Do you own an interior design business, but can’t seem to figure out how to market or brand it to reflect who you are as a designer?
Do you feel stuck in a vicious cycle of slow business growth due to a lack of a steady clients?
Do you dream about the day that you can have more clients than you need, run a profitable design business and become an industry recognized and sought after interior designer?
If so, here are 12 practical steps to get you on your way to success.
Step 1: Discover who are as a designer
Discovering who you are is essential to uncovering your unique talents and gifts, and ultimately what you have to offer your clients. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you truly enjoy doing the most as an interior designer? Next, create a mini bio of yourself that paints the picture of who you are, what influences you and what inspires you. Use this to craft your service offerings and what you uniquely bring to the table.
Step 2: Identify your ideal client
Knowing your target audience will allow you to market your services more strategically and effectively. Research your ideal client. Find out what groups and pages they frequent online and via social media. Are they single or married with children? What do they like to do in their spare time? Then, create a profile of your ideal client and target those specific people when marketing your services.
Step 3: Develop your brand
Developing your brand is crucial to building a long-term sustainable interior design business. Think about how you’d like the design industry and your clients to perceive you. What do you stand for? What makes you different from your competitors. Then create a clear, concise, branding statement that embodies who you are as a designer, and your unique offering.
Step 4: Create your marketing and sales strategy
Think about how your ideal client consumes information. Where do they go for home design ideas? What are their challenges? You want to develop a strategy that will reach your audience where they are, with your message at the right time. Create a budget and a timeline that you will market your services to your audience and create a plan for launch.
Step 5: Define your back-end systems and processes
Interior designers sometimes make the mistake of launching their product or service, without thinking through how they will service clients from A-Z once they start rolling in. It’s important to develop a process that covers consultation through concepts, scheduling, buying and installation. How will you communicate (and how often)? How will you share ideas (in person or via collaboration tools and apps)? What does your sourcing, project management and payment process look like? What does your install process entail? Don’t forget about the details as they tend to matter most to a client.
Step 6: Create your design process
Create a process plan for each service so that you know every step of the way what comes next. In the interior design industry, it’s important that you are transparent and guide your client every step of the way, as full service design services vary from city to city.
Think about the services you offer. Do you offer interior design consultations and full service interior design? Do you have a furniture refinishing service? Can you design a space remotely? Then, write down step-by-step plan based on each service offering.
Step 7: Launch and test you marketing campaign
Creating your marketing campaign and launching the tactics is the fun part! However, don’t attempt to do it all at once. Instead, prioritize your top 3 marketing tactics and test those first. Plan your campaign dates, determine your budget for each tactic, create metrics as a way to analyze performance, and set conservative expectations.
Step 8: Measure and repeat
Measuring how each marketing strategy and tactic performed is essential. This step is often overlooked and business owners are left wondering if their investment was worth it. Analytics help you identify what worked and what didn’t, so you can optimize your campaigns or cut them. Most online channels offer free analytics tools, especially if you’re creating social media campaigns.
Step 9: Get published and apply for awards
There is nothing like being recognized by your peers for all of your great work. Create a calendar of the top award contests in the interior design industry that you can apply to. Set a schedule to apply and submit your work based on the guidelines set forth.
Step 10: Network and connect
Networking with other interior designers in your industry can be a great resource. Find out about industry events in your city on Meetup.com or Eventbrite.com. Also check out the events section on Interiordesign.net, for upcoming events in your city.
Step 11: Master your cash flow
Failing to manage businesses finances, more importantly your cash flow, is a prime reason why interior design businesses fail. Since the revenue on design projects can fluctuate if you haven’t sourced cost-effective vendors and developed a pricing strategy that allows for a healthy margin you’ll find it hard to turn a profit. Not to mention, you’re responsible for sales tax, operations expenses, and other variable expenses that come with running a business. Use the right accounting tools or consult with a small business accountant to make sure your finances are organized.
Step 12: Expand your design portfolio
Once you build a business that is profitable with proven systems in place, think about how you can expand your brand. Think about your favorite music artist (I’ll take Beyoncé, for example). She is a singer-songwriter, but she also endorses her namesake perfumes distributed by Coty Beauty, co-founded the IVY PARK athleisure brand, founded a record company named Parkwood Entertainment, and much more. Think about other ways you can expand your interior design business; ensuring new projects align with your brand. Maybe you’re read to launch a home collection, create signature home accessories or use a network marketing strategy to offer interior design services.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Monique Duarte is a Certified International Interior Decorator and business strategist. Her company, Monique Duarte Enterprises encompasses 3 business units including Duarte Decor, a residential Interior decorating company, Duarte Essentials, a home products and services line, and Duarte Consulting a business coaching program for interior designers and decorators. Duarte Décor was awarded ‘Best In Customer Service’ by Houzz in 2015. Her work has been featured in Moxie Woman Magazine and other publications. Her newly launched 1:1 coaching program, ‘The Interior Designers Guide: 12 Step Guide To Building, Branding, & Marketing a Profitable Interior Design Business’ is one of her latest accomplishments. Get her free Interior Designer Guide to take your business to the next level. Connect with @DuarteDecorllc on Twitter.