Top 3 reasons for designers failure?

Have a look at these symptoms of freelance designers;

  • You have a problem getting the right clients.
  • You have ongoing downwards discussions on price.
  • You deliver your designs and then you move on to the next client.
  • You have no idea what you will earn in the next months or year.
  • Your business model is the same as any other competitor.
  • You don’t know how to develop a business model.

If one or more of these symptoms apply to you, this article is for you.

As a freelancer you need to be a designer, a CEO for the longterm strategy, a CFO for the cash-flow and accountability, a project manager to get things done in time, a marketeer and a sales person.

A lot to do on your own, right?

Top 3 reasons for failure

Let’s discuss why freelance designers often struggle or even fail.

No viable pricing strategy

A lot of designers and creatives approach the pricing for their work as an uncertainty. What can they ask per hour and isn’t it too much? Due to the fierce competition on price, they make long hours, have low income and hope to find the next customer who’s willing to pay more. Competing on price makes one suffer.

Don’t do the things right but do the right things. Spending your energy in negotiating payment for your services, and justify a linear income with no sustainable growth, is not the right thing to do.

Until you create a clear path, a strategy that guides you, you’ll always be managing what happens to you. And not taking the lead.

So, let’s move away from this paradigm, it’s absolutely not the right way to go. Stop chasing customers, let the clients chase you. Get in the driver’s seat. Establish a clear path.

Don’t do the things right but do the right things

Focus on how to show the value you deliver. Proactive and regardless of what your customers might think of your current pricing.

Don’t be stuck anymore.

No skills to find clients

As an independent freelance designer, photographer or any other creative craftsmanship, you need to be able to sell your services. For most designers this sounds terrible. You do not like to sell at all. Effective selling is not your strongest skill.

You’re spending 90% of your time clicking, searching and trying to determine how to get the next customer. Trying to copy what other designers do. Finding answers on how to sell, without selling.

Finding a new customer is mostly done in your warm circle of influence. The people you know locally. If you are lucky they call you twice a year for a project. The project becomes your income. The project of someone else becomes your income.

The projects determine your lifestyle for a small period. Think about this….how dependent can one become as a so called independent freelancer. So you need to finish the project, to earn your living and then move on to the next one, right?

The project of someone else becomes your income

Don’t build your business on the marketing of hope. Hoping that the next customer comes in, so you don’t need to sell anything. It simply never works out for you in the long run. Build a business in a profound way.

One that let’s you decide when to offer which services at what price and whenever you prefer. Be a leader and not a follower of demand. Be proactive. Be freelance. Impossible? No, it isn’t.

No value proposition

When looking at websites of creatives I noticed something. From graphic to web designers, from photographers to art directors and even from interior architects to landscape designers, almost all of them just love to show their work. They invest a lot of time and therefore money in their portfolio. To show what they have done in the past.

Hold on. As this paragraph tittle suggest. Where is the value proposition? I have seen hundreds of designer websites and 95% don’t show the value proposition, they only show their portfolio.

Every designer shows portfolio. So why should you expect a client to call you. Because you have a better portfolio? Because you have a responsive site? Because you use such lovely typography? Do you really believe this is a value proposition to get your ideal client that will pay you anything to get the job done? No!

I have used the word client here. Not customers. Customers come and go. Clients are the ones that stay. You build relationships with them. Words are important here. You need clients.

Rethink your value proposition. Define what is important for clients. Tell them you understand the problems they have. Tell them you are the expert to solve these problems. And create tons of value for them to see you are to be trusted. You are the one who gets the job done.

Do you agree?

I’ve seen a lot of talented designers fail because the people who have creative skills do not feel confident with pricing, sales and a value proposition. They assume they’re no good at it. They worry about appearing too commercial. They think it will take tons of extra time, and they’re already working too many hours. If this is where you are now, my question to you is:

What are your challenges or problems in your business model?

Wim Kiezenberg

Strategist at