Working From Home – How to Become an Interior Designer

In the past 1-1/2 years I have been doing workshops for the interior design industry. I know this has been a really tough year for most of us. I also noticed that when times are tough and we are all looking for the magic answer, it also makes us vulnerable to, as the song goes, looking in all the wrong places. There’s some great information out there, but there is also what I call “Smoke and Mirrors”. I would advise you to be very careful who you look to for advise. Don’t fall for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Everyone is calling themselves an expert now….

But what I thought was to let you know that I also practice what I preach….oh yeah, with tangible results.

I am not doing this as self-promotion, but to show you that you can do this too!

My business, was not immune to the downturn of the economy. I very suddenly lost two major clients in 2008. I had to really work hard (AND SMART) to build my business back and make up for those two clients. As I am writing this, I have almost reached AND surpassed those goals. How did I do it, you ask?

I am sorry to say this, but it’s what I preach to all of my clients, in my workshops and what I will tell you now.

(1) I have a very specific target market. I NEVER, EVER call myself a consultant. It says nothing about my value to someone. Someone I took business classes with when I first started my business asked me what I do. I replied, “I am a consultant”. She answered in a very sharp tone, “You and every other out of work person”. Boy did that give me a wake up call.

(Q).So when someone asks what you do, how do you reply? I am an interior designer? I sell high-end products? I do residential design? I do commercial design? I do window treatments? I will say the same as my teacher said to me…you and thousands of others! Do you want to put yourself in a pool of others vying for the same work? FIND YOUR TARGET MARKET AND YOUR VALUE TO THEM! Solve their problems! Design is not solving problems that’s a given. If value is a mystery, people will not buy. People are now looking for value. You need to connect those dots for people with a very clear marketing message.

Think of it as throwing away what everyone else offers and pulling on your own strengths. Pull your company away from every other designer.

(2) I spend over 50% of my time on marketing. YES 50% of my time! Most successful people spend AT LEAST that much time on marketing. Others spend much less and the results are indicative of that. Unreliable income, unrealized dreams of having a thriving business and worse yet, businesses closing.

But the key was that I put myself into target rich environments. AND I provided the VALUE of working with me. I networked in person, online and built my value and brand. I did not waste time, energy and money (our precious resources) going to events or doing online Social Media to people who I knew would NOT be interested in the value I have to offer with my services. I thought very strategically about where I was going and who I wanted to meet. That was my goal for 2009 and I worked hard at it!

(Q). So how much time have you worked on marketing in a target rich environment? Have you yet to define your target market? And have you crafted your “elevator speech”? Mine is “I work with the interior design industry on strategic business planning so that they can reach their ultimate business goals”. That’s how I introduce myself to anyone I meet on or offline.

(3) Pro-active follow up. I have not been out of contact with my “sales funnel” for more than 4 weeks. It’s a call, a blog post, a Facebook entry, a newsletter, an in person visit, a workshop, a networking event. It’s ALL pro-active. I really don’t have that Kevin Costner attitude of “Build it and they will come” or ” I have been doing this for 30 years and have an incredible track record of successes…don’t they know that”? You can NEVER, EVER rely on passive marketing such as referrals, brochures, postcards, etc.

Don’t forget the cardinal rule of marketing. You need to get in front of a potential client 7 to 13 times before they will take action. I know this may sound crazy, but I even keep on ticker on some of my potential clients to see if that is true. You know what? It is!

Follow up is crucial..but make sure when you do PLEASE do not just say I am following up. Make the call, email whatever your mode meaningful to your potential client. An example is: I just designed an amazing storage solution for another client and I know that’s of particular interest to you..wanted to talk to you about it and how we can make that same kind of idea work for you.

So, you ask, all that is well and good on paper…”Show me the money!”

I have two new clients I got from Social Media and a third I am in talks with a third one right now.

I have given my in person, 5 part workshop in two design centers and I am scheduled to give it at THREE others this year.

