Designing websites is an emotional and vulnerable process. Like any other artist, it’s a creative process that’s different for every web designer — and because design is interpreted differently by everyone, it truly tests your confidence. But unlike traditional artists, you’re not dealing with a completely blank canvas — there are brand guidelines and business objectives to get started, theories of what makes a good design to reference, and tools to test the effectiveness of the finished product.
Much of what makes great design still boils down to gut instinct and a creative eye, and those two things are unique to your point of view and personal style. It’s what will set you apart and make you valuable, and being able to allow everyone to see and judge it takes courage and confidence.
Recognize Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Unless you have a really tough creative director, chances are you are your own worst critic. So go easy on yourself, but keep a grasp on where you excel and where you fall short. Self-awareness is key to becoming confident. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Are you great at writing?
- Do you need to work on your typography?
- Could you improve your illustrations?
- Are your coding skills not up to par?
- Do you have excellent communication skills?
Embrace your strengths and identify your weaknesses, then set realistic milestones to improve on them if you feel it’d round you out as a designer. Get input from your directors and peers. It takes a lot to set aside pride and admit another designer might be better suited for a task, but people will appreciate your candor and trust in your teammates. It completely and utterly embodies maturity, leadership, and confidence.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Designers
Online communities like Dribbble are incredibly resourceful. You get an inside look at the process of some of the most talented designers in the world, working for the most creative and innovative companies in the world. The double-edged sword? It’s easy to doubt yourself and compare your work to them. I still succumb to this on occasion. So if your discovery phase includes clicking through the Popular Shotspage, you’re putting your confidence at stake. You risk getting too inspired by someone else’s style or following fads. (Tip: Learn how to follow conventions, evolve with trends, and avoid fads in my previous post.)
So before you compare yourself to any other designer, remember how different you are:
- You have different strengths and different skill sets.
- You have different levels of experience.
- You have a different set of circumstances (time, money, or resources).
- You’re working for different people and a different brand.
When you look at it that way, it’s impossible to compare yourself to anyone else. You’re your own person, so don’t compare apples to oranges.
Stop Doing Work for Free
A pattern I notice in designers struggling with confidence is their unwillingness to take on paid clients because it sets expectations they don’t think they can meet yet. This is even more true for moonlighting designers with alternative careers to fall back on. So they’ll do work for free, for family or friends, or pursue their own side projects because they just don’t feel ready. It’s less scary.
While it’s great to use these types of projects as a way to give back, or as an opportunity to improve on your weaknesses, don’t underestimate yourself.
There’s something about the exchange of value that reinforces you have a skill and talent worth paying for. It will push you to rise up to the occasion, and you’ll surprise yourself. It’s not a “free” project or “favor” for someone, but a real business transaction that you have to deliver on. This will build your confidence as a designer.
Seek Feedback From Everyone You Can
When you’re not confident of something you’ve created, it’s tempting to avoid feedback and critique — but that’s when you need it the most. Don’t worry about showing a meticulously executed, finished project to everyone, because if it’s not right, then you’ve wasted valuable time. Invite people into the process before you’ve spent too much time spinning your wheels. Getting buy in of your creative process and the way you think, not just the final product will build your confidence.
Who do you ask for advice?
- Stakeholders — clients, creative directors, superiors, account executives
- Peers — colleagues, fellow designers, the design community
- Outsiders — potential users with objective, valuable opinions
The key is communication. When you send over your work, don’t simply say, “What do you think?” Explain the challenge, your creative process, your proposed solution, and what exactly you’re seeking feedback on. Once you learn how to accept and absorb feedback and turn it into positive energy, you’ll be surprised how much your confidence improves.
Confidence as a creative can be difficult to achieve, especially in an industry where it’s equal parts talent and skill. Embrace your strengths, understand your weaknesses, and work to improve upon them. But most importantly, learn to seek and accept feedback because, when you master that, you can truly grow. Let us know how you’ve learned to ask for and accept feedback in the comments section below!