Design studio focused on book design, illustration, and environment design



My worst client

My worst client
There are some clients who are a joy to work with. They have all their material together, a clear idea of the goals of the project, and a definite timeline. They value the designer’s time and sanity, and give clear and constructive feedback in a timely manner.

Then there’s this client. Revision after revision, endless delays, vague feedback. Sometimes projects get put on hold indefinitely, only to be thrown together at the last minute. But what really makes this client my worst client is that he’s always doubting the quality of my work or changing the brief, leading to delays and false starts and missed deadlines.

My worst client

In a perfect world I wouldn’t have to work with this particular client, but it’s complicated–my worst client is me. The projects that I set for myself are sometimes the ones that take the longest and have the messiest process. And since I’m not billing myself an hourly rate, there’s no pressure to be efficient with my time.
Sooo Falls Juggle Poster

Treat yourself like a real client

As a designer, any project I produce for myself takes on a life of its own. Because the deadlines are self-imposed, they don’t have teeth. And because “design is what I do,” I feel a certain amount of pressure to create something not terrible when it’s going to represent me. All of that is great, but a weak, self-imposed deadline combined with a tendency to perfectionism means that my own projects languish on the shelf far longer than a “real client” would tolerate.

A good example is this poster for a weekly juggling gathering I’ve been organizing. I’ve had the poster designed for months, and kept tweaking it and second guessing it. The stakes are clearly not that high–it’s a free gathering for people to juggle in a park. Does the poster really need to be that awesome? I should have just slapped the time and place on there and printed them them weeks ago. They do more good hanging on the walls of the local coffee shops than gathering digital dust on my hard drive. (Although I don’t think that’s a thing.)

Done is better than perfect

The quintessential example of this in (non)action is the fact that for the first year after I started doing freelance design work, I didn’t have a printed business card. I had several good concepts, but there was no deadline and nothing felt sufficiently good enough to print. The result of course was that I would meet with a client to talk about developing branding and print collateral for their business, and then I would scribble my phone number on a napkin at the end of the meeting. Nice. As the Spanish proverb goes, “In the home of the blacksmith, wooden knives.” The reality is that I should have moved forward with one of the concepts that were 90% finished, and revised or reprinted as time allowed. Done is better than perfect.

The point of all this is that you have to treat the projects you do for yourself as seriously as the work you do for your clients, but don’t agonize over the details so much that become your own worst client. Get it designed, get it out there, and move on with your life.

And come out and juggle!

Come juggle with us if you’re in the area! It’s super fun and it’ll relieve all sorts of stress. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for event updates. I mean, look at these guys–they’re having a great time.

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