Are you letting your perfectionism sabotage excellence in your design business? Are you chasing an illusion? How often have you spent too much time on a project and still felt it wasn’t quite “perfect”? This is a trap that’s easy to fall into. Most designers love what they do and they want to find that “perfect” design for every client. What they often ignore is when good enough is good enough. Too often your client is happy but you can’t seem to let go.
How can you balance your design expertise and attention to detail with a final product that is good enough? Can you recognize that what is good enough is also a design your client loves? Let’s consider some thoughts to move you toward becoming a recovering perfectionist – and how it might increase your bottom line.
Find the Source of Your Perfectionism
Recognize what might be behind your perfectionism. To quote Dan Miller, best-selling author and personal development coach, “Perfectionism is not as much the desire for excellence, as it is the fear of failure couched in procrastination.” Ask yourself if your search for perfectionism might be caused by the fear of not finding the perfect solution for your client. Consequently, you feel the need to keep searching. Instead, maybe you need to stop and realize that your client is extremely happy with the product. Another possibility is that you love design so much and get caught up in the process, forgetting it’s a business. Remember that time is money.
Embrace Your Creativity
Embrace your creativity and how sometimes imperfections can offer a unique aspect to the design. Or when you can’t seem to find the “perfect” piece, stop and step away for a bit. Then open your mind to release new possibilities beyond what you had focused on. You might end up with an even more original result.
Get on the Same Page
Before you start the project be sure you and the client are aligned on the objectives and goals:
- Define your scope of services clearly at the beginning and be sure they are part of your contract.
- Clarify the investment they are willing to make in the project.
- Remember goals are “dreams with deadlines” and you need to have a timeline.
The scope, planned investment, and timeline are excellent ways to keep you on track. They will help your design business achieve an “excellent” result that does not have to be perfect while still being profitable.
Form Follows Function
Remember the advice of architect Louis Sullivan, “Form follows function”. You want a design that is aesthetically pleasing and is also functional. The design you have created will not only look beautiful when photographed but will also meet the needs of the client.
You’re the Expert
Trust your instinct and have faith in your experience and expertise. Be sure you are not obsessing over details that the client does not even notice or care about. Are you searching for perfection for your client or is it really about you and your ego? Observe and learn from others but don’t constantly compare yourself to others. When you start to question yourself or whether the design is good enough, review testimonials from your past clients. Reflect on past projects and the pleasure and satisfaction you provided your clients. Too often designers forget to stop and embrace the praise from clients. Remind yourself that you probably felt those projects weren’t “perfect” either and yet your clients loved the result. That is what matters.
Let it Go
Know when to let go and not overanalyze the design. Again, if the client is happy, it is beyond good enough. How often have you been reluctant to bring the project to completion because perfection might be just around the corner? Remember that you may love design, but it is a business. And a successful business is profitable. How much time have you or your team put in while searching for perfection – time that you never bill your client? Are you treating this business like a business or like a hobby?
Get a Second Opinion
If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from mentors, clients or other designers – people whose input you value. Often that simple ask and possible brainstorming session will help you take a fresh look at the challenge.
Another reason to release the hold of perfectionism is that it causes stress. So particularly while in your “recovery” phase – which for many is ongoing – take steps to help release that stress and anxiety. Meditation is very effective as is deep breathing and exercise. Any or all three of those are healthy habits to establish whether you are a recovering perfectionist or not!
Celebrate Your Achievements
Don’t forget to celebrate your achievements – not just at the completion of a project but throughout the project. It might be that unique item you found that the client loves. Or it might be the fact that you finished the project ahead of schedule. Or celebrate when you can let go and are satisfied with the selections you found – and so is the client. And definitely celebrate the project your client loved and, because of your efficient use of time, was very profitable for you.
Becoming a recovering perfectionist does not mean you are not continually seeking to improve in your design business, or that you’ve settled. If you ever feel you have completed the “perfect” design, then it’s really downhill from there! So keep learning and seeking to improve.
When Frank Lloyd Wright was asked what his best work was, he answered “The next one”. It’s a good lesson to follow. Always strive to make the next project your best. In addition, keep in mind the advice of Kim Collins, track and field sprinter: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.”