For some designers, answering this question doesn’t take a second thought. But for others, it’s difficult to define whether or not you consider yourself to be a successful designer. And much of what determines whether or not you feel successful, depends on how you define success. Do you define success by how much money you make from your design projects? How about by the number of clients you have? Is your success based on how many hours you work or how many people read your design blog? I would like to make a few suggestions on how you might measure and define success for you and your design business.
After reading through a few of my thoughts on the matter, feel free to add your two cents and let me know how you define success as a designer.
Defining success by finances?
It’s common for beginning (and some veteran) designers to measure success by how much money they make. If they aren’t making as much money, they consider themselves a failure (at least in some regard). But it’s important to remember that there is much more to life than making money. Sure, it’s important that you can put food on the table, and it’s even nice to have a little extra cash every once and a while. But when you start to feel like a failure just because you aren’t making a 6-figure salary, take a step back and remember that you are doing something you love for a living. If you do it right, you most likely enjoy getting up for work every day–something that a lot of six-figure executives would kill for.
Defining success by client pool?
Another way designers might define success is by how many people want to hire them. (This is especially common among freelance designers who are in charge of not only designing but also finding design clients.) After all, if you have a huge client pool, you must be doing something right and therefore, you are successful, right? Not necessarily. Take a moment to consider the quality of life of a designer who has a lot of difficult clients. Would you consider that designer to be successful? Probably not. When working to find new clients, it’s important to not only consider the number of clients, but also the quality of clients. Work hard to find clients who will work well with you, help you achieve your business goals, and create a happy and healthy working relationship with you.
Defining success by free time?
Another common way I have heard designers define success is by how much free time you have. For freelancers especially, this is likely why you started freelancing in the first place, so it only seems natural that you begin to define success by low late you are allowed to sleep in and how many vacation days you can take each year. But remember, just because you seem to have less free time than when you worked a 9-to-5 job, doesn’t mean you aren’t successful.
Defining success by reputation?
Have you noticed that a lot of designers are very active in the online design community. I would dare say many designers are more active in online communities than they are in face-to-face design communities. What is it that drives designers to start their own blog, submit stunning work to dribbble, or spend all day tweeting links to great design resources? Reputation. Many designers define success by reputation. Their mentality is “If I can get as many subscribers on my blog as Designer X, I’ll be successful.”
Be careful when defining success based on your reputation as a designer. There are a lot of highly successful people that are not well-known online or off.
Defining success by measuring goals
Well, are you thoroughly confused yet as to the best way to define success for you and your design business? Good. I’ve listed a few options and common ways to define success and now I would like to discuss the method of defining success that has proven most helpful, motivating, and encouraging for me over the years: defining success by measuring goals.
What are your goals for your design business? Do you have any? If not, I would argue that it’s going to be pretty hard to define success; you have nothing to measure your success by. Goals are the measuring stick by which we determine if we are truly successful or not. Let me illustrate:
If you have a goal to make $1,000, you know very well how successful you are. Each dollar you add to the total amount, you can measure against your final goal. But if you have the goal to “be rich”, you’ll never be absolutely sure how successful you are. In addition, you will likely get tired of wondering if you have reached the goal of “being rich” yet and you are likely to give up sooner than necessary.
Still not sure what I mean, let’s take the idea of defining success by reputation. If you simply have the goal of “being well-known”, you are never going to know when you have reached that point. If you, instead, set the goal of having 10 solid clients, having 5,000 blog subscribers, or 10,000 twitter followers, you can easily measure that success.
So, what am I really getting at? What is the key to defining success as a designer (or in any aspect of your life for that matter)?
Making Tangible and Measurable goals.
When defining your success, make sure your goals are tangible (real, reachable, definable) and that you can measure your growth. When you have a list of solid, tangible, measurable goals, you will really begin to succeed.
How do you define success as a designer?
I would love to hear your thoughts on setting good goals, what kinds of things make you feel successful, and how you define success as a designer. Leave a comment, shoot me a message via twitter, or leave a message on the GDB facebook wall. I would love to hear your thoughts on all this.