The trouble of being your own customer

Being your own customer is a hazardous business. Your customers may have the utmost trust in your skills, but you yourself know what you are not able to do and what you lack. You see the other side of the coin that the customers are never meant to see.

There’s two kinds of mindsets that craftsmen in this situation will have. The first one is that of perfection, where not even the slightest error is tolerated and everything has to be 100% perfect. No less, no more. These minor errors do not really matter when you’re making something for the customer, as the customer won’t be seeing them. As an example from software side would be interesting bugs and coding errors that do not rise during normal gameplay and only are apparent through when looking at the code. However, video game players are known for finding coding errors out and pushing games to their limits. This kind of errors and mistakes do not appear in normal use, if even at all. Another example would be a chair you want to create for yourself. Here the chair would have the greatest carvings and the greatest comfort, but it begs the question whether or not it’s worth it all. However, the craftsman knows the errors he has made, and when you are in the perfectionist mindset you can’t allow yourself to create a product that would have any errors in the making. It’s not only stressful and taxing, but it distracts you from making products that matter, that is products for your actual customers.

The other mindset is that of… well, there really isn’t one proper word, let’s call it good-enough. In this mindset there are room for errors and mistakes, but the overall product excels as well as the perfectionist product, it just might look/sound less attractive. These errors might be called character flaws, if you will. Making a product this way is faster and gives you more time to work on actual customers’ wants and needs, as most of the you can most likely meet your own needs with the same products you’ve made for your customers.

Then we have the third option of being artistic and selfish in your doing. It serves nobody and can be dismissed as it is.

It’s important always to differentiate when you’re working on a product that your customers would want to have, and when you’re creating a product solely to appease your own wants. You can create a perfect chair for yourself, and most likely a lot of your customers would like to have this same chair in their house. Then we all realize that there’s shitloads of chairs out there and designing a new chair, while seen as some sort of epitome of designing, is completely and utterly useless. Chairs and other furniture gets redesigned multiple times per day and every season gets a new set of designs. While variety is important, all of these use the exact same approach as their predecessors, some to a more successful extent and that’s good. Then we have chairs that nobody ever would want.

There are industries that have become selfish. Game industry is infested with people who only want to make games that they want to play. That’s not being your own customer, that’s being artistic. That’s not being a craftsman, that’s being an idiot.

When you’re your own customer, you know your wants and needs very well, and you’re fulfilling those wants and needs. You can still be either artist or craftsman here. You can ignore what you really need and do what you want. Wants and needs do not necessarily meet, and ignoring needs before wants just doesn’t make good service. The Avengers movie met quite well needs and wants, and for me a little bit more because they had Thanos in the mid-credit scene.

If you’re going to be your own customer, remember to look outside the box at yourself. Do not think what you want outside the core idea, but what you need. You can go a long way just with that, and at some point the core idea has encompassed most of the product at such scale that you can listen your wants a little bit. Being your own customer is actually a delicate method of learning to listen and see beyond your actual customers, and failing at it will cause you to waver to the artists’ side, and this has, and always will, deliver products that only the maker wants, never the user. If you waver, the box you made yourself might looks nice, but the box has become something you can’t use.

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