Top 10 Tips for Building a Strong Interior Design Business

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Building a Strong Foundation is Critical to your Future as an Interior Designer.​

Interior Designer working with a client
I think being an Interior Designer is one of the greatest careers

​​The number one mistake entrepreneurs make is mismanaging their time.
As I coached these designers in building a strong and profitable business of their own, I noticed that they struggled with which actions to tackle first.

Even though my systems are laid out in a specific order, they were choosing to act upon only those which they felt most comfortable tackling.  Even though they were technically doing what I had suggested, they weren’t grasping why I suggested what I suggested and why the order was so important.

I needed a way to demonstrate the importance of the “system”, and to get through to them why they needed to focus their time and energy on certain areas of their business, even though it didn’t appear to make a difference what area they focused on.

I also needed them to understand that these steps were important to their survival.  Just as if they were fighting for their life, they were fighting for the life of their dream.

So what is the most important step to take first?  Let me tell you, the first and most important thing you must do isn’t to set up vendor accounts, or advertise, or have business cards printed, or even to find your first client. Clock Sketch by Chelsea Coryell

​Those steps will of course get you started as a designer and are incredibly important, but they’re not where you need to start.

I want to help you to build a business and a reputation that you’ll be proud of and that will bring you true continued success.  I’m sure you would guess that finding clients is at the top of the list, but do you know how to find quality clients in a way that will bring you consistent income and career security?

I’m going to provide you with the specific steps you should take to build the design business of your dreams, and it will lay out for you the areas of concentration necessary to create a solid and sound foundation for a business that will bring you lucrative success year after year.​

​​​​​​​​​​​​This is the Business Success Check-list that I share with all of my private coaching clients.  It’s a great framework for building your foundation.

When it comes to building a design business, regardless of how big or how small your endeavor may be:​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

  • Don’t make things harder than they need to be.
  • Have your systems in place: for scheduling your clients, your first house call walk-through, your “Commitment talk”, your follow up appointments, and of course your presentations.  You need to know exactly how you’re going to handle each of these situations First!  It will save you hours and hours of headaches and heartaches, I promise.​
  • Be strong, make a commitment to succeed, and get pumped up!  Use this new knowledge and motivation to build-up a powerful momentum and get started right away.
  • Know what your ultimate goals are, and what you want to achieve with your life. Make sure your goals Big, Clear, and Visible.
  • Be clear with yourself about the type of designer you want to be.  Are you a product driven designer or a consultation type?  Do you feel more comfortable simply re-designing or do you want to work with a contractor and go all out design?  There’s great money no matter where you specialize, so be honest with yourself, have a plan, and commit.
  • Understand what type of clients you want to work with. Know who is searching for you, and who it is you want to attract. ​
  • Find simple yet consistent streams of fresh clients.  Where can you find large pools of these people, and how will you collect them?
  • Take care of your clients, and value them as the lifesaving treasures they are.  Make a commitment to work with integrity, be honest and open, and understand that you are really helping them to create their own dream space, not yours. ​
  • You need to have an office or a workspace specifically designated to your business.  Not only do you need a place to keep your paperwork organized and easily accessed, it will help you feel like the talented professional that you are.​
  • You need to have a business website that’s clear, informational, beautiful, and ad free. Somewhere that’s easy for your clients to find you and SEO friendly.​ Create a space that reflects your design style and abilities.​
  • Have it linked to Facebook, Twitter, design blogs, designer referral lists.
  • Make sure your website is professional looking, even if you design it yourself (unless you’re extremely proficient, get some help).
  • ​Know where you’re going to get your resources.  Do you plan to shop locally or are you going to custom order one of a kind pieces?  Both have their ups and downs, and of course your income streams will need to be adjusted to maintain your income.
  • What is your follow-up and referral program?  This is key to keep your business flowing and growing.

In a nutshell, keep it simple…remember your goals…and understand that you are “building” your business and this doesn’t happen overnight.  Just because your business isn’t up to full steam yet, doesn’t mean you aren’t going to make incredible money.

To learn more principles for building a successful and lasting interior design business that you love, check out my “Interior Design Business Survival Guide: Stop Wasting Time and Make Money Now!” Best part?  It’s less than $30!

Can you be an Interior Designer?

interior designer color board
Interior Designers create color boards and designs like this for their designing clients.

Here’s a question for you.  Are you a frequent visitor to design blogs?  Do you love sifting through home décor magazines while you wait in the checkout line?  Would you rather find a great deal on a fantastic lamp or retro chair than a new outfit?  Then you should consider Designing for a Living.  It’s not as difficult as most people think.

I’ve been a designer for more than 20 years and I absolutely love my job!  What’s not to love?  I get to work with great clients who need my help.  Every day I’m surrounded by beautiful things, and I get to create beautiful spaces for people to live in.  I make great money and I have the freedom to set my own hours and work as much, or as little as I want.  Sounds perfect huh?

So why isn’t every design aficionado doing this?  I think it’s because there are a lot of myths about what it takes to become a designer, and even a few scare tactics circling around out there.   I understand the arguments, but the problem is you really only hear one side of the issue.

If everyone who had a knack for design could go out and tell people to knock down walls or make changes to their electrical system, we would have some serious problems on our hands.  Design school teaches those details like structural integrity, drafting, construction documents, and what the flammability rating on textiles mean.  It would be a disaster if just anyone could advertise themselves as an Interior Designer alongside licensed and degreed designers.

