The One Thing You Need to Be a Successful Web Designer

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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What makes someone destined to become a truly successful web designer?

I get asked that question a lot. People are trying to figure out if there’s some secret they can tap into that will help them know whether it’s worth it to pursue web design as a career.

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. There’s no special button to press or silver bullet to shoot that will give you that answer.

The Personality Type That Makes Somone a Good Web Designer

Have you ever taken a personality test?

I have. I love them.

On the Meyer’s Brigg’s test I’m an ENFJ.

My Enneagram is an 8 with a wing 7.

My top five strengths in Clifton’s Strength’s finders are

  1. Restorative
  2. Ideation
  3. Empathy
  4. Competition
  5. Command

While these tests can be helpful when it comes to self-awareness or even understanding other people, they can also be a bit dangerous.

If you’re not careful they can create some limiting beliefs about who you are and what you are or aren’t good at.

People often ask or hint at there being some type of trait or skill that is innate in a person that predicts whether or not they’ll be a successful web designer.

And, I get it. To a certain extent, we are conditioned to believe that in order to be good at something you either have it or you don’t.

The One Thing You Need to Be a Successful Web Designer

But, the older I get and the more I see people with all sorts of different personalities and traits become amazing web designers the more I understand.

There’s really only one thing that determines whether or not someone will make it as a web designer.

Want to know what it is? Don’t hold your breath. It’s not earth-shattering.


It’s that inner grit that keeps you going when you’re super frustrated that it’s taken you hours to figure out how to do something that an online tutorial told you should only take minutes.

It’s getting back up when you’ve been knocked down and rejected by a potential client again and again.

That’s the only thing that determines whether or not you can make it as a web designer.

I know that’s hard to believe. Because so often we’re fed a line about how YOU NEED some product to lose weight or be more successful.

But, just like most things in life making a big change in any area of your life doesn’t take some “new secret formula that scientists only recently discovered.”

It just takes a willingness to keep going despite a great deal of frustration and set back.

The Good & Bad News

That’s horrible and great news.

It’s horrible because if there’s something in your life that you’re not happy with more than likely, it’s your fault.

That’s great because if you want that to change you have the ability to do it.

So, then the question becomes how do you stay motivated?

How do you keep going after you’ve tried and tried but just can’t seem to breakthrough?

How do you stay positive when you make resolution after resolution to start a web design side-hustle but keep getting distracted with other things in life.

Here are a few things that I have found help me stay motivated and keep going.

1. Know Your Why

I know this can seem cliche. It does to me at least.

After Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” Ted Talk came out I feel like everyone seems to have gotten on the bandwagon.

But, here’s the thing. You have to have some core reason that motivates you to keep getting back up after you’ve been knocked down. AND, it has to be bigger than yourself.

If I’m losing weight just for me then it won’t be long before I start deciding I don’t want it bad enough.

If I’m losing weight because I want to be healthy and live a long life so I can be sure to be around to take care of my kids and my kid’s kids and maybe even my kid’s kid’s kids then that’s something that might help me to keep going when I’m desperate for a donut.

I started learning web design first to try and save my marriage. Then it became a way to make sure I could provide for my kids.

One of my favorite movies is “The Cinderella Man.” In it, we follow the story of the boxer James J. Braddock.

In short, Braddock had to trade his boxing career for working on the docks as a longshoreman after a lost title match and series of bad fights.

A few years later he’s given a shot to fight again and this time makes it all the way to the title fight and wins.

In the movie, when asked what he’s fighting for by reporters his response is, “Milk.”

The reason why he was able to rise from humility and win the title wasn’t because of ego or self-fame. It was because he had to provide for his family.

His “why” helped him get through the struggle and make it all the way to the finish line.

And, that’s what your why can help you do, too.

2. Think Ahead

Inevitably, you’ll reach places on your journey to becoming a successful web designer that you’ll lose motivation.

It happens to everyone no matter how much they’re internally motivated.

One of the best ways to keep going when that happens is to already have thought about what you’re going to do before the moment even gets there.

It’s a fun little practice called “if….then.”

You can do it for just about anything.

Trying to lose weight?

IF I come to work and a co-worker has brought a box of donuts THEN I’ll have some carrots and hummus instead.”

Trying to save money?

IF I see something I want to buy that I haven’t planned for THEN I’ll put it in my budget for next month.”

You get the idea right?

You’re trying to think of as many scenarios that will keep you from being a successful web designer.

Things like being too tired after you put the kids to sleep to work?

IF I’m tired when it’s time to start working on web design THEN I’ll take a 15-minute break and keep going afterward.”

Or what about hanging out with friends rather than working?

IF I get invited to hang out but need to work instead THEN I’ll set up a time, later on, to hang out when I don’t have as much work.”

You’re not trying to keep all fun out of your life. You’re just trying to make sure it’s calculated and doesn’t throw your plans out of whack for becoming a successful web designer.

3. Learn to Love It

I’m convinced that no matter what the job is you can learn to love it if you have the right perspective.

One of my favorite documentaries is called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”

You can watch it on Netflix if you have it.

The documentary follows the 85-year sushi master Jiro Ono who owns a 3-star Michelin-rated sushi restaurant where the minimum amount to dine is $270 and takes months to get a reservation.

Despite having made sushi for over 60 years and despite being the highest regarded sushi chef in the world, Jiro is passionate about perfecting his craft.

Why? Because he learned to love every part of it.

The mundane part, the part that no one sees or cares about.

He was somehow able to find great purpose in every detail of what he did.

It’s inspiring to me.

I think learning to love something takes two things:

  1. Right Perspective
  2. Gratitude

With the right perspective, you’re able to see the ways you can love things that others might pass up easily. It doesn’t matter what kind of work it might be.

