Having a job that exercises your creativity is awesome, but it can also put you through the emotional wringer. Your creative efforts are constantly judged by others — and not just judged, but with a price tag attached. That’s not an easy situation to handle, especially when you’re just starting out.
Every new designer (and many not-so-new designers, too) ride the spectrum of emotions when approaching a project. And it’s a spectrum, for sure. These are just six of the typical feelings every new designer experiences:
New designers feel nervousness…
What if my price is too high? What if they don’t like my proposal? What if they reject the design and I never land another client again and I have to start folding t-shirts at The Gap?
You may have the skills to be a good designer, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never be nervous about your work. The very things that make web design so exciting and fulfilling are also the things that set us up for the incredible emotional depths that accompany vulnerability.
Web design is art. It’s art with a purpose, but it’s still a creative endeavor that’s open to public evaluation, criticism, and rejection (not to mention data-driven analytics that leave you with no place to hide, should the design fail). It would take nerves of steel not to be affected by the high-scrutiny aspect of the business.
While your nerves do tend to relax with time and practice, it takes a while before they really fade into the background. And for some designers, the nervousness never really ends.
Being a web designer requires a not-insubstantial level of confidence. No one sets out to do web design because of its inherent easiness, because web design isn’t inherently easy. Setting yourself up as a designer requires that you acknowledge at least some degree of skillfulness, because the reality is that not everyone is equipped for or capable of being a designer.
Good web design requires a specific set of skills that range from technical know-how to artistic sense to social navigation. Going into design means you acknowledge these skills in yourself, and doing that indicates confidence.
The longer you practice your design skills and work in the field, the stronger they’ll become and the more opportunity you’ll have to increase your confidence.
New designers feel exhausted and full of despair…
While following a creative path gets a lot of rah-rah-rah, what doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often is just how exhausting it can be. When you’re low on sleep, high on coffee, and tired of every single client on your plate, it’s hard to be motivated, let alone chipper and energized.
A lot can go awry in a design project. Clients who want comic sans and lens flares. Trouble figuring out how to make your ideas actually happen. Tweak after tweak (and maybe even bug after bug). Another meeting with the client to explain your intent with the homepage layout.
Back-and-forthing and staring at the monitor for hours at a time can get wearying, right up to the all-nighter before final delivery. If you’re new to web design, you may need to plan for a few naps.
…plus energized and excited
Whether you’re at the beginning or the end of a project (or anywhere in between), there are certainly some exciting moments. Your first inquiry comes in. That proposal with the jaw-dropping price tag gets accepted. The client loves the final deliverable you proudly delivered.
There’s something deeply satisfying about dreaming up a concept and then bringing it to life. Taking a project from idea to deliverable requires a lot of energy, but when it’s done right and done well, even more energy is generated.
One thing new designers bring to the table is a creative energy that’s still untarnished by the dings that come with experience — things like client rejections, annoying colleagues, and endless streams of revision requests. Instead, every potential new design is like a gift, the surroundings are exciting, and the fantastic possibilities are what’s endless.
You’re a web designer, and it is awesome.
Everything in between
To an extent, the high highs and low lows that you feel as a new designer lose their edge. In the best of circumstances, you’ll gradually shift into deeply satisfying design work that allows you to exercise your creative muscles while solving very real needs. There will still be thrills, sure, as well as those times when you’re pulling out your hair. But there’s nothing quite like the emotional roller coaster you’re on as a new designer.
Enjoy the ride.