I talked to my good friend and mentor yesterday, Norma. She's a former designer who had a tremendous amount of success and has now moved on to developing and implementing high-level strategy.
After the conversation I sat back and thought how lucky I've been throughout my career in having several terrific mentors in my life that I could turn to for advice - professionals that have been there and done that. I wished I'd sought them out a little earlier in my career - perhaps I wouldn't have felt the need to use the title "Being a Starving Artist Sucks".
You know, if I had the ability to go back in time and give myself one piece of advice as an aspiring freelancer coming into the business, I would say, "Invest in yourself, invest in a mentor and invest in understanding how to run a business and handle clients."
Rarely if ever do I come across a designer that will come right out and say, "I don't need your help or your book, I can just learn it on my own", (designers aren't typically rude like that) but that's in fact what many of them are doing - they'll just try to pick up free tid bits of information here and there and hope that's enough. It's not...I know from experience. Over the years I've found 4 main reasons why designers don't seek additional training and advice:
- They say they don't have any money to invest in themselves or their future
- They don't have any time to invest in themselves, work with a mentor or read a book
- They feel they just feel they can just pick things up as they go, or believe that design school has taught them all they need to know
- They can't find someone they can trust or their not sure how to go about finding help or a mentor
Whatever the reason, most designers out there don't have a mentor and invest less than $100 a year and under 10 hours of additional training to become more successful business people. How do you stack up with that? Well, the bottom line fallout of that is that 95% of small businesses fail within 5 years (that includes freelance designers) - only a fraction ever succeed. It's a lot to think about, I know...but it's better to think about these things now rather than when things really get tough.
- How is business going for you right now? How are sales? Are they up or down from last year?
- Do you have a mentor? Wouldn't it be helpful to be able to bounce ideas, designs, projects and situations off of someone who's successful been in the situation you're in right now?
- What steps have your taken recently or will you now take to ensure that you don't end up a statistic in the 95%? Do you have a plan to become more successful or are you hoping it will just happen?