Why Designers Quit

Episode 20: This is Why Freelance Graphic Designers Quit

Lauren Gonzalez:

Welcome to another episode. This is episode number 20. I really appreciate that you have been with me for 20 episodes. I can’t thank you enough, and in today’s episode, I’m know that you are having a successful business that will continue to be successful, with consistency in your income and your clients. And there’s an indicator that is actually very interesting, and when I analyzed Principium Studio, this was a huge factor, so I’m going to be digging into that with you today.

Lauren Gonzalez:

Welcome to Earning by Design, a podcast dedicated to guiding graphic designers and creative freelancers towards building successful businesses from their passions. I’m your host, lauren Gonzalez, with over 14 years in the design industry, including both in-house, corporate and freelance design roles. I’m here, host Lauren Gonzalez, with over 14 years in the design industry, including both in-house, corporate and freelance design roles. I’m here to share insights and strategies to help you thrive in your design business. My journey was not without its challenges, including finding well-paying clients and struggling and managing an overwhelming workload for minimal return, but through perseverance and strategic planning, I was able to transform those obstacles into a six-figure design business that allows me to work from home. But through perseverance and strategic planning, I was able to transform those obstacles into a six-figure design business that allows me to work from home, set my own hours and select projects that truly resonate with me. So, whether you’re embarking on your design career or you’re already an experienced designer, earning by Design is your companion to help you stay competitive in the fast-paced world of graphic design. In the fast-paced world of graphic design. And I just wanted to say I would so, so, so appreciate it if you would go onto Apple Podcasts and rate and review this show or Spotify or wherever you listen. It would mean the world to me. It helps, so people know that this is a show that they should listen to as well. So thank you very much for that.

Lauren Gonzalez:

And now back to what I wanted to talk about with you today. So, in terms of the world of graphic design businesses, I could tell you all about the ways to get clients and ways to market yourself and position yourself, but the thing is, if you overlook one aspect, none of it is going to matter. Now I know that I talk to you a lot about the subject of really choosing your ideal client and getting a niche and everything, and how you shouldn’t be a generalist, but this concept actually universally applies, whether you’re a generalist designer or you are very specialized and I think personally because this is what worked for me it will always work better when you are in a specific industry, but, with that said, it really is a universal point. And so when designers ask me this question about well, how long will it actually take me to make a good living as a designer? Is it going to take me? Will I be rich overnight? Will I be able to have a successful business in a month? Will it take a year? Will it take five years?

Lauren Gonzalez:

There’s something that I have to say and it really really is about there is no way to say every single time it will take one year, every single time it’ll take two years or six months or three months, but one. This is the point that I want you to understand and it’s going to really really we’re going to dig in deeper to it. But when you have gone from this stage of the beginning and trying to get yourself known out there and trying to get more clients and and it’s just a constant having to do more work and always in this feast or famine mode, when you get past that and know that you’re not in the infancy, in the teenage stages of your design business anymore and you’ve gone into the adulthood. This is the indicator that is going to make you know you’ve reached that, and that’s when 80% of your income is coming from referrals and recurring clients. So I’m going to say that again when 80% of your clients are coming from referrals, so that could be from other clients that you’ve had in the past, from complementary businesses that know that you’re a great resource, from other places you’ve planted your seeds and people are referring back to you and those clients that you had loved working with you so much that they keep coming back to you.

Lauren Gonzalez:

You know that you are out of the infancy because people will remember you, that you are out of the infancy because people will remember you. They’ll recognize you as a reliable, stable source and they will want others to work with you too, because they want to support something that makes them get better and gives their business power. Why wouldn’t you want to share that when you are buying some? Maybe you love a specific coffee shop in your local area or you love a specific store. If somebody asked me, where is your favorite grocery store to shop? Where do you? Where would you recommend the best prices and the best products?

Lauren Gonzalez:

I would always say Trader Joe’s, and I would say that, no matter what, because that’s what I know they’re reliable, they’re stable, they have excellent customer service. Even when there’s hiccups they fix them. And there’s what I know they’re reliable, they’re stable, they have excellent customer service. Even when there’s hiccups they fix them and there’s always. I have this real trust. So, as a business owner yourself, when you’re a designer, you are going to have to earn that trust from clients. You’re going to have to earn that trust by doing consistently a good product every time. There’s an Amazon consultant company that is very successful and they work with huge brands to help them when they’re at a plateau to reach the next plateau. Now I had to earn their trust by doing excellent products with their clients that they referred to me and, as a result, they know that if there’s a client that really needs a good rebrand, they’re not going to send it to just anybody, they’re going to send it to me. Same with some other clients that I’ve worked with that are really. They have a lot of connections within my industry. They know that I am the person that they will always refer people to because I’ve helped them to grow. I’ve helped, helped, I’ve been with them and I’ve grown with their business.

