Let’s get honest for a second. Not everything works out the way you plan.
And even being in business, I can attest that some of the projects I began working on ended before a finished project was produced.
While I will keep those project names hidden, I will share some lessons I learned from these projects that hopefully you can find some comfort and application from. If you find yourself in a similar situation.
After several months since these projects, I’ve been able to look at each situation and assess how I acted, what I should have addressed. And possible indicators that the client wasn’t ready to move forward.
I want these case studies to help you if you find yourself in a similar season with a few cancelled projects. Hopefully, these give you a look behind the curtain, that not every project goes over well. But take hope because there are always lessons to learn.
I was hired to design a brand for a business. I had my clients fill out a client questionnaire. We met on Zoom to review. Then I began working on their project.
Typically, I provide some examples to my clients. Then they can choose which elements I go forward with to build out the rest of their brand.
This project, however, started to go sideways, when the business didn’t know exactly what it wanted. They were unclear about their goal and vision. Which put me in a tough spot, since I cannot read minds.
The business was sharing feedback and inspiration, but not providing clear instructions. They would comment on liking the shape of an element from their inspiration. But not providing any solid feedback on elements I presented.
Because of their lack of communication and clarity, we parted ways. It was hard for me to part ways, as I was excited to work on their brand.
But after some reflection, I noticed that in the initial process, there were some things I overlooked that could have helped us succeed.
In this second case, I was hired to design some marketing collateral for an upcoming event. The company sought me out, asked for my pricing, signed my contract, and made the first payment—what I require in standard business practices.
As I was getting started on the work, I noticed that the company was not all on the same page. I was getting mixed messages from their team members. And when asked who needed to sign off the designs, I was told I could do it. This is not ideal, as the independent contractor should not be the final say on a client’s piece of work.
I designed the primary layouts and started to work on the social media graphics, which were approved by the team. Then the communication from the team stopped.
No one was responding to my inquiries. But they were still paying my invoices. I was at a standstill at work because no one was communicating to me what I needed to do.
Finally, someone reached out to me to let me know that they were going to go in a different direction. Ending our contract.
I was hurt, naturally, but looking back, I can see some areas of opportunity I should I have addressed earlier with the client.
This project started off amazingly. We had our discovery call, then I was hired on shortly after. The client and I were excited about the upcoming project.
I began as I usually do—providing a mood board based on the client questionnaire. The client LOVED the mood board.
Feeling confident in our direction, I set out to start some initial sketches and mock-ups.
I send the first round of mock-ups and the client wasn’t sold on any. Not to worry, I am here to help my clients, and sometimes I miss it. But having had the previous two case studies under my belt, I felt prepared to tackle this project. And come away with a stellar brand for my client.
I put together another round of mock-ups. Presented these. And they flopped.
At this point, I should have reached out to the client and had a phone call with them to talk about why these were not hitting the mark.
The client choose one design they could see potential in, and I began tweaking it. All to the client’s dissatisfaction. We ended up on a call and agreed to start over from ground zero.
The client provided some more inspiration. And I began working on new mock-ups similar to that.
Long story short, and LOTS of mock-ups later. The client decided to part ways.
While I’ve had a few projects fall through over my time in business, I’m happy to say that they are less common than the good ones.
I think it’s important to assess why projects failed and succeeded to help you become a better designer.
After every project, I review my process and ask the client to review me too. Asking them to be honest about the experience. The last thing I want is to have a client not happy with the end product and have that be hidden from me.
I’m grateful for these “failed” projects, as they provided amazing learning lessons for me. I was able to grow much more quickly because of these projects and I can now assess some projects beforehand. Usually to prevent another misunderstanding or termination.
I hope you can find this encouraging as you venture in your design journey. I’d love to support you if you’re walking through this season too. Pop into my DM’s on Instagram or email me. I’d be happy to chat about how you can avoid some mistakes I’ve made.
If you’re curious about completed projects that have gone well, check out my portfolio!