How To Uplevel Your Design Business, One New Client At A TimeJan 13, 2023
When I ran my interior design studio, my business partner (who had 20 years experience as a senior designer) used to say “on every project we learn something new”. And she was right.
No matter how experienced a designer you are or how many years you’ve been in business, the nature of this work means you never stop learning.
Whether that’s about construction, new technology, suppliers, ways of solving a problem, a new type of tricky client… There are lessons every time.
So when we come to the end of a project, let’s not simply wash our hands of it and move on. We want to absorb the learnings and take them forward into the next project, so that we’re bettering our business one new client at a time.
Because ‘success’ doesn’t suddenly happen magically overnight.
Whether it’s a certain level of income, or a certain amount of creative freedom, or the types of clients you’re doing work for - whatever your definition of success, the surest way to get there is by uplevelling your business with every new project you take on. Treating every job as a step closer to the studio you hold in your vision when you think about ‘success’.
And the opposite is also true. If you’re not consciously uplevelling with every project… If every client you take on does not represent a step toward your vision… then it’s a step down the ladder of success and a move away from the vision you’ve been holding.
Every unideal client and ‘too low’ fee is taking up your time, denting your profits and making it less likely you’ll ever get there.
You need to draw a line in the sand and declare that you’re no longer going to settle for anything other than that which aligns with your version of success.
That from today you’re committing to a new standard of client, pricing and team.
You need to look at how you’re showing up in your marketing and selling.
If you’re blindly copying what others are doing your audience will feel the lack of authenticity and it will leave them cold. BE REAL.
If you position yourself as desperate and eager to please then this is how the client will see you forevermore. Goodbye boundaries.
It’s time to show up as the empowered expert who knows the value of what they do.
Engage in any new enquiry with genuine inquisitiveness for whether this will be a good fit for you. Look out for red flags. Ask direct questions about budget and their aesthetic preferences. Question whether they’ve worked with a designer before and how that worked out for them.
The energy you bring to the first interaction is what sets the tone for the whole rest of the engagement.
The way you are currently pricing your projects is reflective of a lot of past experiences - what you learned about money when you were young. How you were told to calculate your rate when you started your business. What your friend, the designer down the road, is charging for their services. What Google told you. What it felt like when you were told “you’re too expensive”. Your confidence in your own experience. And so on.
Now, there’s a lot I could say about how to price your services but I’m going to keep it simple. If you want to scale your income the fastest way of doing it is to raise your prices.
It’s time to untether your fees from how long you think it might take you do to the work, or what your competitors are charging, or what you learned on YouTube. It’s time to uplevel your money mindset and price the value you are creating (by the way I’ve never come across a designer whose pricing actually overcharges for the value they are providing).
Oh and guess what? When you charge higher prices you create even more value for the client because you’re no longer running around like a headless chicken - your higher fees are allowing you to improve the quality of your service exponentially. It’s a win win.
So decide now. As of today, new clients equal new fees. Higher fees.
Stop convincing clients to work with you. Stop doing numerous site meetings before they’ve paid you to. Stop sending lengthy emails justifying your fee. Stop over-investing your time, money and emotions in a proposal.
Get clear on your sales process. Let your marketing do the heavy lifting. Ditch the massive fee proposal document where you offer creative solutions just to persuade them of how amazing you are and why they should hire you. BE COOL.
Adopt the mindset and behaviour of an empowered expert. Show your client how you are the solution to their problem. Price what it’s worth to them to have you on their project. State your fee and don’t waver.
This year, build the business you really want.
One client, one project, one step at a time.
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