Running your own interior design business can be overwhelming even for experienced designers. You have to run to and from your client’s house, shop for the perfect furniture for the project, manage the ordering, shipping, delivery of said furniture, and then juggle a thousand different other things while also managing your clients’ emotions. It’s enough to make you want to change careers.
In reality, managing a successful interior design business can be much less time consuming than you think.
I’m going to show you how it’s possible to earn 6 figures as a designer while only working part time! (I’ve done it many times and so have the designers that I’ve taught.)
That’s right, 20 hours a week is plenty of time to build a money making interior design business if you plan your time wisely and you can practice a little discipline.
All it takes is an understanding of a typical design project, and then learn how to manage the whole process on your terms.
The number one most important thing that you need to remember as a designer is, you are in control. Your clients have hired you as a professional to help them with a project that they’re unable to complete themselves.
This means that the schedule and timing of your design process needs to be handled and controlled by you if at all possible. Let’s say that you visit your doctor; you wouldn’t say “I would like to get my test results next Friday, and then maybe I’ll be free on Saturday to have the surgery you’ve recommended, or maybe not.” It just wouldn’t fly.
As long as you’re considerate to your clients’ schedule, and you’re a little flexible with your time, you can remain in control AND create a wonderful working relationship.
So let’s break down a “typical day in the life” of a designer, and see where the most common time wasters are.
You need to market your business to find new clients. I schedule time every week to plan out my project pipeline, contact potential community partners, and even leave room for a few networking lunches.
Next you’ll need to meet with your new clients at their home and gather everything you need to create an amazing design. This is when I get my contract signed, and collect a deposit check in order to move forward with their design project.
I try to schedule my client appointments on Tuesday and Thursday. This way I only have to curl my hair and put on make-up twice a week!
For the first client meeting I’m always flexible. I understand that most of our clients work during the week, and weekends and evenings are best for them. (Don’t worry, it’s not going to be every meeting, first you’ll need to build some trust.)
I limit my first house call to just 1 hour. I talk a lot so it’s not easy, but it’s up to me to keep us on track and on time. That’s why having a house call system to follow is so important.
As soon as I leave our appointment, I begin to imagine my design. If you want to create the best design for your client, and save yourself time, it’s important to brainstorm for your new project while everything is still fresh in your mind. Replay every comment, every detail, and every “gut feeling” that you had during your walk through. Take plenty of notes in your sketchbook and begin to list out the pieces you’ll need to research.
At this stage of the process, you’ll need to have some self-discipline and move quickly. I’ve watched designers take weeks to create the perfect design, only to have their clients crush their spirit, object to every suggestion they make, and send the designer back to the drawing board…literally.
That’s why, my design process includes a Touch-Base appointment with my client just a few days after our first house call. It’s a way to agree upon the focal points in the space, solidify our color palate, and verify that my interpretation of their wants and needs matches theirs. It’s also a chance to strengthen their trust in me, and my process, which then allows me more freedom and control throughout the remainder of our project.
The final tip for managing your time as a designer so you can enjoy both a fulfilling career and a fruitful life, is also the place where most designers fail. It’s the reason that the majority of interior designers get overwhelmed with our industry and give up on their dream of designing for a living.
You need to believe in yourself and your designs!
When you find a piece that your client will love, that fits in their budget, that will arrive on-time for your projected finish date, and that will add to your overall design vision, then you have to STOP! Trust your instincts and make the decision quickly.
What most designers do is continue to look, shop, and research, searching for that one perfect piece, which is an endless task. Today the resources available to interior designers are limitless, and it’s easy to get lost in the hypnotic world of Houzz and Pinterest looking at pretty rooms. Even for veteran designers like myself, it’s a struggle.
What I do to prevent the time-sucking task of shopping for furniture and accessories is to stick to my system. Remember that list of items that you created as soon as you left the clients house for the first time? This is the outline for your design.
As soon as I find a piece that fit’s my needs for the project, I move on to the next item on the list. When I’m finished, I go back and tweak and adjust things, but usually I nail it on the head the first time. It works because I already have the vision in my head of how I think the space should look, I’ve verified with my client that we are on the same page, and I’ve worked quickly and efficiently so that my original “designer gut instinct” is fresh in my mind.
All of this takes some practice and it definitely takes discipline. I just remind myself of how much I enjoy my free time, and how happy my clients will be as soon as I’ve helped them transform their space into the beautiful home of their dreams.
Here is a sample schedule to follow: