As a self taught designer myself, I can understand struggling with lack of confidence, self doubt, imposter syndrome, and all the other not so fun mindset issues that can come with being self taught. For the first few years of my business, I struggled hard with all of these feelings and it kept me from getting clients and overall growing my business. Since then, I’ve been imperfectly able to overcome them and feel more confident in my skills and in the fact that I’m a damn good designer. So I wanted to share a few tips for those of you who may be in the same boat, may be starting out, may be worried that you aren’t qualified, etc and help you gain confidence as a self taught designer.
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You are more than a degree
A big worry here is that you are self taught and don’t have a design degree. However, you have to stop worrying about your lack of degree. Personally, none of my clients have ever asked me if I had a design degree, it has not been a factor in their decision making. Will a degree be necessary in some cases, probably, but not always. I’ve also had more people applaud the fact that I’m self taught then condemn it.
The reality is, most people do understand and actually appreciate the hard work and tenacity that it takes to learn a skill on your own. This won’t always be the case with everyone, but those clients or companies that don’t appreciate that, probably won’t be the best client to work with. If you are self taught, take pride in it. Take pride in your ability to learn, to stick with something, to try new things, to go after what you love and to be willing to put yourself out there to help others.
Identify Where Your Lack Of Confidence is Coming From
Being self aware in these situations is incredibly important. You have to take an inventory as to why you lack confidence in the first place. Is it a lack of clients? Is it a lack of portfolio? Is it a lack of a following? Is it a lack of skills? Is it a lack of degree?
Why don’t you feel confident in yourself?
Identify where you struggle and start doing something to fix it. If you don’t have a big portfolio or one with projects you love, start creating more work. If you don’t have a large social media following, start posting more & creating more content to post. If you don’t feel like your skills are up to par, take a class or work to improve your skills. Once you identify where your lack of confidence is coming from, you’re able to start taking steps to change it.
Keep learning & Honing Your Skills
Don’t stop learning or honing your skills. As a self taught designer, I’m sure you already have a deep understanding of how to Google, but keep Googling it. You’ve figured things out thus far, so keep learning. Even now, I still take time to learn new skills, whether that’s through Youtube videos, Skillshare classes, courses or blog posts. You gain confidence when you know what the f*ck you’re doing. So keep learning and keep honing your skills. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be.
Get out of your head and Create, Share & Get Feedback
It can be super easy to put ourselves in a bubble and get in our heads. We end up telling ourselves that we are unqualified, that we don’t belong, and that we aren’t good enough. Even though, this may not be the case at all. For the first few years, I rarely shared my work because I didn’t think it was good enough. To be fair, when I look back it’s a little iffy but it happens. I was so afraid to put content out because I didn’t want to be criticized or I just felt like it wasn’t good enough.
You cannot be the only one who sees your work and who decides whether something is good. We are so good at critiquing ourselves that we don’t often see how good we actually are. If you’re trying to do this as a business, then let the audience & clients be the decision makers. You’ll either get feedback that you can improve upon or be blown away by the super nice comments.
Get Your Sh*T Together
You’ve got skills, show the world. If you’re just starting out, make sure you’re creating new projects to showcase your design skills. Whatever type of work you want to create, do it and make that sh*t amazing! The more you create and SHARE, the more feedback you’ll receive and the more opportunities you’ll receive. When I started, I was very shy when sharing my work and also felt like I had to have a paying client in order to create projects. But that made it hard for me to have anything to show and any content to put out. The minute I started sharing, reaching out, creating, is when I started seeing growth within my business.
Look, I get it, I’ve been there before. I’ve lacked confidence in my skills and my work. Even now, I still have days when I’m like Wow, I suck!! Then the next day someone comments and says, ‘Your Work is Amazing!”. Confidence takes time to build, but hopefully these tips can help you out. I’m sure you are a real f*cking badass and amazing at what you do, & if you aren’t yet, I’m sure you’re capable of getting there! Just keep going & just keep showing up!