Episode 26: Perfectionism: Your Biggest Obstacle and How to Overcome It

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Lauren Gonzalez: 0:04
Welcome back to another episode of Earning by Design. I missed you all last week due to the holiday, but you will be hearing from me every week consistently. Of course there will be a few times of breaks, but for the most part, it will be here and delivering some good tips and knowledge based on my problems that I’ve faced, based on challenges I see and lots of lessons learned. So this week we’re going to be talking about perfectionism and how this can hold you back and how to avoid it, what to do about it, and giving examples of why and when I’ve run into it and what I went, how I overcame it. So this is something that has been, can be a real, real killer of your income, of your goals, of your drive, and can stop people very much in their tracks. So I would like to give you that solution, because it’s something we all run into at one point or another. As a creative person, you, when you put your creative work out there, it is very scary. It’s putting a piece of you. I often talk about how having kids is kind of having a piece of your heart outside of your, outside of your body, because, as a creative and as an artist, you put things out there that are little pieces of yourself. They’re they’re how you express certain emotions or how you express certain ideas and concepts and your interpretation, so you can get and I can get very, very scared of how I will get judged and what people will think and if it’s not 100%, 100% perfect. So, with that said, if you don’t ever put anything out there and you keep waiting for that time of perfection, you will never get it done, because there is no perfection in this universe. There is nothing that could ever be fully, fully perfect. There is always one more tweak or one more aspect to add or one more mock-up to put there. So you have to figure out when can you get to the point and this applies in your business, when you’re starting a business. This also applies, just as a designer, when you’re doing a project. I’m talking this mainly about from the standpoint of how do you put yourself out there as a business and not wait and wait and wait and years go by and you’re still working on your branding, you’re still working on your website and wait and years go by and you’re still working on your branding, you’re still working on your website. That’s not a healthy place to be, because it usually is rooted in a fear of failure. You’re scared about failing, you’re scared about not doing the right things and that you put this work into your portfolio and you put all this work into your branding and then it doesn’t work.

Lauren Gonzalez: 3:05
I can tell you, the first website I ever put out as a freelance designer was a piece of can’t say the word right now for the fact of don’t want to use bad language but it was horrendous. It was bad. It was. I had so many ugly pieces on there that I am not proud of today and I, but at that time that was what I had to work with and I had to figure out how to start putting work there so people could say, yes, I’ll hire you or no, I won’t.

Lauren Gonzalez: 3:39
I’m sure if I had waited and waited and waited and waited till I got a much better portfolio and I kept putting more and more of the right work out there and I just waited until I did that, it probably would have been four years of back and forth and perfectionism that would have held me back from all those incredible lessons that I learned between the time I started in the four-year mark. Now I’m going on the eight-year mark and if I had waited until I was at this point, I would have never learned everything. So I did not have a perfect portfolio. I still don’t have a perfect portfolio. I haven’t been able to put up projects that I’ve been working on for the past few years because I got a lot going on and I found that it doesn’t matter to make that portfolio perfect. It needs to show that you can get the job done, that you’re skilled, that you’re a designer, that you have quality work and that you understand, from a design thinking standpoint, what your services can do for clients. That’s what they need to know. Perfectionism needs to be thrown in the trash when you are building your business.

Lauren Gonzalez: 4:52
Trying it out and testing, realize, is the most important thing. It’s that concept of going out there and jumping off a cliff and opening the parachute on the way down. You have to take risks, and a risk is facing that fear of failure, being overly cautious about experimenting and figuring out how, what kind of marketing messages to use, and figuring out what are the what is? What are people going to think about you? And just putting putting all that stuff to the side and just taking that risk is going to be what makes you grow. It’s not going to be waiting for perfection. So this also goes in the standpoint of overthinking these business decisions, wondering oh no, this isn’t the perfect niche to get into. Oh no, this is not the perfect message. I could keep tweaking it forever. I could hire a copywriter. No, don’t do those things. Just make a decision and go with it, try it out.