With that being said, not everyone wants to take on that kind of responsibility or liability.  This group I’m talking about simply wants to create beautiful spaces for people who need their help, and be paid handsomely for their talents.  As long as they’re honest and upfront about what services they offer when finding new clients, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that business model.

The sad truth is I see more design school graduates failing because they learned how to design in college but they never learned how to be a designer.

Most design schools teach how to draw a detail elevation but fail to explain how to fill out a P.O. or how to bill your clients for your time without being taken advantage of.  Schools teach you everything about furniture history, and nothing about customer service.  I haven’t ever heard of a class on overcoming objections in a presentation without losing your patience, or how to handle the, “nosy neighbor” who decided to tag along with her friend unexpectedly.

These are the obstacles that bring down a talented designer.  Designers don’t fail because they can’t create a beautiful room.  They fail because they’ve never learned how to make a living doing what they’re good at, designing.

If you really want to design for a living, there are a few paths you can take to a fantastic and highly lucrative career.  Maybe you don’t have the time or money to go to design school, but you CAN be an amazing decorator and have a successful business helping people design their dream space.

Find your talent and build off of it.  You might be a color specialist or a home stager for people selling their homes.  You could take some classes in Feng Shui and help people improve their Chi.   I know a designer who specializes in children’s bedrooms.  She loves her business and she gets to stretch the limits of her creativity every day.  Best of all, she gets paid to have fun and help people.

Interior Design is an art form.  I believe it’s a God-given talent that not everyone is blessed with, but one that everyone needs at some point in their life.  If you have the talent and drive, then do what you love and Design for a Living.

If you’re interested in a Quick-Start Guide to starting your own design business, you should check out this awesome eBook here.  It’s so simple, anyone with the passion can have their own business up and making people happy (and making money) within days.  I promise!  Check it out…

Building a Stronger Interior Design Business VS Starting Your First Design Business, Now You Decide

I’ve changed everything!  Yes I’ve completely re designed my website (sorry I’ve been out of touch this past week but I was a little busy!)  Not only is it a fresh new look but I’ve decided to shake things up a bit by splitting my company in half!Everyone LOVES my bootcamp.  The compliments, and rave reviews have been amazing. But there has always been one huge problem.  I’ve tried to cram so much information into one big program, but one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

For the designers who’ve been designing for a while and just wanted to strengthen their business, the beginning of the program was too basic.

For those building their first design business, the first three sessions were incredibly useful but the last half of the course was too much too soon.  (Thank goodness the sessions are recorded because these designers needed to go back and re-watch the last 4 sessions after they’d been designing for a while.)

That’s when I teach about how to place orders so you’re not stuck with furniture you don’t need, and how to control your projects efficiently so your clients don’t suck the life out of you.  It doesn’t really make sense until you’ve lived through the experience. (But those who have, understand what I’m talking about right?)

So what does this mean to you?

Well, I have some AMAZING news!

Not only have I split my coaching into those who want to strengthen and those who want to start an interior design business.  But I’ve priced two of my most powerful and concentrated/l

“Get it Done NOW!” Programs Under $30!  Check it out here…

Yep.  Now you can get your business supercharged quickly, and then grab a seat into my upcoming and BRAND NEW Training course, “How to Build a Durable Design Business”.  (I’ll tell you all about it later so keep an eye out.thumbnail stronger

Interior Designers Walking Through Their Latest Design Project

If you love interior design and you want to learn the tricks to building an awesome design business, then you’re going to love this video.

It occurred to me that while most of us enjoy looking at pictures of beautiful, finished design projects on Houzz or Pinterest, it won’t help those people who aren’t yet living the dream.  What we should be sharing is the behind the scenes details of what it’s really like to work with a design client.  So this video does just that.

Interior Designers Chelsea Coryell and Erin Zacharda walk you through their latest kitchen and living room remodeling project in Seattle.  You’ll hear a little bit about how we came to find the client (or how she found us) and exactly how we went about taking charge of her project.

Let me know what you think and if you want more videos like this.  It was fun to make.

I Present My Secret Ingredient for Success!

Interior Designer Presentation with Board and Decor Samples
Presentations can still WOW your clients into saying “I love it, it’s perfect, when can we start?”

I wonder how many Interior Designers still use formal presentations to close their designs?  I hear it all the time:  “They take too much time.”, “They don’t really make a difference to my clients.”, “Who has the money to spend on materials?”

Well personally, presentations have been my Magic Tool for closing 98% of my designs on the first try.  What does that mean to my design business?  Objections and unhappy clients are practically non-existent, and I rarely have to waste time re-working my designs.  I get paid that much faster, and of course happy clients means more referrals a bigger client list.

If you think of it that way, an hour or two creating a spectacular presentation is a small price to pay for peace of mind and a stronger business.

Finished living room by interior designer
The final product.

I’d love to see how others present their designs.  Please share your stories and your pictures.  Let’s bring back one of the dying arts of the Interior Design Profession.

Are You Ready to Design Your Dream Design Business?

You won’t want to miss this free training video. I’m sharing my secrets to building a 6 figure design business of your own, and I’m announcing my BRAND NEW Virtual Bootcamp. It starts on Thursday, so help me spread the word.