For Designers: 4 Mistakes I Made (And Learned From) Early In My Business

I’m a self taught designer, through and through. I’ve never taken a design course in my life. My degree is actually in photography, so everything I know about design is just the bits and pieces strung together that I’ve picked up over the past ten years.

Sometimes I look back at the beginning stages of my business and want to laugh, and sometimes I want to cry. When I say that these are “mistakes” it’s not to put myself down – I don’t mean for this post to be self-deprecating in any way. Above all the act of looking back really makes me appreciate how far I’ve come.

Here are 4 things that stick out to me from my early days of doing business:

  1. I delivered logos in .psd format (cringe!) This is almost entirely because I was a photography student at the time and only knew how to use Photoshop. TBH, I didn’t even know that this wasn’t the right way to do it. Most of my clients were photographers, so even a few years later when I learned that I should be doing it differently, I was still doing it this way because I thought my clients would only know how to use Photogshop. Cringe!
  2. I committed to projects that weren’t a good fit, just because I needed the money. For example – I booked a client that wanted her name done *by hand* in calligraphy. I had never done calligraphy in my life, but I told her that I knew how, and I just figured I would be able to teach myself. I don’t think I even knew what proper calligraphy looked like at the time because this was *just* before it started to get trendy. Needless to say, she was horrified with what I sent her, and I had to refund her money.
  3. I charged way too little for my services. The first few years I was designing logos, I only charged $100. And sometimes I even worried that was too much! Looking back that’s INSANE to me, but I assumed that because I was self taught, and because I was still learning, I assumed that’s all my time was worth. But to be fair, I was also still working a minimum wage day job, so any extra money I was able to make sitting at home on my computer made me absolutely giddy.
  4. I let the opinions of other people bring me down. I’m not going to repeat any of them here because I’m not trying to go *too* far back down that road, but I heard a lot of discouraging comments from friends, family, and peers. They didn’t always mean to come across as discouraging – I think a lot of them had the intention of being supportive. But I let it affect me in a MAJOR way. It kept me small for a long time. It kept me from fully putting myself out there, from charging what I was worth, and I felt like I was always waiting on some sort of approval or permission from these people to finally be proud of myself.

I say all of this not to make fun of myself, because I fully believe that I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. I wholeheartedly believe in being kind to yourself, especially your past self. The bigger point of this post is that I am proud of the things I learned and the business I built along the way – being self-taught is no easy feat and it’s so so important to frequently take a step back and appreciate how far you’ve come.

So if you’re in the same boat…if you’ve made mistakes, if you’ve taught yourself a craft, if you’ve built a business, if you’ve pursued a dream…take that step back, and give yourself a huge pat on the back my friend!



February 20, 2024

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Hey, I’m Christina! Ten years ago, I was a wedding photographer who loved being creative but didn’t feel totally at home in my work. 

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