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Start Thinking Like an Entrepreneur, Not a Designer

Start Thinking Like an Entrepreneur, Not a Designer

I used to consider myself a designer. Then I met real designers like Joe Cavazos and a few others – they have talent that made me want to give up that label.

Of course, that left me in a bit of a pickle. If I wasn’t a designer, what was I? Sure, I could design. But I didn’t have the finesse they did.

Fortunately, I discovered a better term that described me: entrepreneur. Sure, I still designed stuff. And I’m frankly pretty good at design. But this new term has changed the way I view myself and the way I view my work.

I’ve actually even started walking some of my design friends through this shift in thinking – away from being just a designer and toward being an entrepreneur. It involves a few key mental shifts that will change the way you work. I think it’ll ultimately lead to better work, especially if you work at a church.

Here are three subtle shifts I believe you should start making in the way you approach your job.

A Designer Gets Paid for their Time; an Entrepreneur Gets Paid for Their System.

I don’t mean to belittle the concept of design; it has huge value. But unfortunately, design isn’t all that different from producing a product. The product, of course, is your design. You create a design, sell it to the client or to the church, and you get paid. Or in many people’s cases, you get paid hourly to create as many products as you can.

Consequently, this approach turns the artist into a machine. What a way to kill the artistic spirit!

But entrepreneurs approach things differently. They understand that their value is not in their hours. It’s in the unique way they approach their work. They work on systems that will yield long-term results instead of just working each hour for the next level of pay. How’s your project management system? Can you improve your approach to creative briefs? What about your relationship with the client or your superior – can you spend more time developing that so it yields long-term benefit?

Your systems can provide more value than just your skill as a designer.

A Designer Works on the Project; an Entrepreneur Works on the Future.

A designer’s day will look pretty similar throughout their entire lifetime. Sure, they might get a promotion or two. But they’ll be designing every day of their life until they decide to change something.

Now, that’s an exciting prospect for a designer. Designers love to design. But at the same time, very few designers are happy where they are right now. Something needs to change. But what?

An entrepreneur will focus on the future instead of just the current project. Sure, the current project might take two hours. But is there a way the designer can add a bit more time to the project in order to yield long-term results?

For a designer, this might look like:

  • Spending time designing assets instead of just designing finished products.
  • Repurposing templates or previous work to create faster in the future.
  • Developing systems or volunteers or team-mates who can take the load off them.

A Designer’s Product is Design; an Entrepreneur’s Product is What the Team Produces.

Finally, what’s your product? The thing that gets added to your portfolio? That’s what a designer produces. But an entrepreneur isn’t as concerned with their role in the process. They contribute uniquely what they can contribute, which often won’t even be design.

Look at my project with my buddy Joe Cavazos: SundaySocial.tv. We design social media graphics for churches. But when people ask me my role in the project, they always assume I design. I have designed a few. But that’s not the real value I bring. I do everything I can to make Joe’s job as a designer easier. I curate the content. I help connect with what our customers will want. I help us contract out to other designers when we need – when the load is too big to bear. I provide an entrepreneurial, team voice to the project. So what Joe produces is what he designed. But I had a hand in it. It’s a team effort.

It’ll never go on my portfolio. But I produced it.

How could that look for you as a designer?

  • Maybe you design the bulk and hand it off to a volunteer to do the versioning.
  • Maybe you create assets that your volunteers use to make their own pieces.
  • Maybe you’re meant to lead a team of designers instead of doing the work yourself.

I’m not saying you need to stop designing. You are a designer. That’s what you’re good at. Embrace that. But maybe you need to start thinking a bit more like an entrepreneur in your role. Imagine where your job could be in a few years from now if you started thinking a bit more big-picture about your job.

About The Author

Jonathan Malm

Jonathan is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of "Created for More," a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind. You’ll find him in San Antonio, Texas, roasting his own coffee beans and enjoying life with his Argentine wife, Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanmalm.

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