4 reasons you still aren’t successful

There are a lot of articles that will try to tell you what you are doing wrong and how to fix things, but the truth is the majority of them aren’t super honest.

They want to get you to sign up for something to sell your work, and that’s supposed to put you on your way.

Not necessarily true. This time around we’re going to explore some of the real issues many of us freelance designers aren’t seriously successful.

 

You may have tasted a bit of success—for example, you may have a couple paying clients who are pretty good—but you haven’t reached any great individual (or financial) goals. You don’t have people knocking you door down asking you to work for them or you may not have enough to buy a brick and mortar spot.

Whatever your goals may be, don’t give up on them. These are just a few of the things you could do differently.

 

1. You haven’t found your niche

 

I’m a firm believer in creating or finding niches. Far too often, people desire to be a jack of all trades with no real focus. You tell one person you’re a web designer then you tell someone else you’re a print designer, then you go on to tell another you can edit videos. It’s great to be knowledgeable but carving out a niche and being good at that makes you extremely unique. The more unique or different the service you have to offer, the more chances you have to stand out and gain more customers.

 

To use a broader example, someone can describe themselves as being a wedding planner—because of this, they put themselves in a huge pool of hundreds of thousands of other wedding planners. At this point the only real thing they can do to set themselves apart from being a general wedding planner is to perhaps offer great customer service and value. However, if a wedding planner were to create a niche, such as rock-and-roll themed weddings or weddings with smaller budgets, it makes them easier to find and more unique.

 

Designers often come up thinking they have to have a deep skill set to be successful. Everyone tells us we need to dabble in everything. There are two main issues with that: 1) we try to be skilled in everything and end up being sub-par in everything, and 2) some of us actually have no passion or interest in “complementary” skills (i.e., we are designers trying to learn coding but have no real passion for it).

 

Find your niche and then perfect that niche. There’s no point in begrudgingly learning a skill because you’re told to. Put an emphasis on what you love to do no matter how pinpointed it may be. You may just enjoy designing web sites for clothing companies—perfect that and don’t worry about going too far outside your comfort zone to design a site for a church.

 

And one last thing about niches—find the RIGHT niche. I had been freelance designing for six months and promoting myself as the designer for small business. I worked within (what I thought was) their budget and had some complementary skills that could help out a bit. For six months I did this and didn’t get ONE customer shopping to enhance their small business visuals. I was discouraged but I realized the work that I did get was coming from a completely different audience: one that I knew was there but I really wanted to ignore. I eventually shifted my focus and have been having some good success. Don’t make picking a niche super hard; sometimes it comes to you.

 

 

2. Freelancing is still a side gig

 

There is no way you can expect to be a successful freelancer if you are putting in part time hours. I’m not saying it’s for everyone to take the plunge and figure out how to make money from home. A lot of us are responsible adults and can’t tell the cable company to wait a couple days. That is fair and understandable, but if what you are doing as a freelancer is your passion, you’ve got to put some work into it.

 

Now for myself, I understood that I have a hard time focusing, so I decided to freelance full time right out of college. No matter what kind of full-time job I could get, I’d probably end up focusing more on that rather than my freelancing desires, which I feel are extremely important to me. Far too often I see folks with full time jobs that try to do some freelancing on the weekends and that’s it. And while they have that passion, two days out of the week probably isn’t going to shoot you off to the success that you need.

 

I’m not saying you have to have a full-time job and then come home to work 40 hours on your freelancing, but I am saying don’t just do enough to get you by because then there’s really no point in being a freelancer. Do a fair amount of work—find out what works and what doesn’t work and focus on the things that work. I’ve also figured out that if I happened to have a full-time job, I’d spend any extra money on growing my freelance business. With the growth of social media and the Internet, people believe you can become successful for little to nothing. While this is true, this takes lots of time of which most people with jobs don’t have. Spend money on yourself and your business to make it grow and eventually take the plunge.

 

And quite frankly, if you aren’t thinking about taking the plunge to be successful, then freelancing will always be a side gig that yields side gig results.

