I've been a professional designer for 8 years. I LOVE it, and I can't imagine doing anything else. But nothing comes without its challenges, and no matter how experienced you are, how old you get or how much positive validation you receive, creative professions can often lead you to doubt yourself, worry and stress about things. It's almost a natural order and and inevitable result of constantly putting your inner thoughts and feelings down as interpretations to be judged.
Working in a subjective career is one of the most stressful and most gratifying things to do. The anticipation of showing a client a new concept brings a buzz, and when they love it it's the greatest feeling in the world. However, criticisms come hand in hand with design and having a tough skin, a diplomatic mind and an ability for empathy with the client under pressure can be very good personal qualities to have.
On top of that, creative people can be some of the most self critical people I know! I am no exception. So today I thought I would share with you some of the worries I still have after 8 years as a designer, and how I cope/live with/quell them. Perhaps it will help some newbies to the career feel like they're doing OK, and older ones to know they're not alone. If you manage to keep a 100% positive outlook on your design career, please write about it and share how! haha
So, here we go...
1. Not using my free time productively
I guilt myself a lot about this. Sometimes I get home from work, I make some food, I grab a cup of tea and... I watch whatever's on E4. For the rest of the evening. Why am I not sketching? Making? Planning? ALL of these things I enjoy more than a re-run of Big Bang Theory.
I think it's important to have downtime, and sometimes, a brainless hour in front of the TV is EXACTLY what you need. However, I also know that my downtime is often the time I'll be my most experimental! No-pressure, no-deadline, purely-for-fun art. I try and strike a balance. After work TV is fine, but then I'll always read/fill my head with something inspiring before bed and my weekends are where I want to be stretching my creative legs. Guilt managed.
2. Never finding "my style"
When I look at something and instantly go"that's [insert name]'s work!" I get insanely happy and insanely envious (in a positive way!) all at once. I often worry I may never find "my style". I would love for people to look at my work and know who created it without having to look for an attribution.
I'm currently working really hard to define my illustration style. During the search, I think it's important to create a style that comes naturally, that isn't forced and that feels very "me" so that I don't tire of it and so that it can grow with me as I change throughout life. I worry I might be 50 before I finally get there, but I'm going to keep pushing for it!
3. Getting left behind
This is a big one for me. New products, tools, skills, techniques, trends, expectations and variations for what I do are happening ALL THE TIME. I try to keep up to date but I'm really aware that I can't do everything. I try to have specialisms. I try to be the best I can be in the areas I enjoy most. However, I'm always slightly worried that the next year's uni graduates will have some hidden knowledge I can't possess!
Here's the thing: if people ask me how to do something, I'll happily try to help them. And why wouldn't people do the same for me? I'll only get left behind if I stop trying to learn :)
4. Everyone else is "better" than me
Kind of following on from the last point...I can get easily disheartened when I have a bad day, and I scroll down Instagram/Twitter/The Internet In General and see all of the amazingness from all the amazing artists I follow and I often think I cannot ever compare, and why am I even calling myself a designer?! etc etc.
Fact is, this kind of thinking is probably very common, but we have to remember that comparison is never helpful, and art is subjective. No one is "better", they're just great at what they do. Love them, be inspired by them, let them lift your from your rut. We all become better through trial and error. A few stumbles along the way, a few paths in the wrong direction, a few styles that never really took off... they're happening. All the time, to everyone.
I worry a lot that what I charge for my work is either too much or too little and I have no idea what the "average" is because designers are traditionally very cagey about what they charge! I've read all the guidance, all the advice. I still worry.
How do I get round this? Honestly, I picked a figure I was comfortable with. One I wouldn't cringe at when announcing to clients and one that wouldn't leave me feeling overworked with little reward. There's a lot of formulas out there, and a lot of "you're worth more" insta-quotes, but seriously, just be true to yourself. You know what you do, how much effort goes in, and how much your client will rely/benefit/gain joy from what you give them. Try a few figures, gauge reaction, gather feedback and settle on a good rate.
6. Is this a "job for life"?
I don't (personally) know a designer that isn't a celeb over the age of 40. Can I even be a 60 year old designer?! I feel a lot of pressure about this. Do I need to have options?
I don't know the answer to this one. It's a genuine concern of mine; one day I will be judged as "not modern", not "cutting edge". Kids with art-school shine will be brighter. I might just have to start a creative pensioners collective!
7. Should I go fully freelance?
Ah... The ever-present question!At the moment I'm freelance part time. Answers on a postcard ;)
I hope this has been helpful! Do you have worries in your career?