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“Appreciate the genuine, real conversation – seriously chocked full of value. Looking forward to the next episode!”

Episode 2: Overcoming Self Doubt

Ever worried about what others think of your creative work? Ever felt the social media tumbleweed, when it feels like no one is paying attention to what you’re putting out there? Ever compared yourself to others in your field? Welcome to the world of self doubt as a designer! The good news is, you’re not alone, and there are some actionable steps you can take to improve your level of self doubt in your creative projects.

Show Notes for This Episode:

[1.00] How all creatives experience self doubt
[1.50] Why there is no A to B straight line for designers
[2.30] Why creating is like making cookies!
[3.00] Why you feel like you ARE what you create
[4.00] Lisa’s potential for a children’s book
[4.55] Why creatives are insecure, but not psychos!
[5.30] Creatives are intense and passionate people (the perfect storm for self doubt!)
[6.20] Confirming your lack of success
[7.05] Social media leading to self doubt
[8.00] Why comments matter most
[8.45] The dreaded tumbleweed!
[9.30] Why to expect tumbleweeds early on (and why this is ok)
[10.10] Audit yourself in terms of what you engage with
[11.20] Why you should engage with other’s work
[12.40] Why social media is ego driven
[13.00] Client feedback leading to self doubt
[14.15] You won’t please everyone
[15.00] Why the client is usually right
[16.20] Staying motivated if your work is mediocre
[17.45] Why we are aware that our work isn’t great yet
[18.45] The important of a higher purpose
[19.40] Getting out of your head, and being less ‘me, me, me!’
[21.00] What is the work we do that doesn’t feel like work?
[22.45] Ian loving the idea stage
[24.45] Ideas can take a while to come to fruition
[25.20] Why challenging yourself results in self doubt
[26.00] How passion can reduce self doubt
[27.00] When people struggle with hitting their stride
[28.00] Why collaborations can fall into the same trap
[29.10] Lisa’s experience of self-doubt making a Design Cuts product
[29.50] Self doubt can make or break a project
[30.30] Why you shouldn’t compare yourself to others
[31.20] Dustin’s shedding of self doubt
[32.05] Forget what everyone else thinks!
[32.20] Look at the long-term trends to feel better about your journey
[34.00] Why social media can drive you to distraction
[34.40] Feeling really stressed looking at others in your space
[35.30] Why comparing to others wastes your time
[36.35] Why it’s wise to be a tortoise
[37.50] Focusing, without as many distractions
[39.00] The importance of switching off

“A must for every creative freelancer (or those aspiring to freelance). Thank you for being so… honest! Such a wealth of information from people I admire who have ‘been there and done that’. Listening to the podcast every week feels like I’m among friends. Can’t wait for more episodes!”AG_GD

51 Lovely Comments from our Community:

  1. Tine says:

    Hi! This is a great thing you’re doing guys, thanks so much! For a short bit there, you’re talking about the “tumbleweed” situation. How long do you think is an acceptable period to not get a lot of traction? A year? 2 years too long? Hope you can give some insight!

    • says:

      Hey Tine, thanks so much for getting in touch. That is a very good question. I will pass this over to the honest designers and get back to you when I have more information. Thanks 😊

  2. mattdetroit says:

    TUMBLEWEEDS! I have them! Yep! Lots of silence on the work I do.
    MAKES YOU DOUBT YOURSELF and makes you wonder what you should be doing to get out of that ghost town. Unfortunately, the questions can send you scrambling in all sorts of directions… and that can be bad, as well. I liken design to being an actor in the movies. You get a role in a movie and you think GREAAAATTT ! I’m going to be in the movies! And then, no one comes to see your movie, or worse, they see it but walk away scratching their heads. They don’t get you, or get where your work fits in. That makes you ( the actor/designer ) wonder if you should be doing different kinds of movies or designs to be more successful. But all people have for reference, is that “movie” that they can’t remember you being in. haha. This could be an idea for another show: What kind of movies, design, illustration, typography, etc. do you want to do and how to get recognition for it.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Right in the feels guys! Thanks for making me feel like I’m not entirely crazy. 😀

    • says:

      Hey Henry,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave us a comment!

      This is some awesome advice and it is really lovely for you to share your experience with us too and we’re super glad that you are able to relate to the team 🙂

      • says:

        Aww thanks so much Stephanie- that’s what we like to hear 😀

        Thank you for tuning in!

        • says:

          Hey Matt,

          Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this with us!

