Interior Design is – there’s certain glamour to it all. And, for those who have a natural aptitude towards the arts and design this may indeed be a perfect career choice. The nice thing about this particular career is that it is one that is achievable at any age and at any stage in life.
I recently spoke with Leslie Wood owner of Leslie Hendrix Wood Design to learn the ins and outs of getting a design business off the ground. Not long ago she decided to follow her own dream of becoming an interior designer and has seen phenomenal success. I asked her to share some of her secrets with the hopes of sharing them with those of you who hope to travel this path as well.
It’s a career that sees no age limitations
After earning her MBA and working in the corporate world, Leslie, like so many women do, stepped away from her career to raise a family. When her children were grown, Interior design, always a passion, seemed to be a natural fit. She enrolled in design school to earn her degree. While she was doing that she kept active in the design community by attending as many seminars and lectures as possible. Through the courses and the lectures she began to identify her own style – She gravitated towards luxury design. Her clients have an appreciation for the traditional and heirloom quality yet they need family friendly materials are for their lifestyle. This practical luxury has become Leslie’s area of expertise.
Find your focus
Focus is important. It is important to focus on your own style, passions, interests and talents. Educate yourself as much as you can in specific areas. For example, if fine art is your passion, study it as much as possible so that you can start to create your own niche and develop your specialty. People will start to seek you out for your specialty. Furthermore, when you’ve honed in on your particular area of expertise, you will have the opportunity to work with other designers who may have specialties in other areas, thus cultivating new and hopefully lasting working relationships. A great way to get your foot in the door and to get yourself some visibility is to get an internship with or work for established leaders of the industry. This offers invaluable experience and is another great hands-on approach to learning. If you do this, it would be wise to work with a designer whose style is similar to yours.
Getting started : The finances
You really don’t need to have a big budget to start your own company. Connections, in this case are more important. It is critical that you connect with established leaders and authority figures. As you do this you will grow your own network base and as this happens you will begin to attract your own client-base. By taking the necessary steps of learning, interning and partnering your network will grow organically.
How to charge
In any industry this may be the hardest, most confusing and most challenging part of building your own company. First and foremost, you must charge what you are worth. Set the tone right from the beginning. Your clients will appreciate this knowledge, up-front. From there, ideally you could calculate how many hours you worked on a particular job, divide number by the net profit you made on the project. In the beginning a target rate of $75 (US) per hour is fair and accurate. Depending on where you live, the scale may vary slightly. If a plumber can charge this rate, then you ought to as well! Your vision, ability to conceptualize, and pull things together is what your client is paying for. After all, if your client could do all that they wouldn’t have called upon you for your help!
Get it in writing
Contracts are necessary – absolutely necessary as they protect all parties involved. Draw up a contract in writing so that your client can see all that is entailed. It is advisable to ask for half the pay up front, when the contract is signed. This will protect you in case your client has a change of heart. The more professional you are from the onset, the more you will be valued for your time, talent and business sense. Keep receipts and all your finances in order. This is important when dealing with vendors, merchants and clients. If a client audits you, which is a legitimate request, you will need to provide all the detailed paperwork. If accounting is not your strong suit, then it would be advisable to hire an accountant.
How to present to clients
Whether you are meeting with potential clients in their homes or your office, you will prepare storyboards for their projects. Storyboards are visual and tactile records of the room or rooms you will be recreating. They allow you to make sure that all aspects of your interior design work together. . Leslie suggests offering your clients as much as you can and she sends her clients home with a beautiful box filled with fabric swatches as well as a linen binder filled with specifics for furniture, paint, hardware, etc. She firmly believes that it is this level of attention to detail that has allowed her business to prosper as quickly as it has.
How to grow your business
In this day of social media, more and more people are relying on the power of positive feedback and word of mouth. Grow your circle. Get out there and connect with as many people as you can on many levels. Join business and social networks. Meet with real estate agents, builders and architects. Develop personal relationships first, these will then evolve into working relationships. Identify and grow your brand. Start a blog or website or both to showcase your talents and style. Give future clients a sneak peek into your world. Here the internet and social media is a very powerful tool. It has the ability to connect you with those who might not ordinarily find you. Social media will help editors and influential bloggers find and promote your work as well. All this will help grow your business, your brand, and if you have a product to sell, it will help with that as well.
We’d like to thank Leslie for her knowledge and insight. To learn more about her company and her products, please be sure to visit her website at Hadley Court.