Mark Busse advises young designers to develop a set of rules for the kind of work that builds their reputations and their portfolios, and know when to decline.

My design firm, Industrial Brand, uses six criteria to identify ideal clients and evaluate prospects and opportunities, and as a result we probably end up declining more new work than we accept. Crazy right? Wrong.

It took about a decade to get comfortable saying “No” to prospective clients—truth be told, I’m still not entirely comfortable doing it—but we’re convinced that design professionals should know the kind of work they want to do, the type of firm or client they want to work for, and be willing to make a stand and walk away when the fit isn’t right.

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