down that clients will dry up the moment you do…
Maybe you’ve been spending a littleeee too much time scrolling Instagram, feeling all kinds of insecure and left behind as you stalk the competition.
No matter which aspect of your business has you feeling less-than enough, I want to share with you a few simple things you can start doing TODAY to drastically improve your confidence as a designer!
The best way to gain confidence in your skills as a designer is honestly just to start doing!
But this doesn’t mean you start handing out free websites to everyone you meet, just to gain *airquotes* ‘experience and exposure!’
You do not want to become known as the designer who’s always down to work for free.
So while you’re shouting out about your new business, keep your pro-bono plans on the DL, only offering those complementary services to a select few people.
You want to make sure the free projects you’re doing can actually be used to use in your portfolio, something you’re proud to show off, and will go a long way in attracting the exact type of paid client you are hoping to work with.
So sometimes it takes pitching the work you want – yes, even free work!
Maybe you’ve noticed that a business you love to follow has a killer Instagram feed, but when you head to the link in their bio, you notice they don’t have a website.
Or the café you love to work from has a site, but it’s looking pretty dated and they could probably use an update.
Maybe the photographer who is just getting started out needs a new site designed, and would be willing to trade you for branding photos!
Either way, decide how many free projects you are willing to do before you start charging legit designer prices, and stick to your guns on this one.
By setting a firm cut-off date or number, and attaching an actual dollar amount to your work, you are declaring to yourself and the world that what you do matters and has real value, even if you’re still learning.
And with a client’s actual investment on the line, you are more likely to want to level-up your skill and do what it takes to deliver a kick- finished product, instead of approaching every project with the mindset of “I’m not sure I can do this, so just in case I mess it up, let me do it for free.”
Being picky about your pro-bono projects is a great way to make sure you are ending up with portfolio pieces that will actually benefit your business, but if you treat each free project as if you were working with fancy $10K design client, you’ll be making the most of the client-handling experience as well!
By taking it seriously, you’ll have had a real taste of what it’s like to manage a web design project from start to finish and will be that much more confident in your design process when you do finally land that first paying client.
Plus, if you kill it on the free project and take the time to go the extra mile and deliver a gorgeous finished product and amazing client experience, not only will you have your first glowing ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review, and a major boost of confidence in your own capabilities, you’ll likely start to see some referrals from that project too!
Nobody comes out of the womb knowing how to design websites.
And even once you do start learning how to become a designer, you are going to find that you have some things you naturally rock at, and some things…not so much.
Rather than avoiding your weaknesses and constantly feeling like a fraud, crossing your fingers and hoping your clients don’t notice and call you out on them, embrace them!
Write down a list of everything you aren’t naturally amazing at in your business, whether it’s a certain aspect of the actual design process, or something more behind the scenes like organization or managing your finances…
Then go down your list and decide whether you will:
A) make a plan to improve on that thing so you can do it for yourself, or…
B) outsource it to someone who is naturally gifted at that thing.
C) decide that thing isn’t actually so important in your business and just choose not to do it
We tend to procrastinate on things that we know we aren’t naturally good at doing, so outsourcing or simply letting certain things go is one way to free you up to do what you enjoy, allowing you to build a niche business around your strengths.
Obviously there are some things that you just can’t outsource or kick to the curb in our business, so in these cases it really will just mean finding a way to learn that new skill.
But identifying your weaknesses and coming up with a plan to improve will give you confidence and peace of mind knowing that you are being proactive and taking steps in the right direction, and you won’t be stuck in a stressful place of having to fake-it-til-you-make-it forever.
Confidence plays a huge role in how we price our services. But how we price our services can actually also majorly affect our confidence!
So what do most new designers do when deciding how to price their services?
They snoop around the internet to see what other designers are charging for a basic 5-page website, and then immediately knock that back by 30-50% to be safe.
But offering the cheapest rate in an effort to outbid other designers for projects is not a sustainable marketing strategy, and it’s not helping you in the confidence department either.
