The design industry has changed. It didn't change in the last couple of weeks. It has been changing radically for the past decade.
So let's go with the theory that Houzz is diabolical and has had this sick plan to use designers all along.
And that Ivy came in to pilfer data to resell for millions.
And that Laurel & Wolf and the rest of the "just add water" design services are taking advantage of new designers and decorators who thought that was a way to get in their foot in the door.
This is why you need to listen to me now.
If you want to get clients in what you perceive to be an "easier way", then, by all means, go partner with those companies. And also bend over and kiss your ass goodbye when you realize that they have THEIR best interests at heart, not yours.
If you want to blaze your own path, then you need to be your own best advocate. And you need to put on your CEO cap.
You must charge appropriately for your creativity. You cannot be pissed when you sell your design services for cheap because you have a false belief that no one will pay you what you deserve.
And no, I don't mean you charging a bazillion dollars when you're still learning the ropes. I mean when you hone your craft, nail your process and have crafted your signature design process you have to charge whatever that costs and then some for the creativity you bring to the table.
You're not a Costco designer where you discount when someone buys multiple designs/hours from you. Please don't do this.
Making more money off of selling products may or may not be an option for you. If you want to, then definitely check out this To The Trade resource.
You need to sell your signature design service
Craft a signature design service that can't be found anywhere else.
Stop cruising other designer's websites and using their services to inspire your service. For one, you don't know that they are making any money selling those services. Second, what you have to offer is different than anything you could copy from them.
You don't know what is in your client's wallet
Buyers are liars. People will tell you anything to get the best deal. We live in a time where practically everything is disposable. And you know you do the same thing. Whether you're looking for the best price on a pair of jeans or makeup.
They will also claim they are in the poor house when it comes down to hiring you. It is imperative that you start rejecting clients from the get-go. You should not be the designer for everyone.
You need to make it abundantly clear who you work with and who you don't work with which also means including what your starting fee is (if not your flat fee). Let your prospects figure out for themselves if they can afford you or if they need to go down the budget-decorating design route.
It's your responsibility to educate the client
For years, I've heard designers beg for ASID and other design societies to teach homeowners about the value of a designer.
They haven't and they won't. They could give two shits about teaching consumers about your value. They've been in business for over 40 years and still haven't found a way to educate consumers about an industry they claim to care about so much?
Very few homeowners know about these societies. These groups are more focused on growing their membership and endorsing more legislation than educating your clients.
Your best opportunity to educate the clientele is through your website. You can teach them all sorts of things and be their advocate. And when you do that, they'll be your fan for life.
There is enough profitable work out there
One of the biggest issues that many of my clients share with me is that they are struggling to make ends meet. They feel like they have no choice but to be the budget designer and they hate it. Who wouldn't? No one deserves to wonder if they are going to make ends meet next month but at the same time, you need to put in the effort to show up and share the value you bring to the world.
Let me be clear... I am in no way saying that there isn't a place for "affordable" design. There is a place for that and high-end design. But when we talk about "affordable design" it must have its roots in realistic budgets. You must be compensated for your time and your clients must have money to implement your design work. This is going to cost thousands of dollars, not just a couple of hundred total.
The difference has to come from the VALUE you offer. How can you differentiate yourself from the budget designers?
You need to create an experience. That is what people value.
People don't buy Starbucks because they like paying for an expensive cup of coffee that they could have brewed at home. They are buying into the experience whether it's the way that they think people look at them when they've got the Starbucks cup in hand or it's about the going into the store and having that relationship with the people who work there.
Position yourself on what you uniquely provide.
Think about that unique triggering event in their life where you can tell their story on your website.
Triggering events are the times in a person's life that they realize that they need your help. Whether it's that they moved into a new home, or their family is coming for visit or their elderly parent is coming to live with them. These are some of the reasons someone comes looking for you. And this is imperative for you to communicate to them.
When you can address WHY they are looking for help and tell their story, you can dominate the market in that niche.
Profitability needs to be your middle name
You must start to document your time. If you don't know how much time you're spending (you spend time just like you do money) doing the tasks in your business then you're going to have a hard time finding profitability.
You also need to study where your money goes in your business. You have to spend money to operate your business and that must be a part of the equation when figuring out your profitability.
Get your online space together
You do not have the option to ignore your website. You need to bring people to your website and work on a marketing plan that you can execute. There's simply no way around it. Maybe you can hire someone to help you with this, but if you're a one-man band you will need to learn how to do this yourself.
Technology changes are a constant
It's 2018 and things are changing quickly. Sure, there are some people out there that think the interior design industry is dying, but I don't hold that opinion. As technology changes and VR, AR, and smart technology become then norm what doesn't change is that people want beautiful spaces.
Dare I also say that I think that there is a major shift in that there will be a market for designers that speak to helping people express their self through their home in a more meaningful way as another holistic modality. I'll have that post for you next week.
As we move forward, and the world changes it reinforces how important it is to step up and take control of your business. You are in control of your destiny and no matter what changes come down the pike you need to be able to adapt when changes come.
Alycia Wicker is an interior design business coach specializing in online marketing strategies.Her clients land more of their own dream clients and make more cash, period. Celebrity gossip whore. Elvis-obsessed.