Career Advice
May 17, 2022

Mistakes I made being the only designer when starting out

Mistakes I made being the only designer when starting out

Mistakes I made being the only designer when starting out

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As more and more fresh UX graduates get out of bootcamp, you’re eager for real-life projects and no more design challenges or design popular products. I was one of them who jumped into a solo designer role in a startup as I was starting out, and here are a few mistakes I made on the way, learning it the hard way. I hope this article will help you out so you don’t have to experience that :)

1. Not shutting your inner demons.

Junior designers have a ton of self-doubt. The constant “what makes me qualify to do this” or “I don’t know what I’m doing” will rise as you go through your journey.

Remember that your company hired you because they see something in you and your work. Trust them and believe in yourself. More ways that will make it worse for you are by:

2. Not seeking help outside your work

Being a solo designer is tiring, no one understands you, or advocates for you. When I started out, my PM didn’t have any design background or any knowledge of the process. It was definitely challenging, but now you can find mentors or people that understand you! With platforms like ADPlist or DMing senior designers on Twitter, people are there to help you out. I didn’t have any of this when starting out and definitely wished it existed then.

3. Not asking questions

As a junior designer, it was challenging for me to raise questions in a room full of stakeholders. It took me a lot of practice to dig deep into solving the right problems. If you have a manager, consider talking to them first to find out as much as you can. This will also depend on what kind of company or product you’re building. Know that it’s okay to ask more questions than not at all

4. Not communicating expectations

When I started out, I used to say yes to everything the client asked me to and then struggled to meet the deadlines or underdeliver. Narrowing down the project and tasks into something manageable (not “delivering an MVP within 2 weeks” kind of promise). Whatever you think will take you 6 hours, double that. Remember, it’s better to communicate expectations before and finish it early than to do the opposite.

5. Not engaging in design community or meetups

Being a solo designer is quite lonely, seek out your tribe online or if you’re in a city, join a meetup to connect with like-minded people. They definitely kept my spirits high and helped me out during imposter syndrome and burned out.

Last but not the least:

6. Not making friends with your co-worker

I don’t know about you, but that was a challenging one in a remote setting for me. Making that one friend, either from engineers, your manager, or one of the stakeholders, will save you when you’re presenting your design decisions. With engineers, they will be the ones improving the UI detail that was missed out during delivery. With the marketing team, they will help you with updating the outdated designs on your marketing website.

I hope this article will help you in finding your way into the product design world as a solo designer! Good luck.