I have SIX major proposals out there just waiting for approval.

In a few months I am slated to have an income that would supersede my best year!

Business is getting better, the economy IS changing for the better, you can position yourself right now!

And what’s really amazing about this is not about me, it’s that YOU can do this too!

Interior Design Tips – When to Hire a Professional Designer

Interior designers are hired for many reasons. The main reason is that the client simply does not have the know how or expertise to put the room together well by themselves. They have tried and things are just not turning out as beautifully as they had hoped and envisioned it would look. The money spent does not seem to be making the impact they had hoped to make for that much of an expenditure.

Time is another reason interior designers are hired. Busy people simply do not have the time or resources to find all the design selections they are needing. They know that since they are not used to finding these products it will take them 10 times as long as a designer who is researching products and qualities daily. They cannot tell the quality of the products and trust their designers to discern quality for them. Most designers have seen the quality of the merchandise at markets and know the quality of the individual companies. One source shopping saves them time and money.

Design Education – Clients say, “My husband says I should be able to do this because I am a woman.” That is not necessarily so. So, husbands finally let their wives get help because they can see that she simply does not have the know how to put together a professionally designed interior. It is no reflection of her womanliness. Perhaps her expertise is in other areas.

Another factor is that ideas have run out and an interior designer can offer fresh ideas that are sometimes out of the box of what the client is thinking. Interior designers are trained to think artistically and most times have many many more ideas than the client. They know how things work together, how they will look when finished and are considering the client ideas, likes and dislikes.

Unfortunately, mistakes can cause people to hire interior designers. With wasted money, time and energy finally an interior designer is hired. An interior designer is used to working all elements together and is far less likely to make mistakes than an untrained person.

Furniture Layout is another reason people hire interior designers. It is common to have rooms that are difficult to lay out the furniture. This is called space planning and a designer usually does this daily and can be a tremendous help in this area.

Where do I find unusual items like interior designers use? Where do I find the quality? The answer is that these items are not usually found in your local store. Many of the items designers use are picked up in their travels or bought from custom manufacturers that only sell to the trade. This way items can be ordered in exact finishes, fabrics and detailing that the client and designer want. The client does not have access to the resources that the designer has. Even if they did, most clients still do not know how to put the look together.

With an interior designer the client gets one design. It is all so very confusing with friends and family telling you what they like and how to do it. What they like is usually not what you like anyway. An interior designer can give you one final design that is suited to you. It should be a divine reflection of you, your family and your interests. It is refreshing to hire a designer, tell them all your ideas, likes and dislikes and let them put together that perfect look suited to you. Makes your life a little easier and the results speak for themselves!

Get Help on Deciding Your Interior Design Concept For Your Home Or Business

You will find that there are many people that have their own opinion about interior design. These people are able to take an area and design it with grace. Then there are others who can look at a room and just have no clue what they should do with it. These are the people that will benefit from the resources and information that the Internet can give them. Within the realms of the World Wide Web, you will be able to get ideas, suggestions, and tips on how you should decorate a specific area of your home or business.

You will find that there are also many interior design companies that you can contact in order to hire one of their design consultants. These consultants have their own style and their own opinions about decorating so it may take you some research to find the right one for you. With most of the design companies, you are able to interview several different consultants. This allows you to listen to their ideas about how they would decorate your living area or your business. You don’t have to worry about hurting their feelings if you do not choose them.

This is because they understand that each individual has their own style and thoughts about what their surroundings should look like. They understand that their style just may not be the right one. A lot of the consultants that you find through design companies will have open minds when it comes to your decorating style. They will be able to step outside of their comfort zone in order to give you just the look that you are wanting. When you are starting a new design project, whether be it redecorating your living room or trying to find a good fit for the customer service area in your business, it is a good idea to look at unconventional ideas instead of just conventional ones.