Lauren Gonzalez:

There is nothing that is more important at the beginning stages, especially than your own client service. This is customer service. That’s how Amazon got to be so huge and why all these businesses that are similar to Amazon are now trying to get up to par with their customer service, their shipping Even Etsy is doing free shipping now because they know they have to compete with Amazon’s ability to ship so quickly. Used to be, when I ordered from Etsy, it would take a very long time maybe three to four weeks before I would actually receive a product. I had to pay for shipping. There was a lot of complexities. So Etsy, the overall platform, has made it much easier, and I’m not sure exactly all the ins and outs, because I’m only a consumer of Etsy I don’t actually sell there anymore but what I’ve noticed is they have made it so much easier to buy from them because Amazon has been customer focused since the beginning.

Lauren Gonzalez:

I used to buy books from them way when they were just back in the book stages, when they only sold books and they even then were so focused on customer service and they kept getting my business. I’m a huge book reader. I used to order from them all the time and they would package things beautifully for so the books didn’t get damaged. Actually, their book packaging was better back then than it is now. Um, so that’s something that I would definitely see that they could improve on, but totally not. Besides. The point.

Lauren Gonzalez:

What I want you to think about is what, when you have experienced excellent customer service, do you want to go back and purchase from that company or that brand? Do you want to go back and get more service? Will you tell other people about it? Just think about it in your own life, and I know this is kind of one of those things that’s.

Lauren Gonzalez:

That’s a funny, a funny way to put it, because it’s you can’t necessarily directly cause that and, like you know, you do something on your computer and and you will get a referral. It doesn’t really work that way. It’s a something you build up over time and it’s all about your business’s reputation and what you do and how you deliver before you say you will and you give more than the customer, the client, expected, and you follow up and make sure they’re okay. Those are the kind of little things that really, really make a difference, just like when you buy something and then maybe they give you a free product. There’s a lot of ways that will help to earn that trust and earn that ability. But it’s also a kind of a double-edged sword. That’s why I wanna talk about it a little bit more, because, while this is the indicator that you have gotten to a wonderful point in your business and you keep getting recurring clients, you keep getting referrals. This is the indicator that you have gotten to a wonderful point in your business and you keep getting recurring clients, you keep getting referrals.

Lauren Gonzalez:

It’s kind of also a thing that you can’t necessarily always rely on, because it’s not like when you are that you can always predict that this person is going to know somebody who’s going to refer you. It builds on itself. So when you’re in that infancy stage and you’re in that teenage stage and you haven’t gotten to that point yet where the consistency is inevitable, it is a bit of this challenging situation where you have to keep going out there and making yourself more known, because the only way people are going to know about you is if you make yourself known. That’s why businesses run ads, that’s why people do things to get themselves known Brand recognition, billboards, repetition of that message. I do not want you to go do a billboard, I don’t want you to go run ads, but the same concept applies by you going and putting yourself in the right place, where those clients are putting out the right content and writing the right messages. So what?

Lauren Gonzalez:

But the thing that underlies it all is the willingness to continue and the willingness to get there and do the work necessary to get beyond that hump of the teenage stage and into that adulthood. And I can tell you it is nerve wrecking. When you’re in the middle. You don’t know is it going to work, is it going to be successful? Should I keep going? Should I go get a job? Like there’s?

Lauren Gonzalez:

All these questions that go in your head that I went through I experienced in the second year of the third year of my business. I was still in a confusion whether I should keep going or I should go get a job, and I didn’t know what the right thing is to do. But I always went back to I’m going to keep going, because persistence is something that I’ve learned since a young age. It’s important and I keep instilling that in my children. My daughter is obsessed with painting and she doesn’t like what she does, and then I talk to her about. The only way you’re gonna get better is to keep practicing, and in the business world that translates really into persisting and doing it over and over and over until you get results and now she gets that and she tells that to her brother whenever he gets frustrated is you just gotta keep practicing. You gotta keep practicing, and that’s something I wish I could instill in every one of you is that persistence and volume of that persistence and thinking long-term instead of just, oh my gosh, I have to eat tomorrow and that’s why it’s a hard situation.

Lauren Gonzalez:

I really want to acknowledge that if you went full blast into your business and you don’t have another income source, it can be so stressful and sometimes the right thing to do is to get us a still a part-time job. That’s doing something, so you have some income coming in, so you can do the work necessary to have this for the long game. This is the long haul and I decided to create this exercise for my students of Consistent Clients Blueprint so they can get a real sense of the level of work that it requires to get those clients before you while you’re in that infancy and teenage stage, and it’s called the 100 challenge and what I tell them to do, and this is something that I would love each one of you to do. That really may be frustrated. Or you just don’t know what’s the right thing to do and you’re just not sure. Should you keep going or not? Give yourself a chance and do the 100 challenge.

Lauren Gonzalez:

What this is is you do 100 forms of outreach and preferably you’re doing in emails. You can do it in direct outreach, and this is not even talking about doing social media posts or putting out content. This is an addition. This is a one-on-one you to another person that you want to be your client, sending them an email, sending them a direct message, following up in multiple places, and just challenge yourself. See, see how, when you do that amount of outreach, a hundred forms of outreach how many clients do you get in? It’s an amazing way to get an estimation of the effort. So you don’t feel like, oh no, I did five emails and nobody answered. I’m a failure, I need to give up.

