Business

How to grow your interior design business

1st May 2018

I speak to interior designers every day and I hear about all sorts of issues that are happening in their businesses and in the sector.  My day-to-day business is to help interior designers grow their companies and their profiles within the sector and further afield. I put this blog post together to share some ideas that I have implemented with some of my clients as well as further ideas that I want to share with you to help you grow your interior design business.

Start with a strategy

You’re never going to build anything meaningful if you haven’t got a strategy.  Every successful business needs a comprehensive business strategy before they start taking any action. Set aside a couple of hours with a notebook and a pen and zero distractions and write down where you want your business to be in 5 years and 10 years time.  From there work backward down to year 1.

What do you need to achieve in year 1 that will get you a fifth of the way to where you want to be in year 5.  It’s only here that we actually start to think about the actions that you need to take to reach your goals.

Build a plan

Once you got your goals for year 1 now we can actually start to build a plan.  Divide your page into 12 sections, one for each month and work backward from the end of the year’s objectives to what you need to be doing to reach that goal.

For example: if you want to increase your turnover by 25% in year 1.

  • Work out how many jobs you need to complete in order to increase turnover by that multiple.
  • Then work out how many proposals you need to submit to win that amount of new work.
  • Then how many potential clients do you need to speak to in order to submit that number of proposals.
  • Then get talking.

You can’t do everything – Get help/hire a virtual assistant/team/freelancer

As your business begins to grow you are going to realise that you need help. You cannot do everything and if you try, the level of service that you deliver is going to greatly deteriorate. it’s not smart to try and do everything yourself.

But you’ve got to be smart, it’s your job to deliver a consistent service across every touchpoint of your business. So when you start to scale you’ve got to realise that every team member that you add to your team needs to be able to deliver the service that you’ve been delivering to your clients. This is tough, but there’s an easy solution to this and it’s called a project management system,  which I’ll talk you through in the next step.

When you’re about to hire staff, there are a lot more options nowadays than just going out and hiring a full-time employee.  Especially in the design world where so many interior designers are looking to freelance, take your time interviewing and looking at mood boards and discussing projects with potential interior designers. Figure out whether they’re able to understand your aesthetic, and whether they are able to communicate with your clients, and actually be a good team member. Everyone you hire has to be able to add value to your business otherwise they shouldn’t be there. It’s up to you to define exactly what this value is and whether or not they are delivering.

Implement project management software – as your business grows, you don’t want to spend more time managing multiple projects.

I touched on project management systems in the point above, this tool is absolutely critical when building a business. Since I’ve implemented a project management system into my business I’ve actually found that our planning process for each project has been made so much easier. What it does is force you to think about every element of planning that you’re going to need during the project and assign responsibilities to team members and due dates.  

This means that everybody knows what they should be doing and by when, and it means that you as a business owner have a full overview of all projects that you are working on at any point in time. I can’t stress how valuable this is while your business is scaling and further on when you’re managing a much larger business. It’s like magic, you start to remove yourself from being the employee, to being the business owner.

View more on our post: Why interior designers need to use project management software.

Diversify your services

There are other ways to grow your business too, it doesn’t always mean that you need to take on more interior design projects. Packaging up services into something that can be bought online by a subset of your target audience and delivered either electronically or by a junior team member is a really interesting way to look at growing your business. This service needs to be well defined and able to be delivered without your input.

At the end of the day your role as a business owner is to own and manage your business not run every project in your business. The added advantage to having a service that is entry level is that it cultivates new clients and it’s a way for them to get to know, like and trust you through a more affordable service before they appoint you for a full interior design service.

Refresh your branding – do you appeal to your current and future clients?

Always think about your who your current and future clients are. As this demographic changes over the years, check that your branding is relevant to both current and clients that you’re looking to attract in the next 6 months to a year. Ideally, I’d review my branding annually.

The easiest way to sell more

When I’m called into an interior design firm that is in trouble or about to be in trouble,  I always tell the designers to get on the phone to their old clients and find out what they’re doing. It’s always easier to sell to someone who’s already bought from you than to try and sell to a new client.

Think of a service that you can offer to an old client, it could be a styling refresh, perhaps they’ve extended their home, bought another house, a holiday house etc.  This is one of the fastest ways to get new jobs. I would recommend that interior designers contact existing clients every 6 months just to keep up with to date them and let them know that you’re still around for further work.

Public Relations – put yourself out there

This is one of those businesses where profile within the sector that you operate is very important.  When your business reaches a certain level, you do need to hire a PR firm, but before you take the plunge there are some things that you can do yourself to get your name out there.  

Start with calling up editors and journalists and telling them about new projects that you’ve worked on and share the images with them.  I know that they would love to hear from the actual designers themselves.

Trade shows are always looking for new and interesting speakers too. Pick up the phone and call the trade shows and offer yourself as a speaker,  be prepared and have an interesting topic to hand. It’s even better if you have a few other designers that you can bring to a panel with you.

Use content marketing to build your business

Why do you think bloggers are so visible online? It’s because they are consistently putting content out there. Content marketing has been huge in the last few years,  and it’s going nowhere. As social media networks are changing at light speed with new updates to algorithms, the way we use the social media networks, data and privacy, the more that marketers are realising that content marketing is the way forward.

I’ve been saying this for years,  the content that you have on your website is owned by you and controlled by you, and in the case of blog posts, regularly drives visitors and traffic to your website. This means that your target clients are closer to seeing your services and offers than when they’re just hanging about on your social media platforms. Content marketing gives your target clients a reason to visit your website over and over again.

Regular blogging on topics that are relevant to your clients is the best way to generate leads and new clients.

Next Steps

There’s so much more to cover, like how do you price your services, supply chain management (and are you managing this properly), joint ventures with architects and property developers, but more of that to come in further posts.

In the meanwhile, if you need help with any of the above, please contact us and we’d be glad to help you.  Click here for more information about our Business Strategy for Interior Designers, and our Content Marketing service.

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