 

 

3. You aren’t being yourself

 

Before I get into this one, I want to say this reason isn’t always your fault. For most of us, when we come online to research ways to make money or be successful or use a certain type of technology, many folks who are already successful try to sell you a dream. Basically, they reflect on everything they did, write it up in a nice guide book or record some videos and slap a crazy title on it. You buy it, read it and start trying to follow every step they laid out for you. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most times, that won’t work for you.

 

If you aren’t being sold a dream, perhaps you’ve got an idol or two. You feel like your expertise and skill set is almost the same so you attempt to do the same things they’ve done or get into similar situations. Maybe you even measure your success by being better than that person or looking at numbers across the board. This is a poor plan as well.

 

It takes a little time to come to the realization that we are individuals and we tend to have our own places and ideas and walks. Trying to be like someone else just throws us off and slows us down. We obviously have to make our mistakes to figure out where we are best at landing, but no one person can achieve long-term success by trying to be another person.

 

Being yourself and being unique is one of the things that can take you extremely far. A lot of guide books and success stories should be looked at as inspiration and not to be imitated. Figure out what’s right for you and no one else.

 

 

4. You aren’t really networking

 

Networking and relationships are easily the key to success in pretty much any arena. When someone knows what you do, whether it’s good or not, they are going to come to you. If someone knows what you do and you do it extremely well, they’ll almost always come to you. Don’t you often wonder how amateur designers (who look the part) get good clients and work and such while charging higher prices? I do and I’ve figured out it doesn’t have a ton to do with marketing strategies, but it has everything to do with who they know.

 

I was pretty bad at networking. I felt like my talent should speak for itself and if someone wanted a terrible designer to do work for them, that’s their fault. And with that mentality, I stayed unsuccessful. I really started networking, talking to people—not just letting them become familiar with my service list but also building relationships—and my business started growing.

 

Networking isn’t blabbing about yourself and how great you are. It’s about making a connection, and if you can do that, you will do well.

 

Success

Being successful is completely subjective—some of us have higher goals we consider “success” than others. Whatever the desire is, the end point is the same. You obviously want to complete a certain set of goals to get to where you want to to be. As a designer, the common thing many successful people can agree on is that success is completely separate from your level of raw talent.

As long as you are ready and willing to work hard and set realistic goals, success will surely come .

 

Have you found anything that has helped catapult you into success?

0 shares
  • http://www.oldworldcreative.com Evan Skuthorpe

    Nice article. I agree that networking is the most important factor in getting your success. It’s all about who you know rather than what you know. That’s not to say you can be bad but have good contacts, it just means that you can be the best in the world but if you don’t know anyone who can provide work, you’re not going to get it!

    By the way, something can’t be ‘more unique’, it’s either unique or it isn’t ;)

  • http://designwashere.com/ Design was here

    Really nice article! :)

  • Umber code

    I would like to see an article about how to network for socially inept people (like me). I am terrible at that, partly because I have a personality disorder and my social skills are not good to put it mildly. So any advice for people like me?

    • http://twitter.com/OdtUkoge Odt Ukoge

      I’ve found it difficult to network as well, but this is how I’ve found some success so far:

      1. Ask questions or just share input with people better than you.

      The people you look up to are good at what they do probably in part to their hard work and dedication to their craft. The greatest thing you can do to network with those people is show interest in what they do, how they do it, etc. I know a lot now about front end development that I want to share, but I only really share it with people who show a genuine interest in it. It sounds like basic advice, but showing that you respect someone’s work and appreciate how good they are at what they do is the easiest way to earn their respect. And it’s just a good thing to do.

      2. Contribute to open source projects

      This is more for the experience of working with other developers / designers, but each and every time you contribute to a project is a chance to network. I’m not saying you should write a line of code and then ask for a job, but working in the community on projects you care about and can help with will keep you in the loop and will generate more contacts.

      3. Use Twitter

      In the web design world, twitter is a godsend. That may seem like overselling the point, but I don’t think so. I can’t count how many good design and development discussions I’ve seen unfold on twitter. And links I’ve seen shared that have blown my mind. Most of us are on the web all day, so having those short snippets of conversation with the design community is always helpful. Have a question about a design or development problem you’re stuck on? Ask people on Twitter. Want to join a discussion about an issue you’re passionate about? Jump on it, get your voice heard, talk to people about it! You may feel like making a point every now and then, but even that is better than nothing. And networking, to me at least, is about planting a seed and letting it grow naturally. Don’t be a recruiter and be in everyone’s face, just say what you have to say when it’s relevant, you’ll know when’s a good time to speak up and when’s a good time to listen.

