Design with confidence, a skill needed for every designer, is going to be an ongoing series of articles, resources and course materials addressing the early pains of getting a design career off of the ground.

All the pains and challenges one faces now are not going to be the same ones they experience 3 to 5 years down the road. As I am going through my second year, I aim to help these pains by prescribing my own experience and research in writing and collaboration.

I struggled for my first few months as a designer because I took a lead role in a startup agency. This has led to two outcomes: challenging myself every day to continue to grow, and constantly battling the impostor syndrome that many people struggle with.

The biggest challenge I faced was finding my anchor. I needed to understand who I am at the core and what values I stand for. I am uniquely me, and not a single person could live my life better than I could. I asked myself a handful of questions to know where I stand on most issues, understand what it is I offer to other people, how it helps them, and how I can continue to grow within each area.

Asking yourself the hard questions

Asking others difficult questions for a living is easier than asking yourself some hard questions. I had to truly define who I was from the bottom up.

Here are some self discovery topics I chose to get a better sense of confidence in who I am.

Who are you?

by Jonathan Reedby Jonathan Reed

Things to consider: Decide who you are, what values and vision drive you, and the principles you live by.

Here’s who I am:

My name is Darian Evyn Rosebrook which means “a person of greatness, who is a kingly, youthful warrior.”

My vision is to be a man of great value; A leader of honesty and integrity who is in tune with his values. I strive to be someone who continues to grow at least 1% every day and never let that slide backwards. I have the gift of being alive a perfectly healthy brain that should not go to waste.

I have personal values written for: family, friendships, health, accountability, kindness, confidence, discipline, purpose, sincerity, inspiration, curiosity, adventure, and empathy. Each a sentence or two long and I visit all these principles each month and evaluate myself on staying true to this anchor.

Have a thorough understanding of what you do.

Justin MainJustin Main

Even the quietest individuals should know about their own abilities and goals. Going through personal discovery creates and fosters a sense of confidence seeing that you know more about yourself than when you started. You have a service to offer people. This service is worth money to other people, but most of all, this service is worth money to you. You may do the thing you do for altruistic reasons, but I can safely assume you offer a service that allows you to better the lives of people in a way. People will ask you what you charge for these services. Knowing yourself and discovering what that’s worth to you will allow you to say what that price is right off the bat.

If I asked you “how much do you charge for a logo?” and you say you have to get back to me on that answer, more than likely you haven’t sat down to figure out what that service is worth to you.

In a recent conversation with Justin Jackson, I was asked this very question. He wanted to know how much I charged for doing a logo, so I told him what the agency I worked with put in a bid for, and he answered that’s great, what do YOU charge for a logo? I can say there were a few thousand dollars in difference, but it was literally the same scope of work outside the agency as it is inside being the sole designer there.

There are very solid resources for understanding pricing and selling your services. The AIGA site has plenty of information about standards and expectations of design services. As well as looking at what salaries are available for the exact line of work you do.

When asked, “what goes into your rate?” you must be ready with a solid answer. If you struggle with giving a concrete short pitch, your client might have uncertainty before hiring you. The challenge with being a new designer is not knowing the right questions to having a process in place so you can expect what the scope of work that you’ll do normally. You need to visit some case studies of some of the better agencies out there and understand for the line of work you do, with every public step in a project case study, there’s between 2–5 more that you don’t see on there.

While I’m still considering whether it’s worth my time to do freelance Web Design versus building myself as a Brand Identity Designer, I have a post on my full process of being a web designer.

This scope of work might take a week to two weeks to complete at a full-time schedule, but this is a solid process that allows me to know that what I am doing is working.

How does your work help others?

Dmitri PopovDmitri Popov

When you’re asked what you offer, it is tempting to say what services you do. That talk with Justin Jackson had me pitching my design services to him. And I’ll tell you, the answer that he received was a mess. It wasn’t something that I’ve verbalized more than 10 times last year. I was more focused on what services I could offer, I forgot to think about what the potential client would want. They don’t want a new logo, they want to be a coolly refined brand.

This is the difference of “Here is what services I offer” versus “Here is what you can do because of my services”

There’s a great snippet out there about features vs. benefits that explains in a small graphic that “people don’t buy products; they buy better versions of themselves.”

Somewhere in your work and services page you are probably explaining this in a roundabout way. I audited myself on this recently and found that I had almost skipped on this entirely. I talk about my process in heavy detail, but not much about how my work actually helps people and their companies. Maybe it’ll be easier to describe after some more high-quality clients.

It’s important to focus less on what you do and more on what you can do to help others. This will help you sell the end result which is what people really want.

How are you continuing to grow?

Francesco GallarottiFrancesco Gallarotti

How I continue to grow every day is by understanding that I don’t know everything. And that’s okay. The world is too big to know everything there is to know about any given topic. But if I could only grow by 1% I’ll have done something. The fun part is trying to do that every day. There’s so much to know and what we know changes. By having a solid foundation of where my skills sit and where there are areas to improve, I give myself enough time and room to grow.

This challenge is realized in my newsletter, and it becomes a public bout of accountability. I have to honestly put out work that I do or plan to implement and it becomes my duty to report on what I am learning and how it’s affecting my work. By challenging myself to put out the raw struggles I have and my proposed solutions, I keep myself growing every day.

A brief chat with Sarah Doody, who I’ll have a great snippet from next week, confirms this as a great thing for me to be doing because “ It’s great to have a side project because it forces you to always be learning.” Your work you do on the side can be great to increase the level of work you’re able to produce. Find something that can keep you growing every day.

How are you currently doing in all of these areas?

“Without [a] leader first believing in himself or herself, true leadership will exist only in title.”

–Peter Barron Stark

Get around other designers like you who value the little things.

You are a Self-Starter, a Pioneer, a Designer. It can be difficult going out there with little support and encouragement. You might be head down in your work pushing every effort out there to be known as a designer. You are not alone.

We’re building a community for the champions, the pioneers, the self start designers like you.

Get weekly tips on how you can improve your design skills as well as access to the Compass of Design Community.

Enrollment is free until we open the Design with Confidence course in July

Check out the Compass of Design and join the pack to get access to the Designer’s Self Assessment

People who helped contribute: Justin Jackson, sourced a lot of the articles to help me change my frame of mind; Sarah Doody, talked a lot about confidence recently and helped reiterate this is something I should be doing.

This article was originally published on Medium. Click here to see the original.

Here's some more articles that may be helpful

Design Principle 5: Color

June 27, 2018
by Darian Rosebrook

We have to make decisions for every element we design, and based on how much of the color in our design is built from having a set process, we may be making these decisions repeatedly and to no end.

How do I audit my own design work?

October 05, 2018
by Darian Rosebrook

As a piece of your arsenal, your portfolio is a tool to use in your marketing game as a designer . You’ve got to make sure that what you put in your portfolio is purposeful and relevant to what you want to get out of using it. And if you’re not going through and auditing your own work, you may be missing opportunities to make your presence online as effective as it can be.

Better Design Feedback

June 22, 2018
by Darian Rosebrook

One thing I am passionate about is quality design feedback. I’ll mention in a future post that it’s sometimes best to get other eyes on your projects, but having objective, quality design feedback is something that a designer needs to be able to move forward with their design skills.

Quality or Quantity?

June 18, 2018
by Darian Rosebrook

Sharing our work publicly can be a scary thought. It gets even scarier when you consider sharing your behind-the-scenes process of how you completed your work.