INTERIOR DESIGN IS EASY
I mean it can be if you have your sh*t together. I'm not saying that I do, but I know how I can get there! Not an interior designer? That's ok. These steps help with most service industries.
ESTABLISH YOUR CODE
You know, like a knight. You need to sit down and figure out the type of interior designer you want to be. If that's too big a task, start with the type of designer you do not want to be. Your code will help you refine the type of clients that are best for you. If you get into a sticky situation, refer to your code to help you navigate out of it. Codes usually get more detailed with every client that you have, so don't be afraid to update. But do not stray from your code! This is about integrity and if this were the Wild West, that's all a man has.
In order to form your code, think about the following:
WHAT YOU DO.
Since I am a designer that has experience in both furniture and interiors, I need to get pretty clear up front about the type of services I offer. I CAN do full renovations, work with architects, make CAD drawings, design furniture, pick out your pillow fabrics, design your logo, design your snapchat filter, photoshop the redness out of your eyes, make your son's birthday invitations, and literally everything in between. But I will not do all of those things for you. I'm sorry, but I need to devote time to what I am good at and what I love to do.
You need to think about all the things you are good at and that you love and focus on those. Once you have that down, you must be very clear about the services you offer. Keep this list of services available to everyone and it will help ward off people who will just waste your time.
WHAT YOU JUST WON'T DO.
Now that you have established what you offer and it's clearly posted on your website, you need to establish rules for what you are just not willing to do. These are not services that I am talking about. I am talking about the ways in which you will not conduct your business. For example, I will not look at my email on Sunday. I will not text my clients on weeknights. I will not purchase furniture that has a huge carbon footprint. I will not source products that are made by children. I will not buy fake plants.
These are the things that you do not necessarily post on your website. These are the things that you keep in mind throughout the design process to help keep your sanity. I'll be honest, I find that the more restrictions I give myself, the more freedom I have to focus on actual design. I won't be spending hours looking through the thousands of products that big box stores sell. I can instead focus on finding locally made products that will last a lifetime.
MAINTAIN YOUR LOOK
I feel like I might have a lot of push back from designers on this one, but hear me out. I am not suggesting that you become a one note designer. I am actually encouraging you to stick to designing the way you want to design. Often, in the early stages of an interior designer's career, we are just so stoked that we have clients that we will do everything they want. THIS IS SO WRONG AND IS A DISSERVICE TO YOUR CLIENT.
Much like your design code, you will want to create a look or aesthetic for yourself. Yes, your aesthetic can evolve, but I do think it is important that your work is identifiable. When your work can be traced back to you as a designer, you will only attract clients who are on board with that look. That's half the battle. There will be times when a client insists on something you hate and this is when you laugh in their face and say, "NO, KAREN, YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT DESIGN". Ok, don't do that, but instead say, "I understand that you love this piece, but as your designer I do not think it is the right fit." Karen will ultimately do what Karen wants to do, but you didn't lose your spine in the process.
TIGHTEN UP YOUR CONTRACT
Whether you call it a contract or a Letter of Agreement, make sure yours is in fighting condition. You'll want to keep a template at the ready so that your clients can sit down with it shortly after meeting with them. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of your contract so you know exactly where it will need modification per client project.
Your contract will also be a legal embodiment of your code from step 1. You must be very specific about what you are offering to your client. A good contract will keep you honest and it will protect your ass if anything goes awry. If you say you are going to provide floor plans, you better provide floor plans! If you say the project is going to take 3 months and your client decides he wants it in 2, you are not obligated to perform superhuman duties.
Remember, you are a designer because you love to create beautiful spaces and you have a talent that you are willing to share. You provide a damn good service, but you will not disrupt your own life because your clients cant read! That sounds harsh, but the general public think we can be walked all over like the beautiful carpets we source.
PERFECT YOUR PROCESS
Congratulations! You've nailed down your code, you've established rules for your aesthetic, and now someone has signed your airtight contract. This is when the real fun begins! This is when you get to implement your design process. This is not when you get to figure out what your design process is; you should already know it and it should already be in your contract.
Every designer has their own process, but it usually involves: Planning, Purchasing, Installing and Styling.
Here is what my process looked like from my last interior design job:
Phase I: GATHERING THE INFORMATION
Space Planning: Prepare preliminary plan view drawings of the “Primary” spaces outlined in this contract. Prepare finalized floor plans. More on-site measurements will be conducted as needed.
Shopping or Customizing: Prepare options of furniture, fixtures, and accessories for purchase. These can be done in person with the client, or via email. Prepare drawings for all items to be custom made. Attend meetings with custom manufacturers to ensure quality of custom work.
Contractor Consultation: Consult with contractors and other vendors that might be needed for this project. Examples of vendors: Window Treatment Installers, Painters, Wallpaper Installers, Art Hangers, Finish Carpenters, and other necessary advisors needed throughout the project.
Budget: Prepare specifications and budget estimates for each “Primary” space outlined in this contract.
Phase II: INSTALLATION
Coordinate and supervise any necessary Electrical Work, Audio/Visual Installation, Window Treatment Installation, Wall Treatment Installation, Painting, Hardware Updating, Construction Work, and other areas where contracted vendors are needed.
Phase III: FURNITURE AND ACCESSORIES
The fun stuff! This is the point where we can place your artwork, your new furniture, and your accessories. Furniture will be sent directly to you and “staged” as necessary throughout the duration of the project.
The above is the formal way of outlining your process for your client to see. There will be internal processes that you need to refine, but do not necessarily need to vocalize to your client. For example, you should establish your own way to gather your inspiration for a new project. This can be through Pinterest or creating a moodboard in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator or any other technique YOU prefer.
Do you like to hand draw your floor plans? Excellent, make sure you set aside time to create those floor plans on your clean drawing desk with sharpened pencils ready to go.
Do you only like to use certain types of fabric for their look, durability and the company's good ethics? Marvelous! Make sure you keep samples of their current stock items in your office. Your client doesn't need to know that there are hundreds of fabric lines to choose from. (LIKE SO MANY OMG IT'S CRAZY) You have already done the leg work on which lines you are willing to promote.
YOU DO YOU
Listen, life is short. You don't want to spend your time chasing your tail. Your talents are in your design skills and the above steps will make sure you actually have time to design.
Goodbye my darlings,