      That’s all I have. Hope it helps some!

    • http://twitter.com/OdtUkoge Odt Ukoge

      I’ve found it difficult to network as well, but this is how I’ve found some success so far:

      1. Ask questions or just share input with people better than you.

      The people you look up to are good at what they do probably in part to their hard work and dedication to their craft. The greatest thing you can do to network with those people is show interest in what they do, how they do it, etc. I know a lot now about front end development that I want to share, but I only really share it with people who show a genuine interest in it. It sounds like basic advice, but showing that you respect someone’s work and appreciate how good they are at what they do is the easiest way to earn their respect. And it’s just a good thing to do.

      2. Contribute to open source projects

      This is more for the experience of working with other developers / designers, but each and every time you contribute to a project is a chance to network. I’m not saying you should write a line of code and then ask for a job, but working in the community on projects you care about and can help with will keep you in the loop and will generate more contacts.

      3. Use Twitter

      In the web design world, twitter is a godsend. That may seem like overselling the point, but I don’t think so. I can’t count how many good design and development discussions I’ve seen unfold on twitter. And links I’ve seen shared that have blown my mind. Most of us are on the web all day, so having those short snippets of conversation with the design community is always helpful. Have a question about a design or development problem you’re stuck on? Ask people on Twitter. Want to join a discussion about an issue you’re passionate about? Jump on it, get your voice heard, talk to people about it! You may feel like making a point every now and then, but even that is better than nothing. And networking, to me at least, is about planting a seed and letting it grow naturally. Don’t be a recruiter and be in everyone’s face, just say what you have to say when it’s relevant, you’ll know when’s a good time to speak up and when’s a good time to listen.

      That’s all I have. Hope it helps some!

  • http://8gramgorilla.com/ Gordon McLachlan

    Networking is a toughie and yes, it’s unfortunate that often ‘success’ doesn’t have a lot to do with talent but rather connections and cliques. I still hold out hope, however naive it may be, that by producing good work it will lead to recognition and reward.

  • http://twitter.com/NexusStudioNet J.Ph. Paumier

    Ouch !
    It hurts… You’re damn right…

    Really nice article, Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/OdtUkoge Odt Ukoge

    I’ve found it difficult to network as well, but this is how I’ve found some success so far:

    1. Ask questions or just share input with people better than you.

    The people you look up to are good at what they do probably in part to their hard work and dedication to their craft. The greatest thing you can do to network with those people is show interest in what they do, how they do it, etc. I know a lot now about front end development that I want to share, but I only really share it with people who show a genuine interest in it. It sounds like basic advice, but showing that you respect someone’s work and appreciate how good they are at what they do is the easiest way to earn their respect. And it’s just a good thing to do.

    2. Contribute to open source projects

    This is more for the experience of working with other developers / designers, but each and every time you contribute to a project is a chance to network. I’m not saying you should write a line of code and then ask for a job, but working in the community on projects you care about and can help with will keep you in the loop and will generate more contacts.

    3. Use Twitter

    In the web design world, twitter is a godsend. That may seem like overselling the point, but I don’t think so. I can’t count how many good design and development discussions I’ve seen unfold on twitter. And links I’ve seen shared that have blown my mind. Most of us are on the web all day, so having those short snippets of conversation with the design community is always helpful. Have a question about a design or development problem you’re stuck on? Ask people on Twitter. Want to join a discussion about an issue you’re passionate about? Jump on it, get your voice heard, talk to people about it! You may feel like making a point every now and then, but even that is better than nothing. And networking, to me at least, is about planting a seed and letting it grow naturally. Don’t be a recruiter and be in everyone’s face, just say what you have to say when it’s relevant, you’ll know when’s a good time to speak up and when’s a good time to listen.

    That’s all I have. Hope it helps some!