Lauren Gonzalez: 5:57
The great thing is that a service-based business does not take a lot of money investment. It’s not like an e-commerce business, where you’re putting tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line to start by buying the inventory and getting it stored in a warehouse, and doing all these upfront costs Us, as designers, a service-based business it’s so much less cost. What it costs, though, is your time and your patience and your ability to face your fears, and sometimes those things can seem even more scary than putting money out there, but I know that. I know it is so anxious, anxiety inducing, but something that we have to do is just be willing to experience those emotions, be willing to get anxious, be willing to feel that fear, because anxiety is just not knowing. It’s this concept that you don’t know what’s ahead, you don’t know what’s there, it’s the fear of the unknown. If anybody has seen the movie Inside Out 2, I think that was a beautiful depiction of emotions and how, what, what goes on in our heads and how we have to let that anxiety go a bit so that we can feel a little bit of success and and excitement and and embrace it. So that’s something that you have to realize. If you get this, you know this paralysis by analysis, meaning you just stop in your tracks, you don’t do anything because you analyze it too much. That’s what anxiety is there for and it’s an important emotion for us to experience in life so that we don’t make stupid decisions. But it can also be the thing that holds us back from doing anything, and it has to be that balance. You have to have a balance between your, your what, all these possible scenarios, and being willing to experience some of those scenarios in order to overcome it and get to the other side.

Lauren Gonzalez: 8:02
Listening to a podcast is fantastic, but sometimes we need a more straightforward way to access information. That’s exactly why I put together some free downloadable resources for you, including a free pricing guide with a free pricing list, how to get clients guide and how to manage your time better. These are packed with quick reference information and actionable steps that you can start using right away to enhance your own design business skills. Make sure to visit for the creativescom and get your free copies today. The endless tweaking also something that happens is is the tweaking of your portfolio, the tweaking of the messaging, the tweaking of your social media, even the tweaking of what your business is going to be called.

Lauren Gonzalez: 8:45
I’ve seen this happen, where designers spend years or months trying to figure these things out instead of deciding and taking action. It can cause massive delays in launching your business instead of doing it and then testing the water, seeing how people respond, seeing what works, what doesn’t and going back at it. That’s what kids do and babies when they’re learning how to walk, when they’re learning how to swim, they go out there and they jump in the water and they feel it out and they drown for a second and then they get pulled back up and they learn from that experience. So we have to be willing to drown ourselves as business owners, as designers, and learn from that to then go back out and do it again. There’s also this point of endless tweaking, figuring out those business plans and the branding, and it can waste so much of your time if, instead of just putting it out there and then going from there, I rebranded.

Lauren Gonzalez: 9:44
So I obviously had my first business, which I’m sure if you’ve listened to this podcast you may have heard about Elise Designs. That was my first freelance business and I put it out there. The logo was not perfect, it was so far from perfect, but I put it out there and I just I let things go. From that point. I was able to learn experience, work with clients charging very low but still get that experience. And then I was ready to take it to the next level. I created more of an agency model and I put out the logo there. Was it perfect? No, but I did it and I got it out there and that worked for years. It made me thousands and thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars of income. If I had never taken those risks and said I will not reach perfectionism in my own branding, I will not. It is impossible, but I’m going to take a risk and do it anyway. I learned from that experience and two years ago I did a whole rebrand and I was able to take my experience and my knowledge and go at it again, and at some point maybe in the future, I will do another rebrand, but it’s all based on what my learning was, instead of waiting for it to be absolutely perfect Now.

Lauren Gonzalez: 11:07
The fear of not being perfect can absolutely prevent you from launching your business, but it can also prevent you from putting together a portfolio. Which I think is probably the hardest part of a website is putting together a portfolio that you’re proud of and that you can say hey, these are my babies, look at them, judge them, decide if you want to hire me based on these. It’s tough, it is scary. So when you’re doing this, just have the goal. Let’s say you’re starting from nothing or you’re choosing from a bunch of different projects that you’ve worked with. Just choose three really strong projects that you’re proud of. They don’t have to be the best of the best.

