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Personal Stories #2: How I Deal With Roadblocks in Design

Updated April 16, 2016
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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

We all have times when there are difficulties in the design process, and frankly in our careers or creative pursuits in general. By no means do I have any magic bullets in dealing with these, but I know sharing my experience with others is usually a life-affirming process. So I’ll do my best to share with you any nuggets of value I’ve gleaned from difficult experiences – particularly in difficulties that have arisen in my web design and marketing career.

Some of the biggest categories of difficulties I can put my finger on is trying to create a lot of value for people, and also charging the right amount. Over and over again, I’ve found either issues with clients feeling less than enthused, or I myself have felt like I gave too much. I really do try to set expectations so that I will be able to exceed them, and I’m passionate about that, but it is difficult to always do this.

One client telling me I’ve helped them get more work or customers will literally have me verklempt, and another one where something I did had them feeling less than enthused makes my heart sink into my stomach. I’m not sure I could stop caring so much though, and this is probably something that’s given me the most trouble.

I take time to think about what I have learned from a troublesome issue with a client, and try to remain positive

I think about how I could make the process better next time so that a client’s experience will be better. For other web designers and marketers out there, I think I can safely say that it’s super important to find constructive ways to improve the process the next time when you find issues that cause trouble.

I try to find meaning in my work, and find more work with meaning

Whether finding companies who create handmade products, companies who do meaningful things for the community, or clients who I can just sense some sort of goodness about them I do my best to gear towards these types of situation because otherwise my 50-60 hours a week doing web design and marketing would feel somewhat meaningless. “What are we doing that’s good in the world?” I let this calibrate my compass, and although I do work for some companies where I don’t quite see it, I eagerly await the next client like that whether it be a small business or a big one.

Finding meaning in work sometimes involves sharing the things I’ve learned with the people I’m working with, and trying to be generous with my time as much as I can. Funny enough, when I’m tired this is something that makes me feel alive, rather than more mentally tuckered out.

There’s still times where I do work I don’t 100% agree with or am enthusiastic about

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a saint. Underneath it all I still feel like a bit of a snakey marketer sometimes if I’m doing work for something I don’t 100% agree with, but I guess I attribute that with paying the bills and working towards a quality standard of living with my fiance’, and some financial peace-of-mind. I also hope that by working my ass off, in the meantime I will grow to have the financial stability to be able to turn down the types of work that in any way vibrate against my ethical frame of mind. A boy can dream.

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Riding the waves of design process hangups by allowing them to make me more hearty

I believe that everything you go through that doesn’t make you quit your job or tell a client to fuck-off, makes you stronger. You grow and become the designer you were meant to be. You see that design is never better in the absence of restraints, but rather restraints are what make the best design possible. REAL CLIENT EXPECTATIONS. And this was something I tried to explain to others in my design classes in school – none of this is real, unless it’s actually for a clients, under real market conditions.

Perhaps without a client, design is still design, but the kind of process that is able to be refined over and over again requires some kind of sponsorships and clients are normally the way to sustain that type of effort in my experience. So I can see the issues that arise from client revisions and push back as what sharpens me. When something makes me feel a bit contentious, I allow it to make me more hearty, strong.. resilient. And I learn to choose my battles. Not every font and spacing issue is a matter of principle. And I know I’m not the only designer who struggles with this kind of intensity – at it’s heart of course it’ usually originates in a good thing, passion for quality (in our perspective.)

We sometimes make a personal preference feel like a matter of life and death, and although many great designers have a certain amount of stubbornness about them, when it’s wearing me out I learn to let down my intensity about two notches, and be grateful people want my services in the first place. Gratefulness of this type is really what sustains long careers. 

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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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