The interior design consultants that you interview will be able to discuss any kind of plan that you may have as well as give you ideas to expand your thought process. If you don’t want to go this route, you can access many websites that will give you pictures for ideas, tell you exactly how to do something, or let you know where you can find more information. There are a lot of do-it-yourself homeowners who would choose no other way but to accomplish their own design project.

Hiring An Interior Designer – Should We or Shouldn’t We?

There’s one thing lot of people overlook when they decide it’s time to furnish their home. One of the most important decisions is whether to do it themselves or fess up on their lack of skills and hire a professional. A decision has to be made as to who is going to drive the bus. All humor aside, this is serious business and some serious money.

There’s a good argument for both sides. Some people are able to do it themselves and have a good eye for putting together a nice home. My experience has taught me that most of these people usually end up taking much longer to complete it and usually spend more money than they had planned. Typically, at least some of the honest ones that I know, will admit to a few mistakes they are living with until they’ve gotten their money’s worth before they can replace them. However, to most of these people, it’s the process that they want to savor, the endless weekends of roaming around furniture stores and the endless nights of agonizing over details like tile selections, lighting fixtures, paint colors, etc. Yeah, right.

Some people enlist the help of friends or neighbors while others entrust the whole process to a salesman from a local store. There’s nothing wrong with any of these assuming the friends, neighbors and salesman are knowledgeable…because they are doing it with your money. The big question is who is taking responsibility if things don’t go as planned? I’ve known a few people who ended up in therapy and minus some good friends as a result. Still, there are plenty of talented people out there who are starting their careers in the design business that will someday rise to the top.

If the idea of spending every weekend for the next year shopping for furniture, or the idea that you might have to fire a close friend because you don’t think painting every room in your house beige is a smart decision, you always have the option of hiring a professional interior designer to take the heat. Beyond saving your marriage, they may save your home from a design disaster.

Contrary to popular belief, most good designers will actually save you money in the long run, assuming you have your wits about you when you make your compensation arrangements with them. Make sure to figure in their commissions or design fees in the overall budget. Some of the biggest savings will be in your time. The designer will do the leg work and usually bring you in at the end for your approval.

Another huge savings is the money saved from not making mistakes. Designers are especially trained to work in scale to make sure pieces fit as planned. This can save a lot of heartache not to mention a lot of space in the garage from storing that over-sized sofa that didn’t fit in the living room and couldn’t be returned. Mistakes are one of the most costly components in the design business and when you’re making those choices yourself, you have to own up to them. When it happens, and it will, you’ll wish you had a good designer on speed dial. However, the single biggest advantage of a hiring a professional will be the final outcome. Most homes, in their natural state, do not inspire many homeowners to design beyond the expected.

Designers can also save you money by educating you on your purchases. The least expensive sofa can be the most expensive, especially if you don’t learn the lesson the first time. It’s cheaper to buy a better sofa than to buy two inexpensive sofas…and it will still outlast both of them in terms of quality and style.

One big concern about hiring a designer is how to select the right one. That’s kind of like asking who would make the best President. It all depends on who you ask. There are a lot of people who call themselves designers since the design field has few regulations.

Until recently, Florida was a leader in the interior design field and required anyone calling themselves a designer or an interior designer to be licensed by the state to ensure their qualifications. Qualifying for that license meant accredited educational training and/or extensive experience in the field before taking a grueling exam that is not so easy to pass. This law was recently rescinded. It’s now open season on potential design clients so do your due diligence before making your choice. I would recommend making a few background checks. Get some references and check their background. Are they licensed? Are they ASID members or affiliates? Have they been in business awhile? Make sure you’re comfortable giving this person large sums of your money because it’s going to happen. If they suggest paying vendors directly, be very, very careful!

Once you hire the designer, step back if you want the best possible outcome. Too many clients hire designers and then try to control every aspect of the job. They are usually the ones that are the least thrilled with the final outcome because it looks like it’s missing something. And it usually is…it’s missing the designer’s taste that’s been replaced by the clients choices.