Lauren Gonzalez: 11:52
Don’t start comparing yourself to other agencies or other freelancers. Go from what you are, what you want to be getting more projects of, and just jump into it. Embrace it. Yes, get inspiration from designers you like. Put together case studies based on what you’ve seen that works well, but don’t hold yourself back from putting together a portfolio just because it’s not as good as somebody else. Put out your best work, try as hard as you can, but don’t try to reach perfectionism in those case studies, in those portfolio pieces. And I really, really have seen this where I would spend oh gosh, I think it was months just working on my portfolio and I would go back and I would tweak it, and I would constantly tweak it, instead of focusing on learning the marketing side and learning what did I need to do to get found? Because if a portfolio is perfect on your website which can never be possible because perfectionism just doesn’t exist but if the portfolio is perfect and nobody sees it, what is the point? So, get that portfolio up and then start trying marketing tactics. Start putting yourself on social media. Start going and finding places where your clients ideal clients are put out portfolio pieces on your social media. Go talk on podcasts, go be on webinars, go make yourself known and then you can see how your portfolio is taken. I guarantee there are people who will see your portfolio and say, wow, this is great, I want to hire this designer. And then you’ll learn from that experience and you’ll see, you’ll get more projects that are great and you’ll be able to replace the ones that maybe you’re not as confident about at that point.

Lauren Gonzalez: 13:47
It’s a process. It’s a growing process, just like an NBA player, basketball player. They, when they first go out on the court, maybe they’re going to be coming off the bench. They’re going to be trying and learning and growing. But if they never, ever, go out there for that first time on the court, they’re never, ever going to grow. They’re never going to learn from that experience. As many times as they practiced and practiced behind the scenes, going out and doing it in front of a bunch of people and being on national tv and everything is very, very scary and I’m sure these people have panic attacks. I I can’t even imagine how stressful that is. But they do it and they do it anyway and they go out and they make mistakes and they learn from the mistakes and they know that perfectionism is a process and it can never be achieved. But they can keep going and working as hard as they possibly can to get to that point, to feel that pride, and you can, as a designer, keep working and going at it and having some clients learning from the experience and going at it that way.

Lauren Gonzalez: 14:52
It’s also really important that you do not get stuck on perfectionism in projects. When you are working with clients, you can easily easily get into this frame of mind that you don’t want to submit it. You don’t want to submit it. You don’t want to submit it until you get this project perfect, until the logo is absolutely perfect and everything. And the thing is that you’re going to drive the client crazy because the clients maybe you’re going to miss deadlines. You’re never going to meet those deadlines and it can be so nerve-wracking when you have money on the line. Somebody paid you because of your expertise and now you’re having to provide them with something.

Lauren Gonzalez: 15:31
That is a skill that you’re you’re. You don’t want to let out of yourself. This is a skill you’ve been practicing a lot and you’re scared about how you’re going to be judged if the client’s going to take back all the money. There’s a lot of things that can go into your mind and that went into mine. But if, if you work for that perfectionism and don’t ever submit it to the client and hear the feedback, it’s gonna you’re gonna get lower client base. You’re gonna get less clients and potential referrals because you’re gonna take so long on these projects. The clients are gonna get angry because you’re not meeting the deadlines and it’s going to make sure that you get less income as a result.

Lauren Gonzalez: 16:11
So, while I don’t want you to be doing bad projects and doing a bad job, do it to the best of your ability and submit it. Put it out. Let the bird fly. Let your baby bird fly and see where it lands. See what happens, because it has to. You have to experience that feedback and know that it’s not going to be the end of the world. The worst case is that you have to do a revision, which I know is annoying. But perfectionism and if, if you also are giving enough information surrounding your designs and show that you did the work and you really understood the project, you understood the target audience, then it’s going to be really, really helpful for you to present it and for the client to not reject it as much.

Lauren Gonzalez: 16:56
Also, there’s a big, big reason that you don’t want to have this perfectionism mindset and this is something that I didn’t realize until I really thought about it which is you are going to have increased stress and burnout. You are going to burn yourself out with all of this anxiety and mental fear and instability about trying to get things perfect. Fear and instability, about trying to get things perfect, whereas if you just let yourself do the work, do the project, put it out there, see how it goes and go from there. Be willing to listen to the feedback, be willing to adjust and have that ability to just take action as opposed to sit in fear, you’re going to be a lot less stressed out. You’re not going to be constantly thinking about what does this person think about my work? What does this person think about my work? Oh no, if I put my portfolio out there, this person my high school best friend is going to judge me and everything’s going to crumble and I’m going to be looking like a horrible, horrible failure. All those stuff is unnecessary. It all can be pushed aside.

