As a freelance graphic designer you might feel obliged to overdeliver because there’s so much competition and you don’t want to lose a single clients. Consequently you obsess over each and every little detail just to make absolutely sure that everything is perfect. Yes, such dedication can be beneficial to your success — but it can also affect you negatively when taken to the extreme.
THE GOOD AND BAD OF SEEKING PERFECTION
As a perfectionist you delight in investing time and effort into your projects, only delivering work that you deemed is perfect. Having high standards allows you to easily meet client expectations — they will be impressed by your professionalism and work ethic, resulting in more business for you in the long run. Perfectionism also applies to handling your clients, where you strive to make them feel as appreciated and valued as possible.
Striving for perfection is usually not a bad thing. However, with perfectionism there is often the fear that things won’t go exactly the way you imagined, which is inevitable as you take on different projects and work with different kinds of clients. In reality, there are many things that are out of your control — a client might delay payment and stop communicating with you, or your workstation might die all of a sudden causing you to lose a whole week’s worth of work.
While other designers can adapt to such situations and move on, as a perfectionist you are more likely to obsess over the situation. Relatedly, there is a tendency to procrastinate as you wait for the right conditions before starting any work, which is idealistic at best.
And when you do work on a project, you find yourself putting in much more effort than what is actually required. You keep searching for minor flaws that can be improved on, when the time and energy could be spent on something more productive. In short, seeking perfection will result in you becoming less efficient and effective as a freelance graphic designer.
Moreover, approaching graphic design in such a way is an exercise in frustration as you waste precious time trying to make things perfect. Coupled with the stress of deadlines, and the result is chronic mental and physical exhaustion.
In fact you are more likely to miss deadlines if you keep getting hung up over each and every little detail. It’s also important to realize that clients aren’t going to pay you more just because everything is done perfectly. A project is about meeting specific goals and objectives, and not so much about drawing that line as straight as possible.
And even when a project is completed to the client’s satisfaction, the same can’t be said for you as the guilt that things could have been done better haunts you. Nothing is ever really good enough, and thinking in such a way will destroy your self-confidence as a graphic designer. As a result, you find yourself charging much lesser than what you are really worth, and skipping high-profile projects even though you have the skills necessary to meet the client’s needs.
HOW TO BE A BIT LESS PERFECT
If what is described above sounds like you, then it’s time to be just a bit less perfect. Below you will find some techniques to help you let go and handle things in a more relaxed manner.
The first and perhaps most important step is to understand that nobody can ever be perfect. Even the most talented designers will produce bad work from time to time. Recognize that you are putting in your best effort at that moment in time and be content. Strive for perfection, but tone back on those perfectionist tendencies just a little. In short, moderation is key. Set a time limit for a task and move on once time’s up — you will be surprised by how much you can accomplish, but without the added stress and frustration from before.
Remember, you can choose how to approach and interpret your client relationships. Realize that you can’t forcibly change a client’s perception of the work you present to them. Instead, learn to manage negative feedback so that either party doesn’t get too emotionally involved and disrupt the project workflow.
See also: Managing Client Feedback
If you feel like you are focusing too much on the details, take a step back and go through the goals and objectives discussed originally with the client once more. Plan out your subsequent actions, making sure that they are helping to move the project forward to its completion. It might also be a good idea to refresh your focus by taking some time off to engage in more lighthearted activities such as walking your dog or taking a nap.
As a perfectionist, the thought of embracing failure might seem counterintuitive, but as the saying goes, failure is the mother of success. Probably the faster way to grow your freelance career is to learn and improve upon your mistakes and shortcomings. Sometimes, you just have to ignore those doubts in your head and keep moving forward. Stop comparing yourself to other people and appreciate the progress you have made so far. By changing your perspective you will come to enjoy freelancing that much more.
Try to identify what the main priorities for a project are so you can spend more time and energy on them instead of the lesser details, which you can skip or get back to if you have time to spare. Some aspects of your work don’t need to be perfect. Consequently you will be able to get a basic workable version to the client quicker, speeding up the design process.
As a perfectionist, you might have a tendency to work linearly, only moving on after you are satisfied that everything is in order. Instead, try going with the flow and work on tasks based on whatever you feel like doing at the moment. Such an approach can actually improve your productivity. Don’t get too carried away though — you still need to do those less enjoyable tasks such as sending invoices and responding to client emails.
Social media can lower your self-confidence and bring out the worst in your perfectionist tendencies. If possible, cut those sources of negativity out and surround yourself with people who are living life in a positive, healthy, and relaxed way.
Ultimately, it’s about learning to roll with the punches. By being less perfect, you will be more creative, more productive and much happier. Hopefully this article will be food for thought in helping you find the right balance between perfection and letting go.