Lauren Gonzalez:

There is this concept I think it was from the book Think and Grow Rich about this guy who was mining and mining and mining and looking for gold and he couldn’t find any gold and it just he had been doing this for a long time I know I’m going to butcher the story a little bit, but this is a general concept and he kept going and he kept going and the gold ended up being like 10 feet away from him and if he had just kept going he would have gotten to that gold. That’s what I want you to think in mind is the gold is? You’re so close to that gold and you have to keep going until you find it. That’s the way the businesses are successful. You see these huge businesses nowadays I mean what Meta has become from Facebook and Instagram, what Google has become, what Amazon became. These are obviously massive examples, but there’s smaller ones, even Uber and Lyft, and even local coffee shops and other places and restaurants. They all started with one idea and one person and small, even Walt Disney.

Lauren Gonzalez:

He actually was told he was a failure. And look at what he. If he had not persisted and done it anyway and known that the gold was just around the corner, if he had just kept going, he knew he was going to find it. That is what makes businesses successful. That is the thing, is being willing to continue and knowing that if you’re if you’re doing the right thing if you get that one client, if you can just get one client from from that, those, those direct outreach, from that hundred challenge, you can get hundreds of clients, because that’s how it works. You just have to nurture those skills and the persistence is what lies underneath. Now you may think, yeah, that sounds so easy.

Lauren Gonzalez:

Persistence, yeah, yeah, yeah, uh, I, I this word it’s kind of fluff or it doesn’t mean anything, but I can’t tell you enough that when you look so this is one way that I’ve been able to handle things when there are so many challenges and frustrations in getting to my goal is I look at myself at the end of my life and I look back. I look, I look from the perspective of I’m at the end of my life and I’m, you know, hopefully 80 years old, 90 years old, and I’m looking back and I’m thinking, if I did not persist in that goal that I had, would I be? Would I have regret or would I be happy with what I did? And when I look at it that way, I have been able to overcome things because I knew if I didn’t, I would regret it for the rest of my life. And that’s not something I want I wanted to live with. That’s not something I want you to live with.

Lauren Gonzalez:

So right now, in the stage when we’re growing our businesses, we have to make money. Maybe you have a family to support, maybe they’re young kids, maybe you have a family to support, maybe they’re young kids, maybe you want to start a family. Maybe you, you have specific goals that you want. There’s a lot in this stage of life that we have to deal with. Expenses are high. Things are a little unpredictable economically. So one thing that that I just want to acknowledge that things are hard in this stage, but it will get easier and it’ll get easier if you don’t keep changing, go following the latest flashy objects or things like that.

Lauren Gonzalez:

Persist with what you want to do and what you decided to do in front of you. It’s going to help you get there and focus. Because I can tell you, when you start dividing your attention, that’s like dividing yourself into many, many, many different parts and it makes you less of who you are, whereas if you just took everything you had and you put it into that and you stop changing course, you will get there faster and that gold is around the corner. So there’s a great quote by a guy named James Altucher I probably am butchering his name. He’s a hedge fund manager and he pointed out something he said quantity and persistence will get you the outcomes you need. And this really, really makes it underscores essentially the success. It’s not just about having the skills as a designer or the right tools. It is about persistence and putting in a real volume and effort consistently to get to that gold mine. So that’s what I want from you for you is you don’t just put a little bit in and you know, just dip your toe. If you want that successful business, go get that successful business. Challenge yourself to go all in and put in that persistence and get it from that teenage stage or the infancy stage to the teenage stage and then the adult stage. Look for when you’re getting tons of referrals back, you’re getting consistency, you have your seeds planted, and that’s what I want for me, for you, that’s what I want for all designers that really, really are passionate about making their business their full-time income.

Lauren Gonzalez:

Thank you so much for listening today. I appreciate you and I would so, so appreciate to know if you have other topics you would like to talk about, like me to talk about, or other guests you would like me to interview. So always feel free to direct message me on Instagram at for the creatives, and I hope you have a really, really wonderful day and please, if you do that hundred challenge, let me know. I would love to hear how it goes for you. And, uh, I’ll see you next time or I’ll talk to you next time. Bye for now.

Lauren Gonzalez:

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. 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 ForTheCreatives 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.

Listen to this podcast episode on…

What are some common reasons freelancers give up on their business?

In today’s episode, we’re diving into the critical role of why freelancers give up, as well as how to generate client referrals and recurring business, which are pivotal indicators of your business’s maturity.

I’ll share my insights on how to cultivate relationships that not only last but also help propel your business forward through consistent income and client loyalty. If you feel your job isn’t delivering what you expected, and you want someone to demystify what separates successful designers from those who throw in the towel too soon, then you won’t want to miss this episode.

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