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12 Habits of Highly Successful Designers

by | Mar 14, 2016 | Articles, Design, Freelancing | 1 comment

Habits of highly successful designers

What sets designers apart from each other? What makes one designer more successful than the next? Some will say that the best design skills will reign supreme. While this is an ideal scenarios, this is unfortunately not the case most of the time. Today, it’s not just design skills alone that will make you more successful than other designers. A mediocre design can be just as successful owning their own freelance business as a great designer. What sets highly successful designers apart from others are their habits.



If you think that you are going to be successful in this business working on one project at a time, you are sadly mistaken. If you are working in a design firm, you will probably be working on 5 to 10 projects at once, depending on the size, sometimes more. You will be expected to keep up with what each client needs. You will need to figure out how to solve their problems with your designs, and you’ll need to do it quickly.



By this, I don’t mean that you have to be OCD with all of your pencils in a row. You just have to have a system for keeping track of everything. You have to keep each client’s records in a certain place, whether you have an online filing system or a physical cabinet for their projects, invoices, releases, and other materials. To help keep track of everything that needs to be done for each client, I use something I called the checklist method. I use Wunderlist for this.

What I do is create a main list for all of my clients. Each list is called the client’s name or website. Then under each individual list item, I create a list of tasks for each client and each project. I might have 20 tasks for one project, and trying to keep up with that in my head would just be nuts. I am not going to stress over my business, at least not with keeping up with everything. I can star the priority items that need to be done as soon as possible. When items are starred, Wunderlist makes a new list with only starred items. When I knock all of those out, which could span 10 different projects, I move on to the other tasks. This leads me to my next point:


You have to be able to determine what tasks are most important and should be done first. You shouldn’t be working on something that is due next week, when you have things that are due at the end of the day. Knock out all main tasks of the day, and then you can work your way down through all of the rest of your tasks in the order of their priority.


Highly Successful Designers Are Masters Of Time Management

This is where a lot of people get hung up. Time management is one of the hardest things to handle when designing anything. In reality, it takes as long as it takes. That’s it. You’re not going to cut a project short and hand someone a design that looks like garbage, because you won’t be in business long. However, you should always be aware of how long something takes. This comes from carefully planning out a project before starting. Consider how you are going to solve the problem at hand instead of just jumping into it and moving things around the page. You’ll spend more time “playing” in Illustrator and Photoshop than you will if you just sit down and try a few sketches out on paper first.

Highly Successful Designers Keep Distractions to a Minimum

I could go on for days about this. We live in the world of short attention spans and an ocean of media. Every time I turn around, I am getting an email, a phone call, and Facebook message, a text message, or anything else that you can imagine. You have to know how to filter and tune everything out so that you can concentrate. This is something I personally struggle with, because I have so much going on at one time. I run my business, and one phone call from a new client could mean a few thousand in revenue, so turning my phone off during normal business hours is not an option. Also, I run this site and, and I get emails constantly from people interested in partnering with me for projects, advertising, and more, but these don’t have to be answered in a split second. However, I have gotten compliments on my rapid response.

Following Up

Following up with clients is an essential habit of any successful designer. Waiting on people to get back to you will only leave you disappointed. People like to know that you’re hungry and want the work. However, don’t hound people constantly or they will not think highly of you. They will think you have nothing better to do and that their project will make or break you. Don’t look desperate, just look professional.

Don’t get wrapped up in too much Social Media

It’s good to stay informed, but don’t sit there for hours on end reading article after article and Tweet after Tweet. Tweet don’t make you money unless you’re the one sending them out. Set a time limit on how much you sit down and interact socially. say, 30 minutes each day.

Learn to Work Well Under Pressure

This is a deadline oriented business. You’re always going to be under some kind of pressure to get things done. If you want to sit back and do things whenever you get around to it, find another profession. If you like pressure, and a challenge, and you like to solve problems effectively, then welcome aboard!

You need to know how to budget your money

There will be busy times, where you won’t even be able to turn around without getting a new project. Then, there will be times where you wonder how long you can survive on Ramen noodles. It doesn’t have to be this way, especially if you learn to budget your money well. When you are making tons of money, put most of it back for a rainy day. You don’t need a second laptop, and you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars upgrading from an iphone 4s to an iphone 5. Be practical. Spend your money on what you need and don’t spend it on things that you don’t. Highly successful designers are practical with their money.

Focus more on design than on the software

Photoshop and Illustrator don’t make you any more of a designer than having a Paula Deen cookware set makes me a world class chef. Don’t lose your head. If you have a great computer, and your software gets the job done, then don’t worry about it. On the other hand, if you are using an ancient laptop, and your hardware and software are severely hindering you, then you might consider upgrading.


Highly Successful Designers Network

If you don’t network, I don’t know how you survive. I’ve gotten so much work through other designers and developers, acquaintances of businesses I have done work for, colleagues, associations, and more. I have landed work (good paying work) from guest post articles on websites. My biggest client ever came from someone reading an article I wrote for a design blog. Its all about getting out there and getting your name out there. You cannot site behind your desk and hope and wish for the phone to ring.

Highly Successful Designers are Always Striving to Improve

Highly successful designers are always one step ahead of you. They were doing responsive website design when you were learning html and CSS, and they will be on top of the latest in design when you are learning responsive design. You can always improve. The more you know, the more you’re worth. If you have a wide range of skills, and you excel at them, you can charge a lot more, because clients will still save money over hiring a large firm.


Being a successful designer isn’t rocket science. You don’t have to have some lucky charm or magical powers. All you need to do is have a great set of habits that are mainly just common sense if you stop and think about it. You have to be responsible for yourself in almost every possible way. There’s no room for slacking off or for excuses. As long as you deliver a great product or service to the client, you should have no trouble succeeding.

What do you think are the qualities that make up highly successful designers? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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