I’ve found whether or not you enjoy the work you do has a lot less to do with the work itself and a lot more to do with how you’re looking at it.

A lack of gratitude will make you dislike just about anything. Look at people that have endless amounts of money but have no gratitude.

They could have anything in the world that they want BUT they’re still dissatisfied because they lack thankfulness.

So, take a second and think about a reason why you might love web design or the clients you get to work with and then express some gratitude for it.

4. Find Good Rhythms

Rhythms are a normal part of life.

The sun comes up and the sun goes down.

The world spins around the sun at a certain speed over and over again.

The same has to be true for you in order to stay motivated as a web designer.

You have to have moments when you’re deeply enthralled in your work and moments when you’re resting or playing.

If not then it’s tough to keep going.

It’s like having a super strict diet. You can do it for a little bit but eventually, you’re gonna fall off the wagon and you’ll probably fall hard.

So, be intentional with your schedule.

Make sure you’re setting aside time for rest AND stick to the times that you’ve devoted to working on web design.

If you leave your schedule up to chance or up to whatever is most important at the moment then inevitably you won’t spend your time on what you want to spend it on.

5. Give Yourself Grace

Failure is inevitable when you’re trying to do something new.

You read that right.

You’re going to fail.

And, it’s going to hurt.

The important difference between people who become successful web designers and people that don’t is how long they keep going.

And, when you have a loud internal critic that pummels you every time you make a mistake or spend too much time watching Netflix rather than working on web design, it’s going to be super tough to keep going.

Psychologists say that we have anywhere from 11,000 to 20,000 internal thoughts per day.

Of those thoughts about 80% are negative.

One sure-fire way to demotivate yourself is to allow your thought life to stay negative.

You have to go easy on yourself in order to keep going.

That doesn’t mean you ignore those thoughts. But, it does mean you learn to replace the negative thoughts with truth.

In the church world, we call this “taking our thoughts captive.”

In short, you acknowledge the thought is there, speak the truth and move on.

For example, let’s say I’m frustrated because I should be much further along in my web design career in comparison to other people around me.

I would acknowledge the thought and then think something like: “I may not be where they are BUT I’m way further along than I was 4 years ago. At this pace, it’s only a matter of time until I get there.”

This is different than the “positive self-talk,” psychology that’s pretty much been debunked.

Why? Because you’re not ignoring something that’s right in front of you. You’re not pretending you don’t have limitations. You’re just putting them in their right place.

6. Find Your Cheering Section

I heard Dan Pena say “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

It sounds cliche but there is some truth to it.

You need people around you that are going to encourage you when you are down and help bring you perspective when you feel like giving up.

And, guess what, those people will most likely not just fall in your lap. You’ve got to go looking for them.

Unfortunately, the process of finding those people is pretty tough. And, a lot of people give up before they do because making new friends is awkward!

There’s dead silence in the middle of a conversation. There’s forgetting someone’s name OR someone forgetting your name that you’ve met dozens of times.

So, you’ve got to be willing to push past those things and just keep showing up.

Trust me, it gets better. But, it won’t if you cut off the relationship prematurely.

So, reach out to someone on insta. Go to a meetup in your community.

Try to find a group of folks that are doing the same thing you are and just show up and be present.

Don’t come with a big cardboard sign that says, “Looking for a new best friend.”

Just be there and figure out how you can be helpful. Do that long enough and you’ll find your cheering section.

6. Be Careful How You Compare

In my opinion, comparison has gotten a bad wrap.

Good ole Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” But, that’s only KIND OF true.

We need comparison in our lives. After all, how do I know if what I making is any good if I don’t compare it to other people’s stuff?

The world needs standards, ya’ll. And without comparison, we don’t have standards.

BUT, here’s where it gets tricky.

If you’re comparing yourself to someone else and get discouraged, you’re doing it wrong.

When that happens it means you’re associating the things you DO with your VALUE as a person.

AND, I’ve got good news for you, your worth has absolutely NOTHING to do with what you are able to produce.

You are perfectly loved and appreciated just how you are even if you don’t do or make another good thing in your life?

I know that to be true because I know a God who came down in human form, died on a cross, and was resurrected 3 days later just for the chance to get to know you.

And, some of you are probably thinking, “Don’t start with that stuff, Chris.” But, Easter was just this last weekend before I worked on this post so I gotta talk about it.

In all seriousness, you are worth way more than what you do.

AND, when you realize that and compare yourself to the work other people have done it becomes much less of an attack on your value as a person and much more fuel to keep going and keep pushing.

PLUS, and maybe this is the elephant in the room, but everyone is at a different stage in life. I love this quote from a book called “Range” by David Epstein:

“Compare yourself to yourself yesterday. Not to younger people who aren’t you. Everyone progresses at a different rate. So don’t let anyone else make you feel behind

You probably don’t even know where exactly you’re going. So feeling behind doesn’t help.”

The One Thing You Need to Be a Successful Web Designer

One thing I always tell myself is “if you don’t quit, you win.”

Listen, I know there’s more to success than to just keep going.

There have been entire sections of huge libraries written about how to find success.

But, most of the time I don’t need help with those things. I need help sticking with it and not giving up because it’s so easy to get discouraged and just quit.

So, I’ve had to find ways to stay internally motivated in my toughest seasons.

Experiencing breakthroughs in any area of life isn’t easy BUT it’s well worth it.

So, if you find yourself in the middle of your journey as a web designer and need a bit of motivation let me help:

You’ve got this. Don’t give up. Just keep going.

The one thing you need to be a successful web designer| a man walking down a rainy road


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



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