You are sending a message to yourself and your clients that your time doesn’t matter, and until you’ve learned all there is to know about your industry, your work holds little value.
You will attract the type of clients who always want more for less, who demand more time, more energy, and endless rounds of revisions. Working with these types of clients leaves you feeling burnt out, under-appreciated, and questioning your abilities as a designer.
Not a recipe for confidence!
So how do you get your confidence and skill level to where you can charge premium prices and actually pay yourself a legit income as a designer?
Invest in yourself and your business, before you even think you’re ready!
I love what past Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ student Mariana Durst said when being interview about how she was able to charge premium rates as a designer and still fill her books months in advance:
If I’m asking somebody to invest in me, it’s because I’m also investing in my expertise, and becoming faster, better, and more well-rounded!”
– Mariana Durst, Desk & Design
So if you are feeling like an imposter calling yourself a web designer and charging real designer rates, don’t just drop your rates to reflect your knowledge and experience.
Increase your knowledge and experience to match your rates!
You can spend months and even years struggling to reinvent the wheel, taking hit after hit to your confidence and pocketbook as you run your business completely by trial and error…
Or, you can invest in your business and set yourself up for long-term success right from the start.
If you see a skill you want to improve at, chances are there’s already someone out there who has taken their years of hard-earned experience and lessons learned the hard way, and they’ve packaged it all up into an easy-to-digest format that you can absorb in a matter of hours or days.
By taking an online course, joining a group coaching program, or reading books by people who have been-there-and-done-that in your industry, you can be confident that you aren’t missing any pieces of the puzzle you need to command those pro designer prices!
Most people will tell you not to compare yourself to other designers since you are likely at very different stages in your business.
But I actually welcome comparison because it shows you just what’s possible if you really work for it!
So next time you are scrolling through a designer’s Insta feed, rather than letting their amazing work cause you to doubt your own, crack open your laptop and challenge yourself to recreate it!
Nobody else is going to see this, so this is the one instance where straight up copying someone else’s work is actually encouraged.
Attempting to reverse engineer another person’s design is a great way to learn the skill or concept behind it.
Then, once you’ve nailed it, you can add that new skill to your toolkit and apply it in a million new creative ways in your own unique work without feeling the need to copy.
Maybe you’re feeling a bit envious of another designer’s success?
Good! Use their success to learn about what’s really important to you!
Take a moment to write down all the things they seem to have that you think you want.
Now prioritize those things in order of how badly you want them, and how well they line up with the goals you’ve set for your business.
You may discover that some of the things currently causing you to feel insecure or jealous are not so high up on your list of must-haves after all.
But for those things you do really want, work your way down the list, and for each item, ask yourself…
“What’s the first smallest step in getting to where I want to be with this?”
And then take that first step.
Comparison can be really helpful for getting honest with ourselves about what we really want out of our businesses.
Getting clear on our desires and goals helps us to make better decisions about how much time, energy, and mental space to devote to certain things.
So next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else, turn it into an opportunity to learn about yourself or to learn a new skill you haven’t yet mastered but would like to!
When asked their ‘why’ for becoming a web designer, most people’s answer has something to do with finding financial freedom, being the boss of their own schedule, and being able to work from wherever there is wifi.
And those are all wonderful reasons to start a business!
But do you have a ‘why’ behind who it is you serve in your business?
The most confident designers I know are the ones who are busy serving the people they are most passionate about helping, rather than just filling their days with whatever projects will pay the bills.
These designers have discovered exactly who it is they are most excited about championing, and how their specific set of skills, experiences, and strengths uniquely position them to genuinely help that person!
And by working with clients you are passionate about, you are more likely to be excited about learning about their industry, which will only make you a better designer for the job!
Finding purpose in the day-to-day work you’re doing is just as important as any sort of financial security, and by placing your focus outward on clients, and witnessing the difference you can make in someone else’s life, you won’t have as much time for over thinking things or worrying that you don’t measure up!
The proof will be in what you’ve been able to do for others!