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!