Inspiration

The greatest failure in life is failing to try

As entrepreneurs, perhaps the tendency is to become so overwhelmed with all the different aspects of business that we just play it safe. Stick to what we know. Assume the customers will always come to us. Keep giving them the same product they’ve wanted for years.

But innovation doesn’t arise from status quo. Stepping out of the comfort zone and trying things we’d never dreamed possible is essential for success. Who do you look up to? I’d make a guess that they’ve failed more than a few times.

It’s time to change our perspective on failure because the number of failures is insignificant if the outcome is great. Short-term failure is the catalyst for long-term success. Why? Because when we fail, we force ourselves to look at the situation from the perspective of improvement.

A few things I’ve learned from my own failures as an entrepreneurial designer.

Don’t kill yourself trying to do everything for everyone.

A one-man show is limited in success. Find like-minded creatives and developers who can come alongside you and fill in the gaps with their talents and expertise. The first few years of my freelance business were stressful and I often felt like giving up because there were just so many aspects of web design to learn. I didn’t know where to start. I had a natural knack for design, but as far as development goes, I was lost. Since then, I have found invaluable mentors, teachers and others more advanced in the field and I’ve learned so much. I’ve also partnered with a great developer and we’ve begun to delegate our workflow to be most effective. Now we take on a greater number of clients than either of us could have taken on alone. Not only that, but we’ve started to send out work to content editors and jQuery/Javascript programmers as sites become more extensive. Delegation allows you to focus on your greatest strengths and the outcome is almost always stronger if you’re working with the right people.

Don’t assume that the client knows what you know.

They’ve hired you because they need you to share your knowledge with them. I wondered at the time why my first few websites looked so awful…it was because I’d completely allowed the client to lead the design process instead of sharing the reasons why it should have been marketed differently. Lesson learned. I’ve become a much more effective communicator. Most of the time clients are very receptive to my opinions and want the same things I suggest. Sometimes they don’t see the need, but after patient explanations and evidence, they see reasons with a clearer perspective. Fighting for innovative ideas is worth it.

You don’t have to be perfect

Those gorgeous, awe-inspiring designs you see in inspiration galleries are pulled from the ENTIRE world. That’s right – the WHOLE WORLD. So when you imagine the sizable number of those 7 billion people on the planet who work as designers, seeing those hundred or so sites really shouldn’t make you feel so down on yourself.

The secret is: You don’t have to be perfect to put your work out there. You’re probably still more talented than 99% of the people in your area. Get work online and share it. Because people actually do want to see it. If it gets critiqued, welcome the critique! Learn from the critique. Move on from the critique and keep creating beautiful art. For awhile I was always so worried about posting work because I knew it wasn’t as good as some of the great sites I’ve seen. To my surprise, once I started posting, I got a lot of great and encouraging feedback!

Find your niche.

I spent some time trying to do graphic design for television and was miserable. Granted, I was very lucky to get an incredible first summer job at a TV studio. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the pressure of live TV and I didn’t have the patience for keyframing promo animations or being relegated to low-end resources on a tight budget. I easily became frustrated by all the regulations, red-tape, and lack of creative flexibility.

The freedom I find in web is always expanding. The very essence of growth in web technology is found through breaking standards and creating new and innovative approaches. I am an adventurer, always thinking outside of the box, so this creative expression brings me alive! Whether I’m pitching ideas, working deep in my designs, or diving into new code, I enjoy every single aspect.

Find the niche that brings you the most delight. You might fail in five different areas before you find the right thing. But when you find it…you’ll know because the passion and drive will come naturally.

Don’t work in a community bubble.

Find the people outside your community who are changing the industry and follow them on Twitter. Chances are not everyone in your community is challenging the capabilities of the web. I would call this the dangerous “one-step-behind” approach. Search for the industry leaders who are creating the web as we know it. Study their process. Study their clients. Ask yourself what they’re doing right. Talk to them if you have the chance. And learn from where they’ve failed as well as succeeded.

The true key to entrepreneurial success is allowing yourself to fail…because if you never try, you never learn. If you never learn, you’ll never innovate.

Be an innovator.

  • Rich Smith

    Good advice Lindsey, particularly the part about your work being good regardless of the top 100 designs on inspiration sites.

    • I agree. As good as these websites may be in the eyes of certain people they set a benchmark that others emulate which results in a lack of creativity and fuels design trends. I used to subscribe to a lot of those type of sites, RSS feeds etc. and found that they had a negative affect on both productivity and creativity.

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