          This is a fantastic analogy and I will definitely let the team know that you’d like to hear their opinions on a similar subject to this 🙂

  4. Marlys says:

    See … I’m doing my part by leaving a comment! 😉 Thanks for this encouraging episode. I think part of the challenge stems from the fact that as creators we spend most of our time working alone. It helps so much to hear that others face the same struggles that I do. And I loved the part about being a tortoise … I need to take that approach this month to finish my book. Looking forward to the next episode!

  5. Henry Hyde says:

    Excellent show.

    I’ve been a designer since 1991 (yikes!) and have run my own business for the same length of time. To double up on the agony, I’m a writer as well, and there are plenty of parallels between the two activities.

    Trust me, the self-doubt never goes away.

    BUT you learn strategies to cope.

    First of all, there’s nothing quite like a deadline to concentrate the mind.

    Secondly, what you learn from deadlines is that you can only reasonably expect yourself to produce the best work you can do in the time allotted. We all know that given an extra day, hour, even minute, we could carry on tweaking almost endlessly – but the fact is, there has to be a finishing line, and once it’s crossed, that’s it.

    Thirdly, deadlines also make us realise that our quest for perfection MUST be compromised, or we’d never finish anything. When the deadline hits, it’s as good as we can make it – and that’s good enough. In fact, it often – usually, if we’re lucky – exceeds our client’s expectations.

    Fourthly, practice gets us closer to that elusive perfection in a shorter time. Practice, practice, practice. I taught myself calligraphy and my first efforts were slow and dreadful. But after writing out the alphabet in 17th century italic style and 14th century Gothic script several hundred times, I got better and faster. The same happened when I first started using software like Quark, InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop – all those complicated key commands and dozens of tools seemed baffling, but now they’re second nature. I dumped a load of self-doubt once other designers who were looking over my shoulder started saying “Wow, what was that you did there?” and I thought “Surely everyone knows that? Hmm, apparently not…”

    Fifthly, as you mentioned in the podcast, avoid comparisonitis. It’s deadly. Focus on pursuing your own passion.By all means be inspired by the work of others – in fact, acknowledging and applauding the achievements of others is a Good Thing. Because once day, it might just be us receiving the plaudits, and it’s always good to understand what the other guy has been through to get to that point.

    And finally, if you’re really in a dark place, have faith. All things pass, and often just being professional, turning up and doing the work and will bring you out the other side. Read Steven Pressfield’s “Turning Pro”.

    • says:

      Hey Max,

      It’s awesome to hear that you’ve been enjoying the show as well as having a few laughs 😉

      There’s lost of honest details to come, so we hope you’ll love these episodes too!

  6. Max Bizley says:

    Great show. I laughed at Dustin’s ‘two mornings/one day’, I do the exact same thing for the exact same reasons. Insight from the four of you is great. Don’t be afraid to go into detail (Ie. Saying it takes a long time to find your ‘style’ is one thing, but when Lisa said it took her two years that’s a real nice piece of data I can process). Keep going, I’m listening!

  7. Christine BK says:

    Am enjoying your podcasts so much! I am not a professional designer, but your podcasts are applicable to many creative careers/endeavors. Keep up the awesome work!!

    • says:

      Hey Christine,

      Oh thank you so much, I know this will mean a great deal to Honest Designers so thanks for tuning in 🙂

      • says:

        Hey Marlys,

        Thanks so much for the comment, it’s lovely to hear from you.

        Oh we are really happy that you feel encouraged and don’t worry, we’ve all been there at some point! It’s nice to work away now with 4 other voices in your ears though 🙂

  8. Vee says:

    That’s the first podcast I’ve ever listened all the way through!

    A lot of us work alone and it was like having friends around to chat, loved it 🙂

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks so much for feedback Brenda, and I hope it helped to show that you’re definitely not alone. You’re definitely not a fake, and I’m thrilled we could help with your creative confidence :).

      • Tom Ross says:

        Thank you Manon, we really appreciate the awesome feedback :).

        • Tom Ross says:

          Thanks a ton Paula, that’s so great to hear :). The ‘finding your flow’ video is viewable on our Facebook page: Some great advice from Lisa :).

          • Tom Ross says:

            Thanks Andrea, I’m so glad the show is resonating with you :). In the next episode we take a super honest look at burn out for designers, I hope it’s helpful for you. The ‘jack of all trades’ debate is something we definitely get into more on the show, and I hope it’s helpful for you. The answer is basically ‘whatever works for you’, or to elaborate – people find success in both paths, so there’s no right or wrong answer, but there are certain actions that will allow you to succeed whichever path you choose. We have some upcoming episodes all about attracting clients too :).