Lauren Gonzalez: 18:07
I know that’s easy to say, but when you start getting that stress coming on, just take a step back and look at your bigger picture. What is your goal, what are you trying to achieve in your business, and how are you going to get there if you constantly let these mental blocks stop you? So something you could do is set realistic goals for yourself. Set a goal of I just want to have a few pages on my website, I want to have three projects and I want to be able to start working with a few clients. Set that goal, meet that goal, set a new goal, because if you constantly are saying oh no, oh no, it has to be perfect, it has to be perfect and I have to have a 10 page website with a hundred testimonials and case studies, it has to look like this agency. You’ll realize that doing.

Lauren Gonzalez: 18:59
The agency has probably been in business for decades. They have had all their beginning times. I’m sure their website was really really not that great and they grew over time. They learned, they progressed and they improved and they became more valuable. That is so much better for your mental health and for yourself than just trying to achieve perfection. You can update your portfolio when you complete great projects, even if they’re not perfect, and something that’s super important is to surround yourself with other freelancers and mentors and people that can help to guide you, so you’re not constantly relying on your own mind and your own, your own freak out. You can get an external perspective and feedback that can help you to take that next step. And if you need that reassurance that it’s okay and what you have now is okay to go forward with, then seek out those, those people who can take a look at your portfolio and let you know that your bird is ready to fly.

Lauren Gonzalez: 20:04
So, in summary, make sure you are not overthinking everything. It’s just your own anxiety and your worry of failure that is stopping you. You have to realize the detriment, the problems, the impacts that are going to put on you if you keep striving for this perfectionism. You’re not going to get the clients, you’re not going to learn, you’re not going to get enough income and you’re going to get stressed out and burnt out, whereas if you just put it out there and you learn in the process, you’re going to get much better results, you’re going to learn and you’re going to get much better results and learn and you’re going to grow. I know this from my own self. I look back again at those, at those early projects, the early portfolio, and it was horrible. I’m embarrassed about that point, but I had to go through it. I had to get through those stages in order to get to where I am now. So recognize and work on trying not to achieve that perfectionism and have a more successful business in the process and better wellbeing, which is so important for you to continue and persist past all the bad stuff your mental state, your wellbeing. Don’t underestimate and undervalue the importance of that, even above your skills.

Lauren Gonzalez: 21:22
Well, thank you very much for listening. Have a really beautiful rest of your day and week and I’ll talk to you next week. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of earning by design. If you found value today, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback not only helps this podcast to grow, but it also helps to get in front of more designers who need help too. So thank you sincerely for being here and for more resources to help you succeed in the world of design.

Lauren Gonzalez: 21:55
Please visit for the creativescom. That’s the number for the creativescom. We offer a variety of courses, programs and free resources, all tailored to enhance your design skills and your business knowledge. Also, be sure to follow me on instagram at forthecreatives for more updates and tips and, if you haven’t already, join my growing community of over 100 000 subscribers on the for the creatives youtube channel that has more content, all designed to fuel your creativity and your professional growth. Until next time, keep creating, keep exploring and continue to push the boundaries of your own creative journey. I’ll be here to guide and inspire you every step of the way you.

Breaking Free from Perfectionism: Essential Strategies for Designers

Perfectionism can be a major obstacle for designers, preventing you from launching your business, finalizing your portfolio, or submitting client projects.

In our latest podcast episode, I share my personal journey with perfectionism and offer practical advice on how to overcome it:

  • Recognizing the Impact: Perfectionism can stall your progress and income.
  • Embracing Imperfection: Accepting and leveraging imperfections in your work.
  • Taking Action: Overcoming fear and taking decisive steps.
  • Balancing Quality and Timeliness: Meeting client expectations without getting stuck in the pursuit of perfection.

By learning to manage perfectionism, you can unlock your potential, reduce stress, and achieve greater success in your design career.

For more detailed strategies and real-life examples, listen to the latest episode of Earning by Design, where I discuss how to break free from the perfectionism trap and propel your design business forward.

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