How Letting Go Helped Me Make More Money As A Designer

You probably noticed that the email you received for this week’s lesson looked a bit different. Not only did I remove design, I also changed how I formatted the email. You may be asking, why would a designer strip the design out of his emails and change what’s been working for the past ten weeks? Well, the answer is pretty simple. Since the very beginning my whole purpose for this blog has been to connect with designers and help them reach their goals through my own experiences. By making this change, I’m now forcing myself to create conversation with you all from the very beginning, rather than feeling like I’m sending you another “marketing” email every week.

Making this change has been a tad scary for me, because I’m not sure how everyone will react to it, but at the same time, I need to ensure that I’m offering you guys the best value. In the case of my blog and this weekly newsletter, my value is not in the design, but in the words and conversations that I have with you all.

Now this is not the first time I’ve made changes like this in my career in order to better serve the needs of my audience or reach my goals. I’m sure it probably won’t be my last time either. The great thing is that through most of these changes, I’ve always managed to come out feeling like it was the right call. Yes, it is nerving and there is some unknown, but I guess that’s why they call it letting go because letting go is hard to do.

My Experience:

As you can tell, I’m not perfect at letting go of ideas, concepts, and control, but by at least trying, I feel like I’m getting a little better at it. I don’t blame this on myself, as I blame this on me being a designer. As designers, we like everything in order. Everything has a purpose and if it is working, why change it? It’s the same reason why some designers struggle with breaking the design grid. Unless there’s a big enough reason to do so, we don’t see the need.

Changing my email format is a small example of me letting go. The biggest change that I’ve made that probably also had the greatest impact on my goals as a designer, was when I decided to change my hourly rate and targeted clients.

For years things were working out great with Greenline Creative. We made a great name for ourselves in the “new business” space and could make a nice living doing so. Our position was  helping clients establish their first website and online brand presence. Our clients really enjoyed and loved the value we provided them. As we were focused on building out their brand and web presence they could focus on the other aspects of setting up their businesses. It was great. We became super efficient with the processes and proposals, and were wining a ton of projects.

However, things changed quick when we decided we wanted to scale and grow. The problem with that model was that although we were growing, we were growing more in client count, but not really in revenue. To grow that model we would have to just take on more clients and to do so we would need to hire freelancers, but to hire quality freelancers like we knew we wanted, we would be taking money out of our own pockets. So what did Julie and I do? We decided to let go of what was working in favor of the bigger picture.

At that time, we had a huge goal to separate work and life more. We wanted to build a company that we could utilize contractors and have an office to get work done outside of the home. To make this happen we simply needed more money. How were we going to get it? Taking a loan out was not an option for us, and as you can see we couldn’t just take more clients, we didn’t have the capacity. So that left one other option. We had to adjusting our hourly rate. We knew we had the value to offer the rate we wanted to ask, but could we attract the clients?

After a few months of adjusting our brand and position in the market, we set out with the new Greenline Creative. Soon after, we surpassingly started to not just attract better and more lucrative clients, we also gained more respect from our current clients. We still offered the same services and created the same work, but by letting go of the old Greenline Creative and embracing the new, it allowed us to focus on creating great solutions for those clients who saw the value in what we were offering them. This meant better referrals from those clients.

Yes, as we were perfecting our proposals and sales efforts, we lost more proposals than we did before, however with each win, we were still way ahead of where we would be if we didn’t change our rates in the first place. This change although was scary at first, it resulted in us growing and reaching our early goals at Greenline Creative and me meeting a great network of other designers and business owners that have opened great opportunities for me along the way.

By charging more for our work, we essentially were able to make more money then if we charged less and took on more clients. So, if you find that perhaps you’re not winning clients, or landing the right jobs that you find rewarding, evaluate your portfolio and ask yourself, “Could I charge more for my services?”

What I’ve learned about Letting Go:

  • Letting go is hard: Change is hard and being the one responsible for making that change is even harder. Whether it is letting go of something on a personal level or career level, it is hard to do. However, if you’ve planned for it and know deep down it’s the right thing to do to reach your goals, then there’s no better time then now.
  • It allows for new ideas and opportunity: Letting go of what may or may not be working today can make room for better ideas and opportunities tomorrow. It’s easier to let go of what isn’t working, but even if you know something is working, let go and continue to try different ideas. You may find that the idea you started with was not nearly that good after all.
  • You’ll be proud of yourself: Every time that I’ve made the decision to let go of something in exchange of a better future, I’ve always felt better for doing so. Standing up for what you need and fighting against the adversity is a great way to find out how strong you are and in return you’ll be proud of yourself for standing up for what matters to you.
  • It’s harder than it sounds: Let me be honest with you. Don’t take this lesson as me saying this is easy. Letting go is hard and depending on what you’re letting go of, will determine how hard it is to actually let go. It may not happen right away, it may take years to finally let go. The key is to keep working towards your goal, and make small changes along the way and soon you’ll build the courage to finally let go.
  • It shows maturity: Whether it be you accepting and letting go of your concept for the sake of the clients presentation, or making a change much greater for your career, letting go will show maturity in your decision making. Perhaps a great example of this is narrowing down your portfolio. Insecurity makes us want to throw everything we’ve ever done in our portfolio. However, it shows a great level of maturity to narrow that portfolio down to a handful of pieces you feel provide you the best chance at landing that job. Even if that means including work that’s not your absolute favorite.
  • Sometimes it’s needed: No matter how many times you try and talk yourself out of making that change or letting go, sometimes it is just needed. Even if on the surface it feels like the best thing for you at the time, ask yourself, “Is not letting go today going to effect me tomorrow?
  • It’s not permanent: As they say, if by chance things don’t work out according to plan, you can always go back. Few things have a permanent set back, most times if things don’t work out, it’s a small price to pay to find out earlier rather than later.

My Takeaway:

As you can tell, there’s a ton of things that we can talk about in-regards to letting go and accepting change, but ultimately it starts with you. It’s important to never lose complete sight of where you want to be as a designer, and sometimes that means you have to let go of the designer you are today in exchange for who you want to become.

It’s also important to continue to grow in your craft, and stay open minded to the potential of bigger and better ideas that either come out of pushing yourself further or team collaboration. Everywhere you look as a designer, the skill to adapt to change and let go of what may or may not be working is important, whether it be reaching your goals, working with a team, or improving your portfolio and skills.

It is never easy. Change usually starts with a storm, but if you look deep, stay strong, work hard and remain committed to your decisions the rain will eventually stop and a rainbow will be waiting for you.

Communication is important to me, so I’d love to continue the conversation with you.What has been the hardest thing for you to let go in your career?

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