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Conquer imposter syndrome: 3 ways to free yourself from fear and doubt as a designer

Imposter Syndrome » n. the fear of not being able to see through to the end. I’m not good enough to do this project » I can’t picture the end result – or see a way through. My client will see right through me » my process isn’t strong enough to guide them through to the…

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Imposter Syndrome » n. the fear of not being able to see through to the end.

I’m not good enough to do this project » I can’t picture the end result – or see a way through.

My client will see right through me » my process isn’t strong enough to guide them through to the end.

I’m self-taught » I’m missing some key training that I need to arrive at the end result.

I can’t charge that much » I don’t place enough value on my ability to get to the end result.

I get this. I feel it myself. Frequently. That insecurity that makes your stomach hurt a little. That causes you to doubt yourself when you “had it” just a moment ago. When a client’s feedback knocks you sideways. When that design you poured your creative energy into, gets the wrong response.

ImposterSyndrome-quoteI’m not a coach or a pro on this subject. I know what I know from my own experience. Avoiding your fear creates a stagnant environment for your work. You can’t go forward. Stagnation kills creativity. I’ve learned that the more I push through the fear, the less ability it has to take hold. Rather than freezing me in place – I use that fear as a sign that I’m pushing myself in a good way.

3 ways to fight Imposter Syndrome

Embrace projects that will improve your skills

In the past, I’ve committed to projects that involved skills I didn’t have yet. Have you done this? One of those yes, I can do that, enthusiastic moments that disintegrates into crap, what did I just commit to? I’ve done this quite a bit over my career. The right scary projects can be a good thing. They can force us to uplevel and pushes us through the fear of doing something new.

Scary? Yes, a little. Be strategic about which projects you use to stretch your skills. Have a mentor or colleague standing by if you need guidance. Make sure that the return of extra time spent produces something that draws you closer to working the clients you love.

Firm up your design process

Documenting processes is boring. I think of all pieces of the project puzzle, this can be the hardest to nail down. Design itself is subjective, so at times it can feel like the process is unstable. Your process should be fluid – in that you should be regularly assessing where you can improve – but there are milestones and conversations you can identify that are consistent from project to project. Start writing them down.

Signs you need to improve your process:

  • Clients don’t understand what’s coming next.
  • Clients don’t read your messages.
  • You have to repeat yourself or backtrack.
  • You have to circle back and make changes after approval checkpoints.
  • You are missing pieces of content you need to move on to the next step.

How to start documenting your process:

  • Copy/paste common messages or conversations into one location, like answers to hosting questions, photography questions or process questions.
  • Copy/paste milestone conversations, like the information you provide when you send a logo, concepts, or flowchart to review.
  • Make a master list of common milestones.
  • Make a master list of tasks the client needs to perform prior to the start of the project.

A well-documented process will give you confidence. Knowing your process will deliver a good end result – even if you don’t know the answer going into it – will help you combat the imposter syndrome that crops up when taking on new clients.

The subjective nature of the design process makes designers and freelancers easy targets for self-doubt. Click through to learn 3 ways to fight & conquer imposter syndrome as a designer.

Lead with confidence, even if you don’t feel it.

This is the irony of imposter syndrome – you don’t have the confidence, or you wouldn’t feel like an imposter, so how can you lead with it? But to get to the other side, you need to push through this false fear. While you may not feel confident in the moment, you can exude confidence indirectly through the rest of your brand experience. Let your positioning, branding and marketing do the talking for you.

  • When you are just starting out (or creating a new offering), offer short free consultations so you can practice talking about what you do.
  • Your website is an opportunity to put your best foot forward. If your website is well-done clients will forgive a small portfolio.
  • Avoid passive language and messaging on your website and in general communication.
  • Invest in a headshot – I swear this is like wearing your most flattering power outfit on your website – you can change your client’s perception of your personal ability with a warm, confident headshot.
  • Demonstrate expertise with solution-based blog posts, tutorials and trainings targeted to your ideal client.
  • Ask for help from a more experienced designer or invest in a mentor. It’s worth the investment if you can catapult past all the mistakes they have made.
Where in your process does imposter syndrome pop up for you? How have you conquered it? What fears can you push through and do away with for good?

Author: Christine Thatcher

Christine Thatcher is the founder of Christine Marie Studio, a boutique design agency dedicated to helping visionary entrepreneurs infuse their personalities into profitable virtual platforms. She combines 27 years of design experience to guide her clients through the web design process. Also the creator of Designing to Delight, a brand dedicated to teaching designers how to build collaborative client relationships so they can charge more for their work.

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