This week I f*cked up.
Sorry for the crass language but sometimes you just gotta lay it out there. And FYI there will probably be more in this posting…you have been warned. But I found myself with three deadlines which I met. Pleased with myself, I sent the designs off to clients and waited for their responses and feedback. Mind you, I wasn’t hoping for accolades – well maybe I was hoping for at least “You nailed it!” or “I would have never thought of this…” but they were necessary. As I do design more, I realize that it is an iterative process and it is rarely all butterflies and puppy dog kisses right out of the gate.
However, this week I have never had clients simply say they didn’t like my work. Elements of my work? Sure! But the entire concept or design? Never. Well I got three times this week. Flat out, “not what we were looking for….”. I was devastated. Like, Ben and Jerry’s in bed with the covers pulled over my head devastated. It made me doubt that I could do this for a living. Those rejections made me question if I had any skills at all. Those “no” responses hurt my feelings.
After I moped, inhaled a bag of Frito Lays and had a pity party, I put on my big boy drawers and called each of the clients. The first client explained that their needs changed since we talked and they were looking for a different storage solution. Great but they neglected to inform me of this change and when I explained that to them, they quickly realized that they didn’t pass along that key data to me. While it was time wasted, it was a lesson learned……
Never Assume What The Client Tells You Is Set In Stone. Priorities and needs change through the design process so always double back to confirm.
The second client didn’t like the concept that I was present for their guest room. Having worked with this couple previously, I knew they liked to be presented with multiple options for a scheme. Having learned the hard way that you can’t present 6 different schemes per project and manage time, I opted to only show them the “centerpiece” for the room, in this case, a day bed that would be anchoring the space. Unfortunately, the day beds out of context looked…well boring…and strangely cheap so it wasn’t a surprise (in hindsight) that they didn’t like any of them. I learned that….
You Can’t Assume The Client Will See Your Vision. Choice is nice but in this case, I needed to narrow the options and present them with 2 fully flushed out concepts so they could make a decision. What I thought was a “time saver” turned out to be more work.
The last client, well that remains to be seen. He clearly has a vision for his space but hasn’t articulated it in a way that I am fully understanding. He wants original and custom pieces but can’t point me in a direction. When I tried to take the lead and give structure to the process, I missed the mark and frustrated the client. He thinks the design will develop organically while I think that is a recipe for the makings for a big pile of ….. My biggest insight here is that…..
I Control The Design Process. The client hired me to guide them so I need to lay ground rules on how this will occur. Pen isn’t put to paper until we flush out their ideas. While I can help shape their vision, I need their solid input in the process, otherwise the design will not reflect them.
These are hard lessons to learn but they are growing pains of a new designer. They are battle scars of growing a business. And they are personal truths I will be applying moving forward.
I am back to the drawing board – literally for these clients…..
So fellow small business owners, what is the one lesson you learned from running your business that has stuck with you? I promise some more fun posts but sometimes a boy just has keep it real…..