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7 Ways to Stay Passionate about Design

Last week, I was having coffee with a group of friends over at our local Starbucks. It didn’t take me long once again to notice the oh-so-familiar charades we would play every time we got together.

how to stay passionate

It starts off really small at first- one person starts talking about how stressful and horrible work has been. Then the next thing you know, someone’s ranting about some direction from the boss they didn’t like. One complaint leads to another and soon, everyone’s complaining about how terrible their jobs are, and how they would do anything to leave.

If only the pay wasn’t very high. If only I wasn’t going to get a promotion this year. If only I could jump to this account and get a lighter load. Sound familiar? You might think these guys are corporate slaves. No they’re not. These guys are designers.

The concept of a designer with no passion for what he or she does may seem like a foreign concept, an impossibility even. How could someone who does something creative and fun lose the love for their craft? But it is possible. The pressures of deadlines, artistic blocks, and difficult clients and workmates can help us lose track of the drive to design.

But truth be told, it’s possible to break free from the rut of despair and complacency. Here are seven things I do to stay passionate about design:

find meaning

1. Find meaning from the client’s perspective

There is always meaning behind every work. Whether you’re starting this website for an events photographer or doing a poster for a nuclear physics fair, every project has significance and meaning behind it. True, not all projects will be as equally exciting to you as a designer, but you must always bear in mind that the idea was compelling enough for someone to pay you to work on it for them.

I remember the first time one of my longterm clients, MyLegalWhiz, contacted me, and my initial reaction to the project. I was tasked to create infographics out of legal cases. I know law excites a lot of people, but definitely not me. But then I tried framing myself from the perspective that the clients were passionate enough to pitch it to investors for hundreds of dollars and contact me to work on a fairly high retainers fee. They were crazy passionate about this.

That passion was transferred, and got me working my butt off on a regular basis for those projects.


2. Think relationships not tasks

I wrote an article a while back on how to get clients to agree on a long-term contract. One of the points I stressed out was to think of accounts in the light of relationships with clients and not tasks done for them. Framing a project from the perspective of building a strong and professional relationship with clients keeps the human aspect to our work in sync, and reminds us that we’re dealing with the dreams and ambitions of people who hire us to build their empires. That is exciting!


3. Help other designers grow

When I’m too busy to take on other clients because my schedule’s too full with work already, I have a shortlist of younger, less experienced designers whom I can pass the load to. These guys aren’t just fallbacks, but designer buddies who I’m helping set their own personal brand.

Making it your goal to help other designers grow to the level you’re at or even higher is a practice that rewards you with excitement and passion anytime. Don’t even think of it as a lost client. Remember you can always take a referral’s cut at any point, and designers will still be happy about it. Anywhere between 10-15% is a fair deal.


4. Redefine the meaning of work

I recently wrote a FREE E-book on the concept of work and how it affects our passion for what we do. I know this girl who started a copywriting career with such passion for writing. Three years into it she expresses that the love for writing is no longer there, and has been drowned out by bad clients who don’t pay and off months with no projects.

I don’t know how many people fall under the trance of losing sight of meaning to work just because money has shrouded our view of a meaningful vocation. Money and fortune can be a strong motivator, but a bad foundation to work. The money you make or don’t make should never cloud our passion for what we do. Our professions are about living, and not merely about making a living.

passion project

5. Start a passion project

Just like that writer friend, people can lose touch of things because of having to do work that has no meaning to them. That’s just reality. That’s why it’s important to do passion work that does have meaning to you. And the best part of it is you can turn it into a profitable venture.

Outside of design, I am really passionate about leadership and ministry, so I often channel my creative juice there also. Creating materials and keynotes that people can benefit from, while I can do often to keep me excited about design and branding as well. From that I do leadership keynotes and motivational talks that I can earn a little extra from.


6. Charge ridiculously high every now and then

It’s also very common to lose passion for something, when we lose the sight of our own value. It’s not wrong to overvalue yourself from time to time. So the next email inquiry you get, and you feel the prospect has a good thing going financially, spike your rate up 25-50% more. This helps you communicate to others what value you have and deliver. And who knows? You just might be able to close that project.


7. Build a community

Last but not the least, nothing can be a passion-killer worse than being a lone ranger. And in the industry of design (especially home-based design). The famous saying goes that “no man is an island”. Even the lone ranger had Tonto with him most of the time. As a designer, or whatever profession you are in, you don’t have to be alone.

Some practical things you can do is take some time off working from home to go get a membership at a co-working space. Or call some of those creatives you share projects with to work together with over coffee. And if you have a family, please never bury yourself so deep in work that you don’t spend time with them anymore.

Community keeps you in-check and keeps you passionate and inspired.


About the Author:

Patrick Mabilog is the resident designer of 1stWebDesigner. He is also into leadership development, marketing, and coffee.

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