Why Every Designer Needs a Margin of Safety: Preparing for the Unexpected


Today, let's dive into something often overlooked but absolutely crucial for anyone in the design world—having a "Margin of Safety." No, I'm not talking about the space around your design elements (although that's important too!). I'm talking about preparing for the unexpected in your professional life.

What is a Margin of Safety?

Originally a term from the investment world, a margin of safety is essentially a buffer or cushion that you keep for unforeseen circumstances. In the context of design, this could mean anything from having extra time to meet deadlines to financial reserves for dry spells to even mental space for creativity.

Having this cushion allows you to navigate the inevitable curveballs that come your way in the creative industry. Whether it's scope creep from a client, a technical mishap, or a personal emergency, a margin of safety gives you the capacity to handle the situation gracefully.

Why Do Designers Need It?

1. Creative Freedom 🎨

When you're not constantly stressed about deadlines or finances, you have the mental space to be truly creative. A margin of safety gives you the freedom to explore, experiment, and innovate without fear. This leads to bolder, more innovative design solutions.

2. Client Changes 🔄

We've all been there. You're almost done with a project, and the client decides they want something entirely different. Having a time buffer allows you to accommodate these changes without going into panic mode. You have room to create mockups, run them by the client, and refine them in an iterative process.

3. Technical Mishaps 💻

Ever had your software crash in the middle of a project and lose hours of work? Or maybe your hard drive decided to give up on life unexpectedly? These technical glitches are inevitable, and a margin of safety can be a total lifesaver. The extra time cushion minimises the stress of having to redo lost work.

4. Personal Emergencies 🚨

Life happens. Whether it's a health issue, a family emergency, or something else entirely, having a safety net ensures that your professional life doesn't completely fall apart when your personal life gets rocky. You have some flexibility to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

How to Build Your Margin of Safety

Time Management ⏰

Always allocate more time than you think you'll need for a project. This extra time cushion can be a lifesaver when things don't go as planned. Build in an extra 25–50% over your initial time estimates.

Financial Cushion 💰

Aim to have at least 3-6 months' worth of living expenses saved up. This can give you peace of mind and the ability to say no to projects that aren't a good fit. Financial reserves equal freedom.

Skill Diversification 🛠️

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. The more diverse your skill set, the more professional opportunities you'll have. This provides an additional layer of financial safety. Consider learning skills beyond just design—strategy, marketing, writing, etc.

Mental Well-being 🧘‍♀️

Don't forget to take care of yourself. Regular breaks, exercise, holiday time, and boundaries are essential for long-term creativity and productivity. You can't pour from an empty cup. Prioritise self-care.

Wrapping Up 🎁

Having a Margin of Safety is like having an insurance policy for your career and well-being. It's an investment in your future, offering both tangible and intangible benefits. So, don't wait for a crisis to realise its importance.

Start building your Margin of Safety today, and set yourself up for a more secure, creative, and fulfilling future.

Quick Links

  • This Week's Blog Post—Stay Humble, Stay Curious: Dive into the secret sauce for long-term success in freelancing. Learn why humility and curiosity are your best allies in a fast-paced, ever-changing industry.
  • New Shop Product—A5 Poster Sample Pack: Get a taste of my design style with a set of mini prints featuring three of my most popular designs.
  • Weekly Instagram Poster—Get inspired with my weekly design poster. Make sure to follow me for your weekly dose of creativity!

Thank you for reading!


Until next time, keep fortifying your safety nets and pushing creative boundaries! 🛠️🎨