Stop Being a Perfectionist

As a freelance graphic designer, you might feel obliged to overdeliver simply because there’s so much competition and you don’t want to lose any clients. Consequently, you obsess over every single detail just to make 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.


As a perfectionist, you delight in investing time and effort into your projects, only delivering work that you deemed is perfect. By having high standards, you make it easy to meet client expectations — they will be impressed by your professionalism and work ethic, resulting in more business in the long run. Perfectionism also applies to how you handle your clients, where you strive to make them feel as appreciated and valued as possible.

Striving for perfection and excellence is definitely not a bad thing. However, with perfectionism there is often the fear that things won’t go exactly the way you imagine, which is inevitable as you take on more projects and work with different clients. In reality, there are many things that are out of your control as a freelance graphic designer: a client might delay payment and stop communicating with you altogether, or your workstation might die all of a sudden, causing you to lose a week’s worth of work.

While other designers can accept and 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 required. You keep searching for minor flaws that can be improved on, when the time and energy can be spent on something more productive. In short, seeking perfection means you become less efficient and effective as a freelancer.

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 on the details. It’s also important to realize that clients aren’t going to pay more just because everything is done perfectly. A project is about meeting specified 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.

Relationships will suffer as you neglect your loved ones in the pursuit of perfection. Unable to tolerate your impatience and intolerance, your friends and family will gradually distance themselves from you, and over time you find yourself isolated from the rest of the world.

What’s the point of freelancing when you can’t enjoy the freedom that comes with it, especially with the ones you love?


If what is described above sounds like you, then it’s time to be 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, and be content. Strive for excellence, but tone back on your perfectionist tendencies just a little. In short, moderation is key. Set a time limit for a task and move on once that’s done — you will be surprised by how much you can accomplish, but without the added stress and frustration.

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 both parties can complete the project in a satisfactory manner.

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 one more time. Plan out your subsequent actions, making sure that they are moving the project forward to its completion. It might also be a good idea to refresh your motivation 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 work on less enjoyable tasks such as sending invoices and responding to client emails.

Social media can lower your self-confidence and worsen your perfectionist tendencies. If possible, cut these 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.

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