When I look back at how I started in this industry, I realize that it would be considered non-traditional. Already having a career in a completely different world (Cosmetics), I decided that I wanted to switch things up. I just finished getting a degree in Art Foundation so the thought of going back to school made me cringe. I also felt that in this day and age, self-education was not a bad thing. Especially because you could pick and choose the “topics” you wanted to learn. So I needed to learn all the business tips for e-designers if I was really going to do this.
Usually, an Interior Designer goes to school for several years, learning programs like Auto-CAD and Revit, and studying for the NCIDQ but if you actually pay attention, you will learn that some of these top designers didn’t actually get a degree in Interior Design. Instead, they may have focused on other topics like Small Business, Communication, Art, Marketing, etc. They are what you call self-taught. Yes, education is important, but I think, more importantly, experience and drive will get you far too. Lots of people think Interior Designers are just people who select furniture and that’s about it. Boy, were they wrong.
Many Interior Designers in some ways are Architects as they learn building codes, clearances within a space, draft floor plans, have experience within the construction field, and are qualified to create and design spaces. Then there is what you call an Interior Decorator, their focus is primarily on furnishing the space to be function and beautiful. It really depends on what you want to do and also the requirements within your state on what you can call yourself.
When I decided I wanted to dip my toes into the design industry, I knew I couldn’t just jump into the deep end without having some sort of knowledge to float with. I decided I would take an Interior Design class with NYIAD (You can sign up for a course at NYIAD using the referral code BGAJZBJDJJA) as well as learn everything I possibly could about virtual interior design through eDesign U. From there, I cherry-picked all of the information that I felt worked for me and the business I had in mind. I guess you can say I never stopped learning. I took courses on Pinterest, Content Creation, Sketchup, and essentially everything I could think of to launch a business.
Like everyone else, I juggled with working my full-time job and trying to fit in as much education as I could without getting exhausted, while also balancing being a single mom. Before I started the paperwork to launch my LLC, I decided I would work for an e-design company. Taking on clients from all over the US, I would be able to work on their space remotely and create beautiful homes based on their design style. I learned quite a lot working for this company, and actually a lot of things that DIDN’T work. I was surprised to see that one client could possibly have at minimum 2 designers working on their space throughout their design process, and the client questioning why their redesign didn’t quite feel like it was done by the same designer. Mind-boggling.
I also learned how long the process can take and that we are not assembly workers, banging out designs within 48 hours. The pay was crap, the pressure was on but the experience is something I will cherish because it really taught me what not to do and that I wanted to give my clients a more personalized experience. And so, I launched my business at the beginning of 2020 with hopeful eyes, ready to take on the challenge of being a small business owner. Much to my surprise, I would have never guessed that my niche would become the norm for the rest of the year. COVID-19 hit the US shortly after my business was legal and designers all around me were scrambling to figure out how to do interior design without stepping into a clients home.
The last thing you want to do for your business is look unprepared. I am all for figuring things out along the way, but not at the expense of my clients. I believe having those months preparing for launching an e-design business really set me up when it came time to focus on just e-design. While designers put things on a pause, I was rendering to my hearts desire. Having a system in place, streamlining my onboarding process, and creating beautiful designs using the right kind of tools I feel really set me apart.
So let’s talk about the first thing you want to do, which is let’s think about your process. How is someone going to find you and how is someone going to work with you? Think about how that looks like. If you are going to be offering virtual interior design, well you need a website. There are so many options out there like Wix, Squarespace (where I started), WordPress and talk about a game-changer, Showit. I cannot praise Showit enough. I recently relaunched my website this month after hearing about Showit’s customization and I just knew I needed it. It really allowed me to showcase my brand exactly how I want it and if you are going to be designing someone’s home, I truly believe your website needs to reflect that creativity.
Talking about the process, it is so important to lay down how someone will work with you on paper first and then in concrete actions. This is where Dubsado comes in. This program is not only a CRM (Client Relationship Management), but it streamlines your business so that all of the constant emails that you are keeping in your draft to copy/paste to another client becomes Canned Emails. It also builds out your Workflow so that when a customer reaches out to you on your website, everything is automated up until the point where you actually produce the work for them. Proposals, Invoices, Scheduling Meetings, and actually getting PAID is built out. From the moment your client goes through your Lead Capture, your workflow starts and gets them from being a lead to being an actual client.
Now you don’t want to just capture a client, you want to keep them coming back for more. Let’s talk about Flodesk. This intuitive email builder is designed to convert without punishing you for your subscription growth. Have unlimited subscribers and access to all of the features for one set price and with my discount, you actually get it for 50% off. Hold the phone, what a freaken great deal! You will not only design beautiful emails that are as simple as ever but (and you know how much I love workflows) you will actually be able to create actions that lead your clients coming back to your site to check out the latest projects or read new tips on the blog. Stunning emails that look great on any device.
Those are just a few of my favorite programs that I use and I actually dive in a little deeper going over 5 programs I can’t live without and a few extra goodies. It for sure can be a challenge to know exactly where to start, what to use and how to get your business off the ground.
If you are looking for a design assistant to help you with a current project or you want one-to-one support and work with someone to walk you through the process of launching an e-design business, or maybe you need help to streamline your current business, I offer VDA services specifically for interior designers. You can find out more information here on what services I offer to interior designers. I also have a list of all of my favorite programs that I use for my business to help me succeed and keep the lights on. You can check out my resources page here.