Why do some designers seem to zoom forward with their career while you're stuck? How are they consistently getting better-quality and higher-paying clients while you're scraping what you can get? The reason could be that you have certain beliefs and mindsets that are holding you back. To get rid of them and move forward, look to the Fight Club method to accelerating your design career tenfold.
Fight Club is a book (and, more famously, a Brad Pitt-starring film) that is a philosophical look at all the delusions which hold us back in the modern world. By becoming aware of and getting rid of these delusions, you can progress as a human being. What's great is the same realizations can be applied to your design career. By becoming aware of and getting rid of delusions that are holding your design career back, you can progress as a designer.
Here are five Fight Club realizations that'll help you accelerate your design career tenfold:
1. You Are Not a Unique Designer Snowflake
You think you're a special designer. That your designs are an exception, different from all the rest. Well, you're not special, and neither are your designs. Get over it.
Everyone copies from everyone else to some extent. There is no such thing as a completely original design. It's impossible: there are a very small amount of color and shape combinations, arrangements, patterns, and so forth. If you think you've stumbled upon some unique design element, most likely tons of other designers have used it already.
The sooner you realize and accept that you are not some truly unique designer, the faster you can start making some real progress in your design career. You let go of grand delusions that you're special and it's just a matter of time until you get noticed. You'll waste way too much time twiddling your thumbs and not getting anything accomplished.
Instead, you'll keep your head down, get to work, and get results:
- You'll see what traits you're strong in.
- You'll make up your deficiencies to a good-enough state.
- You'll practice and get better.
- You'll find and work with clients who need what you offer.
- You'll rinse and repeat, progressing your career, making more money, and getting better and more defined with your design work.
2. You Are Not Your Design Tools and Credentials
It's not about how you made it, it's about the results. Ultimately, the client couldn’t care less which software you used, or where you studied at, or who you worked for previously. The only thing the client cares about is whether he or she got what was needed. If you met or exceeded the client's needs and expectations, the client is happy and you make money. If not, then you don't.
Sure, saying you have so-and-so clients under your belt might help you get a new bigger client you might have not otherwise gotten. But your credentials don't create the design - you create your design. If all 50 of your previous designs were great and the latest one is bad, the client doesn't care about those previous 50: they only care that you gave them mediocre work when they wanted greatness.
The same goes for tools: sure, saying you use industry-standard software might ease some random client's mind as to whether the file they get will be standards-compliant or not. But if you use some rinky-dinky software and deliver an exceptional design, the client would much rather prefer that than a Photoshop-created design that is bad.
The sooner you start focusing on how good of work you can deliver and showing new clients that quality via a portfolio, examples, whatever rather than name-dropping firms, companies, and tools, the faster you'll be accelerating your design career forward.
3. No One Cares About You as Much as You Think
To you, you're the most important designer out there. Your designs are the best, and everyone knows about and wants them. Yeah, right. Get real.
To each person, they are their most important person (parents and their kids are excluded here, since that's a different kind of relationship). And their work is what they pay most attention to. So just from that, by default no one cares about you or your designs as much as you do.
You might be super-excited about your latest design breakthroughs or how good you've gotten, but no one else will be. The only thing others care about is how you can benefit them. So understand that clients don't care about how good you think you are or how awesome or neat your latest designs are. All clients care about is if your designs can give them their desired results.
That sacred, emotionally-invested design you just finished for that client? Yeah, that client couldn’t care less about any of that. All they want is your design to make them look good, impress visitors and prospects, and convert into signups, sales, or whatever other result they need.
4. You Don't Have Control Over Your Designs
As soon as your design leaves your hands, it's no longer yours. Sure, it was originally created by you. But it becomes the client's design for their stuff. And they'll tweak and change it according to how they want it, or whom they entrust as the optimizer.
If all those pretty flourishes you lovingly put in end up hindering the conversion rate as deemed by the person in charge of user interface optimization, then they're gone. Forget about 'em. And if you stubbornly insist that it's your-way-or-the-highway and your designs can't be changed at all and you go to technical lengths to make sure of that then you can kiss most clients and paid work goodbye.
Your art-project designs can satisfy you, but they're just that: art projects. Your designs become property of your clients, and their function becomes how they can serve the client's purpose, not how pretty your work ended up being so you can tell your friends to check it out.
Now, if you also specialize in user interfaces, optimizing for search engines or higher conversion rates, and whatever else, then sure, you have a bit more control over your designs. But the priority and result remains the same - you're going to tame your artsy tendencies to do what's best for the client.
5. Someday, Your Design Style Is Going to Die
No matter how much you love your current style of creation, it's going to lose favor someday. Maybe sooner, maybe later - depending on how trendy or supposedly-timeless it is. But sooner or later, most clients will want something else. And if you're not offering it to them, they'll go to someone else that is.
It's not unique to designs - everything in life changes. Fashion, technology interfaces, foods and recipes, language... the list is very long. And if you're not keeping up with the changes, then you get left behind with no work and your not-with-the-times designs.
That doesn't mean compromising what you love creating most, or watering down your design work to simply be whatever is trendy at the time. But it does mean paying attention to what is or can be profitable, and focusing on creating more of that. Of course, that's only if you like getting work, making money, and progressing your career forward.
Accelerate Your Design Career Tenfold
The Fight Club method is taking a hard look at your design career letting go of harmful delusions. The ones that will hold your career back - while you have faith you'll get "discovered" for who you really are, perfectly-suitable work that'll progress your career passes you by. By facing the sobering but honest reality, you'll adapt your work and designs accordingly and start accelerating your design career tenfold.
To recap, here are the five Fight Club realizations that'll help you accelerate your design career tenfold:
- You are not a unique designer snowflake
- You are not your design tools and credentials
- No one cares about you as much as you think
- You don't have control over your designs
- Someday, your design style is going to die
Your turn: how else have you been able to avoid career-hindering delusions and accelerate your design career?
(Images from the film Fight Club, property of 20th Century Fox, taken from Movie Memorabilia Emporium)