  9. andrea.dhas says:

    Thank you for sharing your valuable insights in these podcasts. I especially appreciated your comments about how long it took you to hit your stride and develop your personal style, and how to stay motivated when you weren’t feeling like an original. I’m looking forward to the next episode! I am in the process of making a career change into design from another field, and would be interested in your thoughts on whether someone new to design should specialize in a specific area or offer a broader range of (less finely-developed) skills. And finding clients who get your style – any tips on that? Thanks so much!

  10. Paula Seleguim says:

    1st of all, LOVED IT
    2nd of all, during the podcast yall mentioned about an article or episode about “getting into the flow”.
    Where is it? Is it a planned episode?

    • Tom Ross says:

      It’s a very common issue faced by creatives, so you’re definitely not alone Stuart. Progression is a huge motivation for us all, and can help you to escape the daily struggles, and look at the bigger picture.

      I hope you enjoy the next episode and find it equally relatable :).

  11. Sara says:

    Another great episode. Thank you;)

  12. Manon Lef says:

    Another great episode. Thanks for doing this! Very relatable.

    • Tom Ross says:

      It certainly can be tough Melissa! I’m the biggest culprit of obsessively checking stats/comments. On the upside you run into lovely comments like yours, so outside of the fruitless feed-refreshing and self doubt, you get amazing moments like this one :). I really hope you continue to enjoy the show, and thank you for your feedback.

      • Tom Ross says:

        Thanks so much Rosa, as always I really appreciate your support. We really want this podcast to be completely transparent, dealing with the struggles, as well as the fantastic aspects of being a designer. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this episode :).

  13. Rosa Perry says:

    Another great podcast! It was just lovely to hear about the constant self-doubt that my favourite designers deal with – no matter what stage of their career. Thanks for the honesty guys.

    You guys rock!

    Looking forward to your next podcast.xox

  14. Liz says:

    This is great, thank you, thank you.
    I am actually experiencing this at the moment, I think I have achieved creative burnout and I forget that when I am enjoying a project and passionate about it, the work flow comes naturally to me and I love it. And I agree, when you are in your flow with work, it really does show 🙂

    It’s great to hear other designers point of view and know that I am not alone.
    Can’t wait to hear the next show. x

    • Tom Ross says:

      I totally know what you mean Eric. I don’t think it matters how much experience you have, the doubt will continue to manifest in one way or another. I think the key is to recognise it, and then combat it in the right ways.

      Love your outlook on ‘humble steps’ and that’s such a great way of looking at it. Everything about this comment is spot on in fact!

  15. Jeremy Child says:

    Listening to this is a bit like having colleagues in my work room who are going through the same things as me – a bit like a designer support group! A great podcast!

  16. Brenda says:

    Thank you so much for doing this podcast. I’m always stressing with self-doubt and trying to find my style etc. You guys have made me see that it’s not just me. I’m not a fake after all. It’s just part of the process of who we are and how we’re growing as artists.

    You have made me feel sooooo much better.

    Thank you, a million times, thank you!

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks Suzannah, this show is really a passion project for the 4 of us, so it’s great to hear it resonating with our community.

      I’m totally with you that social media is like an iceberg, people always project an image of perfection, whether that’s their personal life, or their creative careers, but it’s just not showing the full picture.

      Consistency is a huge part of creation, and something we discussed a lot in episode 1. Essentially ‘showing up’ each day tends to lead to better and more interesting results every time.

      And 100%, always do what you love. That’s something the 4 of us have worked hard to live daily now :).

  17. stuart12 says:

    Nice work guys, I find myself thinking about this soo much. It’s nice to hear people talking about it and putting a spot-light on self-doubt. I know I’m not the best Designer or Illustrator in the world but I love seeing where I came from and where I am now.

    I agree you have to find time for everyone in your life and find your way to switch off but it would be soo hard if your day job isn’t your full passion. Just find what make you happy 🙂 ..

    Cheers for this ep!

  18. Melissa G says:

    Definitely agree with the struggle to not check on progress too often. It’s so hard to let things be once you’ve put something out there.

    Loving this Podcast. The first 2 episodes have been great. Thanks to all of you for speaking candidly the things that we all think as designers/creatives.

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thank you Chris, I truly appreciate you taking the time to leave such great feedback :).

      That’s wonderful that you’re able to relate to our discussions, and I can assure you – every designer/creative I know goes through the same stuff when it comes to self doubt. I hope you enjoy next week’s episode, we’ll be talking all about burn out :).

