10 Business Lessons For Interior Designers

Oct 09, 2022

As humans, we are hard-wired to protect ourselves. Which often means we hold back from going all in - whether that's with a friendship, a relationship or with our business. But unless you make a whole-hearted energetic commitment to your business you’ll only ever be dancing around what’s possible for you. The reason you're holding back is essentially fear that it might not work out. But you have to learn to check your fear and master it. There are those who wish for success - who sign up for a load of free information whilst telling themselves that 'one day' they'll get there. And there are those who walk with their fear and take bold action - whether that's getting themselves out there, investing in marketing, building relationships, investing in a coach or mentor. They build the life they want by being so committed to it that they're prepared to make moves, even when it feels scary


If you want clients that respect your boundaries and want a work life balance that feels nourishing and freeing then you have to do the work to set your boundaries, and have the courage to stick to them. Society has carved out an expectation that we will be giving, polite, obliging, accommodating - and often it means we find ourselves going along with things that drain our time & energy. Having the capacity to manage a growing business, as well as all the other roles you're holding in your life, requires you to requires you to establish boundaries that protect your energy. That cultivate your ability to think clearly, to come up with solutions, to be good with people. If we're exhausted and burned out then we're weary and frustrated - we stop having great relationships with people. We completely fall out of love with our business. It's vital that we keep our people-pleasing tendencies in check. Especially because so much of the work we're doing as designers is bespoke design work that can take months and if you let it drag on you can find yourself working endless hours and earning next to nothing. So we need to learn to say 'no'. A lot. And without guilt. As business owners, we are the source of our income. Every new client, every creative idea, every pound we generate flows from us and who we're being - every moment of every day.


Cashflow is the lifeblood of your business so pricing and selling your services correctly is essential. You need to be charging at a level where you can meet all your operating expenses, pay yourself a decent amount and put aside a % for profit that can be reinvested back into the business. And that means pricing based on the value that you deliver - your creative ideas, your ability to solve problems or to come up with something that is so uniquely beautiful and aligned to the transformation your client wants. If you’re selling your creativity and thinking by the hour you’re devaluing your highest offering and allowing your clients to ask “can you do it faster and will you give me some money back if you finish the work quicker?” You want to let your clients know that your pricing has nothing to do with the time it takes to deliver, and everything to do with the value they’re getting. If your prospective clients tell you your prices are too expensive, that’s fine, they’re not your ideal client. If we’re not losing jobs on price occasionally then we’re not charging enough. For your ideal client, your fee proposal is a no brainer.


There is nothing that puts you on the feast to famine roller coaster more than getting your head down into your design work, and completely neglecting any marketing and selling activity. You have to market and sell your services every single day. This is what gives you consistency in leads and new enquiries coming into your business. So you're not coming to the end of one project and then having to anxiously hunt for the next one. And you're able to be selective about the projects you take on because you have more choice. When you're clear on what you do, how you do it, and who you're here to serve, your marketing and selling becomes easy. If you don't know where to start then check out my foundational business program for interior design professionals, Aligned For Growth, because I can guarantee you that it's something you have to master if you want your business to succeed.


There is no such thing as a free lunch. The content that people put out for free will let you know WHY you need to do something and may give you a taste of what working with that business or individual will be like. Free content will not give you a perfect strategy with all the answers and the motivation to execute on it, all tied up with a bow ready for you to implement in your business. That's what you pay for. Believing that you can piece your business together on free stuff you see on the internet will only get you bogged down and overwhelmed, and wondering why others are so much further ahead than you. It's because they paid to get support. You can spend years searching for free stuff when instead you could have got focused, been courageous and invested in growing your business. There's always a cost - you get to choose the currency


As the CEO of your business. One of your main responsibilities is to know your numbers. You need to know how much money is coming in. You need to know how much money is going out. And if you want to grow your business you have to create some goals around what you want that growth to look like. Then you need to start breaking it down and working out what steps you're going to have to take in order to hit those goals. Knowing your numbers moves you from pricing by basically sticking your finger in the air and guessing or understanding clearly how much it costs to run your business, how much you would like to pay yourself, how many clients you can serve at any one time, and building it up from there. That's what's going to inform how much you need to be charging your clients and whether you're going to ever get to that elusive place of "earning more money".


If you don't know what your goal is - if you don't know what you want - then how will you ever know when you get there? This is what creates this perpetual feeling of lack, of not having enough, because we don't set a goal so the idea of more money, more freedom, more success is always out of reach because we haven't put any marker in the sand to say "I want to earn 100,000 this year, or I want to hit a million turnover or I want to be in the top 100 interior designers". Once you set the goal, then you can start asking yourself better questions: What do I have to do to achieve this? What are the steps I need to take every week to get there? You can create indicators of success, like every month how much money has come into the business? You can see clearly where you against where you desire to be. If you want to have more recognition for your work, what small steps can you be taking to make that happen? What conversations are you having with journalists? When are you scheduling in photoshoots of your work? Without goals you just meander along, never really knowing if what you're doing is working and never really having any idea whether you've got there.


In every business but especially in a labour intensive business like interior design, there comes a point where you realise you can't do it all. You're either fed up of the amount of admin you're doing or unable to take on any more work because you're already way past your capacity. You need to recognise where your strengths lie and where you're doing things (usually through a combination of fear and perfectionism) that somebody else could do just about as well. You need to outsource. That means pricing in a way that allows you the space in your budget and then hiring somebody brilliant so that you can focus your energy on the $1000 tasks, like converting fabulous enquiries into premium-paying clients.


Friends, it's the 21st century, we need to move on from scrappy bits of paper and Excel spreadsheets. There are so many brilliant interior design business software's out there, as well as project management, accounting, scheduling, file storage, email marketing - you name it, there is a great piece of software out there that not only is going to save you from a load of tedious admin, but is going to make your business so much more efficient. You're not writing out the same email again and again. You're not starting from scratch every time you brief a new intern. If you don't know or understand the tech then find someone who does.


When you're growing a business you need to be surrounded by people who are cheering you on. It is hard enough overcoming your own self doubt - the last thing you need is people around you who are pouring fuel on the flames of your anxiety. You are an amazing, inspiring, creative entrepreneur and you need to be surrounded by people who see that. People who brim with positivity, delight in your success and know how to lift you up when you're having a wobble. People who know how hard it is running a business but are possessed with a can do mentality and are going to cheer you on at every step.


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Katy x

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