So many designers waste their time contemplating things that, in the long run, are completely useless to their development as creative professionals, freelancers, or better designers in general. This not only hampers their growth but also fails to increase productivity.
They whittle away at meaningless details – such as what font size their name should be on their business card, or whether they should make that CTA button white or blue – and then wonder why they seem rooted in their current situation. They spin their wheels, as the saying goes, without ever making any real progress.
We’re going to look at some of the most common types of minutiae that seem to trap freelance designers in a never-ending cycle of indecision, and explore some simple ways to break out of them.
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Stop worrying about tiny changes like button size or shape unless your client’s company is big enough that those types of changes matter. Any website smaller than eBay or Amazon probably isn’t worth the stress, because the target customer base will respond mostly the same way to a variety of different UI configurations or CTAs.
Tiny differences in color, placement, etc., are irrelevant, and if they hinder your progress on a project, they can actually be damaging to your career as a freelancer.
Pick Your Battles
Some elements of a design project have speed or budget as the number one priority, like foundational deliverables on a tight deadline. Other elements need to be done as perfectly and accurately as possible. Designers sometimes think that the latter is the most important, but it’s usually the opposite.
If you really analyze any design project you happen to be working on, you’ll most likely find that the 80/20 principle applies to the ratio of quality needed versus quantity.
What Takes Priority?
The elements of a project that absolutely require the most attention to detail are often not what you think they are. Usually, they’re things like copy, where a single spelling error can utterly destroy a brand’s reputation, or the correct indexing of inventory or other offerings to customers. Rarely does the perfect font or color scheme seriously impact your client’s bottom line.
I’m not saying these things aren’t important; they’re just not as important as many designers believe. Unless you or your client have hard data that proves otherwise, it’s better to prioritize what really matters to users.
Stop Revising and Start Selling
You must know how to sell a client on a solution you believe is best, rather than letting them steamroll you into endless revisions. Salesmanship is a vital part of any business relationship.
As the saying goes, every business is a sales business. Whether you’re persuading people to buy your new brand of table salt or convincing a client that your solution is perfect for their problem, you’re always in the business of selling.
Nitpickers Never Prosper
A hard truth in business is that those hired to polish and perfect a project are often the least significant in terms of importance to the team. If you find yourself overwhelmed with making minor corrections or constantly performing the design equivalent of janitorial work, it might be time to reassess the direction your career is taking.
Sure, clients might appreciate your efforts, but do they genuinely value you as a designer? Unless the real solution to your client’s problem involves crossing T’s and nudging elements around a grid, I highly doubt it.
When It’s Done, It’s Done
There’s a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein that goes something like this: “Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Design is about providing the simplest, most elegant solution to a problem that one can, but some designers reach that solution about 3 or 4 revisions earlier than they realize.
If you’re baking cookies, and after 10 minutes they’re golden brown and perfect, you wouldn’t put them back in the oven for an extra 10 minutes “just in case.” Quality is important, and clients certainly care about it, but it’s never wise to belabor a solution that is already satisfactory.
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Design as a profession tends to attract people who are highly analytical and can see multiple solutions to problems. This is an excellent trait overall (in my not-so-humble opinion), as it gives designers the creativity and freshness that clients seek.
The challenge lies in knowing when your natural meticulousness stops being helpful and starts becoming a hindrance. It’s crucial to maintain a healthy balance and keep perspective so that your freelance career will grow rather than stagnate.