  19. Eric Steuten says:

    With 15+ years of professional experience I can honestly say that from time to time self doubt still rears its head. In the beginning the doubt was blocking my creativity. I set my personal bar so high, my personal work output decreased simply because nothing was good enough. Each creation was under my immense scrutiny.

    That realisation that each work is not and doesn’t need to be my pièce de résistance, the pinnacle of my carreer but simply one humble step in evolving myself, honing my craft and getting better in what i love to do… that was an eye opener. It allowed me to accept that also ‘failures’ are valuable experiences and therefore useful. So now I embrace the occassional self doubt (that all creatives.. even the worldclass ones have from time to time) as a means to push me to keep producing the best of my ability at that moment, not perfection itself.

  20. Oh.suzannah51 says:

    Hi Guys, an interesting idea, this chat room.

    I run a Facebook textile page so have some observations to share.

    Firstly, social media is like a big iceberg – you only see the bit above water. You are reaching more people than you know.

    Secondly, the textile artists who are most popular are usually the most consistent (this goes against the grain for many artists – myself included – but it’s worth noting) Those who develop a style and stick with it seem to find favour with those who are perhaps less imaginative and like things they can recognise. I know this is a generalisation but take a look at some popular artists – eg Moy Mackay, felt maker, Maggie Tuite, doll maker, Maggie Grey, experimental textile artist.

    Thirdly, love what you do, do what you love.

    Hope this encourages you.

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks for your incredible feedback Janelle :). Honestly, comments are what motivates us more than anything, so I’m so glad you took the time to leave one. I’ll see what we can do on the font front, and don’t worry, Ian/Dustin are thick skinned fellas (sometimes!) :P.

      Amen to doing what you love, always! I’m so glad to hear that you’re enjoying your foray into stationary design, it sounds like you’ve landed on what you’re truly passionate about, which is a clear sign to go after it!

  21. This was a wonderful podcast, guys!

    I still feel very young in my design/illustration career and was just thinking today that I wish I had some mentors to talk to – and then this podcast came along.

    It was so nice to just hear all of these respected designers/illustrators talk (even laugh) about the constant self-doubt that we as creatives all deal with – no matter what stage of your career we’re in. The tips they offered to help move past self-doubt (and our cultural obsession with “Likes”) are great. Thank you so much, I’ll be looking forward to next week’s podcast!

  22. Janelle says:

    Thanks for another week of inspirational thoughts while I work away. I closed the window. Then thought about your self doubt and the missed opportunity to give a boost to YOU today. I reopened said window and am commenting. I look forward to more of your design conversations.
    Taking the chance to send thanks to Tom for Design Cuts – a recent discovery on my part (any hope of a font collection sale of approved fonts!?) ; and to Lisa who’s work I adore. Looking forward to discovering more of what Ian and Dustin do b/c I haven’t heard of you prior to this show. And – now I feel just terrible b/c I don’t want to cause more self doubt either. Hmmm. I can’t win here can I? 😉
    Thanks for the inspiration. Three cheers to doing what you LOVE and feeds your heart and soul inspiration. I’ve taken the leap into the world of stationary design through minted at the moment, and find so much joy with that base of work than the freelance that’s been paying the bills.

  23. Eric says:

    Loved this podcast. Extremely timely…

  24. Karen says:

    The timing of your show is inspirational .I was just thinking this morning about how things were not coming together for me and trying to start a home business and then your show gives me so much more energy and joy .The four of you have inspired me and giving me some self-confidence and I cannot tell you or express my My thanks for your time on this show and everything you put into it. Thank you so very much for sharing the deepest part of your inspiration and sole.

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks so much for the amazing feedback Karen. Starting a home business is one of the scariest but most amazing decisions you can make, and we’re totally behind you with your venture :). I’m so glad this show was able to give you a little boost of joy, that’s more than we could ever ask for! Do keep us updated with how your new business takes off, and if you have any specific questions we can help to address for you, please let us know.

  25. Poonum says:

    Absolutely loved listening to this. Spot on. There’s so many of us that feel the same and feel like we’re the only ones. We’re not islands. Thank you for the honest chat! Was having a major self-doubt day today and this popped into my inbox. Big love! P

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks so much for your comment Poonum, I couldn’t have said it better myself :). Part of the reason we started these weekly calls was so that we could realise we weren’t the only ones going through this stuff. I think it’s important to realise that those self-doubting days are all part of the journey, and hopefully this episode gave you some ways to get through it, and realise how normal it is at the same time :). Thanks for listening!

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