8 Common Design Business Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Starting a new design business is exciting and scary, full of ups and downs and twists and turns. Every business is different, so things can certainly get messy as you attempt to figure out your next step with no tried-and-true playbook to follow. 

When I launched my own design business, I made several mistakes along the way that caused me major frustrations. While some setbacks are unavoidable, I wrote this blog post to help you start your entrepreneurial journey on the right path (and hopefully avoid some of the blunders I made!).



Mistake #1: The Perfection Trap

If you’re trying to make everything about your business completely perfect before you launch, you’re not alone. I see this common hangup all the time when working with new business owners. 

Look, I get it. You have high standards, and you want your business to look as professional as you are right from the start. While I don’t suggest throwing together a messy website or business plan in one afternoon, I also don’t suggest getting hung up on the small details and stalling your launch for months. You must continue to move forward! After all, in the end, progress is always better than perfection. 



Mistake #2: Copycat Syndrome

When it comes to drawing an audience and capturing the attention of clients, authenticity is key. If you have no individuality in your business, and you try to copy what others are doing instead, your clients will see right through you. You’ll get lost in the crowd. 

When I first launched my business, I tried to look like everyone else instead of listening to my intuition. I needed to take the time to discover what kind of design business I wanted to create. In the end, when I decided to let go of the fear of being me, I was able to create a profitable business that truly felt like my own. The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to BE YOU. 


Mistake #3: Discount Disaster 

When your business is the new kid on the block, it’s tempting to slash prices in order to snag customers. This is especially true if you run a service-based business. I hate to admit that I too discounted my services at times!

Why do so many entrepreneurs set themselves up for a pay cut? Discounting our prices usually stems from two issues: fear or desperation. 

You fear that you’re charging a premium price but lack the skills to deliver. You second guess your worth and value. Or maybe you’re desperate for cash and simply need whatever business you can get at the moment. Whatever the reason, STOP! 

This type of price reduction isn’t sustainable. To set fair prices for your services, look at your industry’s standard pricing. From there, take your own desired salary and expertise into consideration. Then set a price that feels good to you and don’t budge. Be confident in your worth and the value you bring to the table.  



Mistake #4: The Lone Ranger

Going at it alone in business is never the best practice. No business is an island, and we ALL need help at times. Support can take on various forms — from friends and family helping with the kids, to biz besties and coaches offering encouragement,  to contractors performing daily tasks. There’s just so much to do to keep a business running, so learning how to outsource and seek help from the start will set you up for a smoother ride. 

I suggest mastering the art of delegation early on, even if you start small. When you delegate, it frees up time to move your business forward. This way you don’t get stuck managing the same endless tasks instead of running the show. 


Mistake #5: Rabbit Trails

Getting distracted from the big picture is why most business ideas never make it off of the pages of the “idea notebook.” And really, it makes sense — entrepreneurs are idea people. We’re dreamers. We love to brainstorm. But there comes a time when we must focus and move past the idea phase and onto the implementation phase. 

We also can’t get distracted by rabbit trails while running established businesses. I see this a lot in my industry — a successful entrepreneur attends a conference or reads a book, and before I know it, they’ve completely shifted their focus to something totally outside of their realm! Sure, some shifts are necessary from time to time, but as a general business rule, it’s important to stay in our own lane.

The real problem isn’t the lure of the rabbit trail, it’s the fear of failure. We subconsciously avoid difficult tasks and decisions and instead get caught up in little details that don’t really matter because we fear of going “all in.” To avoid the trails, we need to be confident in our ability to see this thing through. 



Mistake #6: Making the Wrong Investments

In the beginning, I didn’t trust my own intuition when it came to spending money on my business. Instead I spent too much time and money on the wrong things and wrong people. If a problem came up, I would react by throwing money at it, desperately trying to find a magic solution. 

I needed to learn to think for myself. Once I started doing the research to find what would work for my business, I landed on the right tools, the right strategy, and the right people to invest in, and my biz grew by leaps and bounds.


Mistake #7: Taking it Personally

Never, ever let your self worth be wrapped up in how your business is performing. I know you’ve poured your heart and soul into your venture, but trust me, taking everything personally is a recipe for disaster. 

Why? Because it leaves you resistant to criticism. As business owners and designers, we need to be open to hear criticism. Otherwise we’ll be hindered from making the level-headed decisions and hard calls that profitable business owners have to make. 



Mistake #8: Fear of Selling

When launching a new business, many owners face a very real fear of sales. These entrepreneurs are good at what they do, and they produce a superior product, but they can’t seem to back it up when it comes to selling. 

Why? This hangup usually stems from a fear of rejection. It’s part of human nature to resist being rejected, but this is something you’ll have to get past if you’re going to be successful.

It’s important to remember that rejection doesn’t equal failure. Your job isn’t to convince everyone to buy from you, it’s simply to identify your ideal client, understand their needs, and present your products and services as the clear solution.

While occasional mistakes are inevitable, I hope hearing about my own missteps will help you to avoid some of these common pitfalls and save you from frustration as you launch your biz. Listen to the wisdom of others, be brave, and pave your own way!


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