Ready to step up as the high-end brand designer you know you can be? I hear you, my friend. I strongly believe in learning from each other, lifting each other up, and most of all, helping you avoid common pitfalls wherever you can. (No, being a “starving artist” is NOT a prerequisite for success!)
You know I loooove to keep things positive, but sometimes it’s easier to know what not to do, right? Today I’m sharing 9 things that high-end brand designers don’t do, along with what they actually do instead.
These are in order from the easiest to the most complex, so be sure to read to the end or bookmark this post as you tick through the list! Let’s go…
1. Don’t treat your business like a hobby.
If you want to be a high-end brand designer, you have to act like it. I know this is easier said than done, especially when you’re just starting out, but making that mindset shift is everything. If you treat your business like a hobby, it’s going to stay that way. Instead…
“Invest, operate, and plan your business like it’s going somewhere. Have goals, align your decisions with them, and make the same choices that your next-level self would make.”
Not sure what this means? Imagine that you have already reached your next level of success. What kinds of decisions would you make? What plans would you put in place? What does your daily routine look like? What projects would you accept? Then, don’t wait… start acting like that person now!
2. Avoid using other designers’ work as inspiration.
High-end brand designers have their own unique creative stamp, and in many cases, I would say they are setting trends instead of following them. The best thing you can do for yourself is to limit the time you spend looking at other designers’ work, and spend more time doing what I call Discovering Your Designer Magic.
Book a creative date with yourself and look at inspiration from the colors, shapes, moments and textures that fill you with life. What about your daily life inspires you? Nature? Fashion? Books? Art? Pay attention to that and use it as fuel and inspiration for your work. This is how you stay original, unique, and attract clients who genuinely love what you create.
3. Don’t hide behind client work.
Newer designers tend to hide behind their work, because… 1) they don’t think they, as the designer, are as important as their work, 2) they worry that having their own established brand will turn away potential clients, or 3) all of the above.
The truth is that high-end brand designers actually get MORE clients because they have their own brands. It makes sense, if you think about it. After all, how can a client trust you to brand their business if you haven’t branded your own? Exactly.
Instead, use your brand as your own personal moodboard. Show clients that you can brand their businesses by branding yours first. Most importantly, make sure your brand includes you, the designer, front and center. People want to work with people!
4. Carefully curate your design portfolio.
Have you ever noticed that high-end brand designers carefully curate the projects they showcase? Ya, girl. Whatever you see on their website’s portfolio pages or social media feeds are by no means ALL of the projects they have done. Instead, it’s a thoughtful collection of the projects that represent their own brand best and will attract more of the work they love to do.
You could even think about it like a resume. Before applying for a job, you will probably tweak it to better reflect the position you’re trying to land. You remove the jobs and experience that are irrelevant and play up the ones that mean the most.
Do the same with your design portfolio and watch how it changes the projects that come your way…
5. Never undercharge to be competitive.
This one breaks my heart when I see it, because it can be so crippling to new designers, and I have been there myself. When you’re just starting out and trying to get more projects, it is so, so tempting to lower your prices to “beat out” the competition.
However, as I’ve seen time and time again, the opposite is more effective — raise your prices and your quality of service high like a Champagne toast. Clink!
Here’s why: companies who are looking to work with a high-end designer expect to pay for a high-end designer. Quoting your rates too low will make your work appear amateur and less valuable, even if it is top-notch, designer magic.
6. Say “no” to clients who raise red flags.
High-end brand designers excel in the art of saying no. You can laugh, but it’s true and wildly underrated. If you have hesitations about a potential client, even if it’s just a gut feeling you can’t really explain, the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to politely decline to work with them.
Not one, not two, but three benefits come from this. It spares you the stress and headache of working with a client who is not right for you. It leaves time and space for better, more exciting projects that are just around the bend. And last but not least, it feels SO good to be in control.
I’ll also add in this bonus benefit: saying “no” reaffirms that you respect yourself and respect your own time, and that can only mean positive things for you and your business. Seriously, try it!
7. Don’t limit your time to client work.
High-end brand designers are not creative goddesses with endlessly flowing creativity. (Wouldn’t it be nice, though??) Instead, they know how to inspire their own creativity.
If you’re wondering how this is different from discovering your designer magic, trust me, it is. Your designer magic is the style, aesthetic, and approach that is unique to you and closest to your heart. But as any designer knows, creativity doesn’t always come when we call for it…
How do high-end designers keep their creative cups full? By scheduling dedicated time to get inspired. By creating for the sake of creating. By resting and refueling their inspiration for the projects to come.
Some of my favorite ways to enjoy an inspiration refill is to step out from behind my computer and create with mediums I’ve never used before (paint, flowers, chalk, etc.), travel to new places, pique my other senses (I’m a candle person!), and sometimes, I’ll give myself permission to do nothing at all. It feels good!
Of course, your inspirational process might look different, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s just for you.
8. Remember that you’re not selling deliverables.
Want to hear a secret? High-end brand designers are not selling brand design, new logos, or even new websites. “Hold up, what are they selling then, Ariel?”
“High-end brand designers intimately understand their clients’ pain points and sell solutions to their problems.”
For example, clients who come to us don’t just want a high-end brand that will bring more profit into their businesses. That’s a piece of it, of course, but the thread that ties our clients together is that they want to be different. They want to stand out. They want to feel wholly aligned with what makes them truly unique. THAT is what we do!
What are your clients’ problems? Get to the heart of them, and then show your clients how you can solve them through your process and design. Best of all… paint a picture of what their lives and businesses will be like after that problem is fading in the rearview mirror.
9. Don’t build a business that relies solely on you.
I saved the best and most advanced tip for last: high-end brand designers build businesses that could survive without them. Read that again, and let it sink in…
I know this idea can be difficult for many of us to accept. We all want to believe that no one could replace us or replicate our designer magic. But a business that relies solely on your creative ideas won’t go nearly as far as a team can.
High-end brand designers build wildly profitable and scalable design businesses because they systematize their creative process. Duplicate yourself. Find team members whose magic complements yours. Teach them how to create in the same way you do, so that you can scale your business and operate at new levels, with more clients, and with your designer magic still sparkling in full force.
That’s the path to massive growth, profit, and best of all — a business and life you genuinely love. Speaking from experience here!
If you’re looking for some support on your journey to profitability, my Drop Dead Designer coaching program is transformational. Not sure yet? Read this Case Study shared by one of our students.
Hope to see you there!