  • http://twitter.com/OdtUkoge Odt Ukoge

    I’ve found it difficult to network as well, but this is how I’ve found some success so far:

    1. Ask questions or just share input with people better than you.

    The people you look up to are good at what they do probably in part to their hard work and dedication to their craft. The greatest thing you can do to network with those people is show interest in what they do, how they do it, etc. I know a lot now about front end development that I want to share, but I only really share it with people who show a genuine interest in it. It sounds like basic advice, but showing that you respect someone’s work and appreciate how good they are at what they do is the easiest way to earn their respect. And it’s just a good thing to do.

    2. Contribute to open source projects

    This is more for the experience of working with other developers / designers, but each and every time you contribute to a project is a chance to network. I’m not saying you should write a line of code and then ask for a job, but working in the community on projects you care about and can help with will keep you in the loop and will generate more contacts.

    3. Use Twitter

    In the web design world, twitter is a godsend. That may seem like overselling the point, but I don’t think so. I can’t count how many good design and development discussions I’ve seen unfold on twitter. And links I’ve seen shared that have blown my mind. Most of us are on the web all day, so having those short snippets of conversation with the design community is always helpful. Have a question about a design or development problem you’re stuck on? Ask people on Twitter. Want to join a discussion about an issue you’re passionate about? Jump on it, get your voice heard, talk to people about it! You may feel like making a point every now and then, but even that is better than nothing. And networking, to me at least, is about planting a seed and letting it grow naturally. Don’t be a recruiter and be in everyone’s face, just say what you have to say when it’s relevant, you’ll know when’s a good time to speak up and when’s a good time to listen.

    That’s all I have. Hope it helps some!

    • Armando Lopez Jr.

      I sir, am astonished and thankful by your post.

      Any great people to follow on twitter?

      Because of your point #3 “Use Twitter”, I am now encouraged to create an account.

      Can you list people worth following on twitter? :D

    • Anonymous

      Great suggestions and thank you for sharing, and I’ll definitely be more active on twitter with the networking!

  • Anonymous

    I read this article. I was very impressed by its contents.))

  • http://www.facebook.com/rajrana1972 Raj Rana

    nice

  • http://www.facebook.com/rajrana1972 Raj Rana

    nice

  • http://www.dessign.net Dessign

    Great Article…Finding your niche is very important and being the best in what you do even if its a small niche will get you notice..and ofcouse networking is a must in any business

    Marios

  • http://twitter.com/BigHeadAsian Justin Moore-Brown

    Spot on article.

    #2 is the case for so many of my designer friends who have constantly expressed the desire to work for themselves but have not been able to cut the cord and take the plunge.  So much talent just put on the shelves.

  • Staylor733

    Good article. I total agree with most of your points. You just have to believe in yourself and keep pushing along. Thanks for posting.

  • http://twitter.com/wpcanyon wpcanyon

    Only one reason. I’m lazy.

  • Anonymous

    I think the biggest thing for me is the idea that I need to have a broad range of online skills, and yes it takes a huge time commitment to keep up with all of them, I have to reconsider how I want to market my skill set

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic article. You hit all the major points that hold back many designers. Or a lot of youth today in any profession.

    The point that resonates with me is not being myself. I find this true with many people around me who look to books for answers on who to be or how to act to become successful. And when I take a step back and think, I dont think any of the great “successful” people out there ever picked up a book to find themselves. They were just themselves.

    Again, thank you for this article as some of us needed a dose of reality.

  • Nadeem Khan

    This is a great article and I really like this.

  • Avafab

    nice article, expecially when you talk about being yourself and don’t waste time in reading books and guides that try to sell you the keys of succes. About social networking I think it may work for “web-related works” but not for all, what about a machine software developer for example? over internet there is no company interested in your work, company like that doesn’t sped time on social networks looking for you.. and normal users don’t even know about your existence.. what about electronic board programers? there is no customer on the social networks for them.. 

  • http://www.anthonytori.com Tori Web Design

    It’s all about your passion. If you’re not passionate about what you do and how you live then you will not be successful. You said being successful is subjective, which is true. If you make a living off your passion you will consider yourself successful. I ask myself a lot, “What can I do today that will let me do what I want tomorrow.” Answer that question and you will be focused and achieve the success you want.

  • http://www.varusoft.com/ AdrianMaftei

    Great article and good read.   I’ll definitely be more active on twitter and facebook with the networking!