An experienced designer can read into your lifestyle and create something for your future rather than the present. They can avoid pitfalls and trends that will quickly date a look, helping save you money over the years to come. They can expose you to ideas and products that you probably don’t even know exist in some cases. Think of it like hiring a lawyer. You wouldn’t hire one and then cite case numbers to help him defend your case. Let them do what you’ve paid them to do.

In the end, anyone who plans on furnishing a room or a whole house can afford a designer. It might be a small budget or the budget of a small country. Designers don’t dictate the prices of items. They just help you find the best ones that are in your price range. A designer can be your best ally but you have to be honest when you talk to them about expectations and limitations. Be honest and straight forward. If you do, you’ll get more than you’ve bargained for. If your budget is unrealistic, they can help you figure out which items you should start with.

However, if you’re thinking about tackling the project on your own, let’s see if you’re equipped for some of the basics. Here are a few simple questions you’ll probably be asked during the process. (answers below)

  1. If you’re using polished stone in your shower, should you use sanded or un-sanded grout?
  2. If you have incandescent lighting in your kitchen ceiling, can you use LED lighting under the counter?
  3. How many ceiling lights can you put on a typical switch?
  4. If you’re hanging wallpaper, should you use oil based or water based prep?
  5. If you are building a banquette in your kitchen, what is the best seat height?
  6. If you’re buying a rug for under your dining room, how big should it be?
  7. How big should your chandelier be if your dining table is 60″ round?
  8. If you have allergies, why type of cushion material should you use in the sofa?
  9. How much bigger is a king bed than a queen bed?
  10. Should you lay your wood floor parallel or perpendicular to the sliding glass doors?

Simple questions? Maybe. Maybe not. But the wrong answers could be costly or annoying to live with. Hiring a good designer also has a lot of other benefits also. They are trained to look at your lifestyle, how you plan to use the house, accessibility for handicapped clients, fire ratings, building codes, safety issues, manufacturer’s reputations, space requirements, etc

Of course they also bring a huge knowledge of how to select the proper furniture styles and which ones work best together. Over time, you will build more than a beautiful home together, if they are a good designer you will probably build a relationship that will last for many, many years. They are one of the few people that you will meet that will get to know you like only a few ever will. And with that knowledge, they will always be there for you to make sure your best interests are looked after.

If nothing else, do yourself a favor and invite a designer over for a chat. Look at their portfolio and get to know them a little. Tell them what you have in your head and leave yourself open for new ideas. And if you decide to hire them, start planning your weekends because you’re going to have a lot more free time on your hands.

Answers:

  1. Polished stone or not, use sanded grout. It’s more porous and dries quicker.
  2. Incandescent light gives off a warm white light, LED almost always has cold blue cast. If both lights are on at the same time, it can look a bit odd.
  3. It depends on the wattage. Best rule of thumb is 600 watts to a switch. Larger capacity switches are available but they usually stick out of the wall to allow venting of heat.
  4. Always oil. If you ever need to remove the paper, it won’t pull the face off your drywall.
  5. Dining height is 19-20″ depending on the softness of the cushion. This is slightly higher than normal seating height for a living room.
  6. A good rule of thumb in 36″ beyond the sides of your table. Otherwise, when guests pull their chairs out to sit down to eat, the back chair legs will be off the rug and the chair will not sit evenly.
  7. I always like to suggest chandeliers to be about 2/3 the width of the table. The most common mistake is buying fixtures that are too small. The distance from the table can vary from 30-36″ depending on shape of fixture. Personally, I like to oversize the fixtures a bit for effect.
  8. Poly filled cushions, preferably with spring cores. Never any down feathers or latex.
  9. A king is 16″ wider than a queen but not any longer. And whatever you do, don’t buy a king bed and put a 24″ wide nightstand next to it. It will look like a postage stamp in most cases.
  10. You never want to look down the joints in the wood toward a major light source. The “snaking” of joints can be very distracting. Run the direction of the wood perpendicular to the light source.