16 Things I’ve Learned after 16 Years in Business

It’s hard to believe, but Weiher Creative turned 16 on January 1—time flies when you’re doing what you love (most of the time, at least!). As the new year gets underway, I’m really feeling comfortable in my own business and have been reflecting about some of the lessons I’ve learned since striking out on my own (often the hard way).

1.     Self care is important. I used to think that 3AM was a reasonable bedtime, and massages were a luxury I didn’t have time for. As I’ve gotten older (and thanks to my early-bird kiddo), I just can’t function without a good night’s sleep and an earlier bedtime. And despite my better efforts, I do sit at my desk an awful lot each day, so those monthly massages get out the kinks and my trusty treadmill desk keeps me moving.

2.     The best ideas come in unexpected ways. Sometimes inspiration for a project strikes naturally, and other times it feels like pulling teeth to come up with anything creative. I find at those times, taking a break or letting it sit in the back of my mind for a while really helps…when the inspiration is ready, it’ll come (and usually in the shower, or in bed just as I’m about to fall asleep).

3.     Lessons learned always cost money. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is. From project mistakes to communication issues, the biggest lessons I’ve learned always cost me money in one way or another. On the flip side, I learned well from each of those and haven’t made them again. 

4.     Communication is key. Whether scoping out a new project, getting feedback from a client or working with a vendor, good communication is a must. So many issues can be avoided simply by talking and being clear about what is needed to get everyone on the same page.

5.     Relationships matter. 2020 in particular was a great reminder of just how important good relationships are. The pandemic forced most of us to pivot on a dime and find new ways of doing things, and having good relationships made that so much easier to tackle and get through together.   

6.     Good vendors are a prized possession. At some point in any given project, anything can go wrong. A trusted vendor will be willing and able help you fix it. Every time.

7.     Be your authentic self and your people will follow. I have found over the years that the people who have worked with me the longest are the people that I connect with on a personal level. They might not know what my favorite ice cream is, and we might never have met in person, but we enjoy working together and can be honest with each other.

8.     Design is subjective and not personal. This one was hard to learn, but so worth it. Even though the work I do comes from a creative place, it’s not ME. If a client doesn’t love the first draft, it has nothing to do with me personally—it’s just about the artwork. And sometimes (thankfully, rarely) a design that I absolutely love lands with a thud on the client end…it just wasn’t the right solution for that person at that time, and we try again.

9.     Work is work, but it shouldn’t be miserable. Even the best job in the world isn’t great all the time—it’s still a job. But even on my worst days, it’s still the only thing I want to do.

10.   Good help is worth the money. There are lots of tasks I can do myself, but there are only so many hours in the day, and only so many things I can (or want to) be good at. Paying to outsource things like bookkeeping to someone who really knows what she’s doing is worth every penny and saves me a ton of time and frustration.

11.   Business skills matter. Designing is the fun, shiny part of what I do, but underneath that there is a business to run. And without that, the design part goes away. I’ve been fortunate to have some great teachers and mentors over the years to show me how to run a small business as painlessly as possible.

12.   Persistence pays off. Whenever I’m stumped on a project or stuck on my marketing and feel like I’m shouting into the void, I just have to keep at it and put one foot in front of the other (or one mouse click before the next, as it were). Luck is hard work in disguise.

13.   If something isn’t working, including a relationship, let it go. Life is short, and getting rid of things that aren’t working makes room for things that will.

14.   Red flags are worth paying attention to. If a situation doesn’t feel right in your gut, pay attention to it. That feeling is there for a reason, even if you never find out why.

15.   Great clients and colleagues are priceless. Find the people you love to work with, who love you back, and hold onto them.

16.   Get advice from people who know their stuff. Whether I need help with a design or business issue I’ve never encountered before, or need to find a contractor with skills I don’t have, my network is invaluable. I can’t know everything, and knowing who to ask saves me a ton of time and gives me a leg up.

What are some of the most valuable business or career lessons you’ve learned along the way? I’d love to hear about them!

Good Design Saves You Time and Frustration   

If you’re curious how your day-to-day could be improved with design help, be sure to check out the ways a graphic designer improves your work-life balance. I think you’ll be surprised at all the tasks a designer can take on.