Designing with Curiosity Instead of Fear

by Jake Rocheleau
on July 2, 2012

As web designers it can be a struggle to churn out new design ideas for multiple projects each month. The stress can actually turn into a deterrent limiting your creativity. This is all based on a psychology of fear instead of embracing the unknown.

It can be very intimidating to approach this work as a freelancer. But it’s important to stay ahead of your mindset and track each thought carefully. In this guide I wish to share a few tips and tricks for managing away from a fear-based design strategy. It can take a while to adapt, but you will notice an improvement in your work and quality of life.

Pre-Project Planning

Many freelancers choose to jump right into Photoshop or start coding a layout from memory. If you already have a strong idea of where the project is going this method can work. However it’s not recommended as your typical work flow.

You need to spend some time planning out each piece of the interface. Before even considering color scheme or pixel sizes you should just create a list of web elements. What is going to be included on each page, and how many pages will you need? Answering these questions early allows you to consult with your client and make any changes ahead of time.

Not only will this save you precious work hours but loads of frustration in the long run. Designing a mockup in Photoshop is a meticulous process and requires hours or even days of attentive focus. Try to make this a one-time deal so you can move right from the design into coding the website layout.

Leave Extra Time

Some free time in your schedule can never be a bad thing. When you know there are a few days of padding on a project it removes a level of anxiety from the work. Pushing through on a website when you’re stressed will not produce the greatest results.

If you are quoting clients on a due date try to be much more than realistic for yourself. Give an extra 3 or 4 days if needed – maybe even more than that. Clients will be more impressed to see a finished product earlier rather than see you struggle through a poor-quality design. It’s hard to estimate these timeframes when you first start out building projects for the web. Unfortunately that just requires trial and error working with different clients.

Dig Through Inspiration Galleries

There is certainly a difference between stealing a design and porting over specific elements. Newcomers into the design realm are not familiar with common trends built into website layouts. This will require patience and a keen eye for web UI/UX elements.

There are so many CSS inspiration galleries it would be impossible to list them all here. The CSS Gallery List has a nice collection you may look through. Focus any of your creative ideas into more curious endeavors. Consider how different web elements would look together in a single layout. Even try setting up a small text file where you can store inspirational websites as a resource.

However you choose to build inspiration is best suited to your needs. If you’re looking to build a recipe list online then consider some other well-known cooking sites. Stay within the project niche and try out new elements which you think work well on the project.

Unfortunately there are plenty of times you’ll be wrong and the client will hate the design. Understand that failure is part of the process, too. Even if the design is aesthetically pleasing it means nothing if the customer isn’t happy. Try to detach personally from your work and run freelance projects as if you’re inside the business industry.

Persuasive Confidence

In the realm of client work you need to perform a lot more than pretty designs. Other tasks include product marketing and communication – specifically acting as the middleman between your clientel. In order to hold this position successfully you must be oozing confidence.

Clients who have been in the business a while can detect false confidence from truth. As long as you feel your design skills are worthwhile you should never sell yourself short! The only way to move forward is to keep trying – and that will take a whole lot of confidence. Fake it ’till you make it appears very relevant here.

But do not fall into a position of fear and neglect. That is when client relationships begin to deteriorate and you lose interest in project work. If the client is difficult to interact with that is a special case scenario. But if you catch yourself dropping projects left and right then the common denominator is you!

This doesn’t take much to fix up except a change in tonality. Approach each new project without the weight and stressors in your mind. Take the work much less seriously and you’ll find yourself a whole lot more curious than afraid.

Conclusion

I hope these ideas can push freelancers onto the next step in their journey. In the current state of our global economy there isn’t a whole lot of money moving around – but the tech industry is still booming. Spend some time networking with developers and businessmen and build up a small name for yourself. It takes perseverance and a lot of hard work, but freelance web design is a career path which offers an extremely luxurious and rewarding lifestyle.

About Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a freelance writer, designer, and mobile app developer. He currently writes articles focusing on user experience and building applications for iOS. You can check out his work on Dribbble and follow his tweets @jakerocheleau.

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