How To Run Your Design Business On The Daily
Being a business owner isn't easy. There are so many things that need to get done, but if you have no idea how that looks for your business you'll end up frustrated. So let's cut the frustration and get organized today without becoming a meth head.
Define Your Dream Client
Before you do anything else you need to know what problem your business solves and for who.
As a designer, you need to figure out who your ideal client is beyond the basic demographics. It's important to know who this person is and why they would want to hire you.
When you know who you are selling to, it makes it easier to find them and attract them. That's why it's important to get beyond basic demographics.
If you think the answer is anyone with money and a pulse, you’re going to be kicking yourself. Hot George Michael from the 90s could have been throwing hundred dollar bills for me to sleep with him, but when we got in the sack and he realized I wasn’t his type — if you get my drift, we’d both end up unsatisfied.
Figure out who you really want to work with. We go over this A LOT in the Society. It’s kind of important for you figure out who you want to serve because if you say, anyone, you’ll attract more cheap a-holes than you know what to do with.
You need to define who you actually want to work with it first so you aren’t a desperate designer. You don’t need to have people taking advantage of you and believe me, they will.
People will want you to reduce your fees. People will want you to give them a room design for the price of a one hour consult. Or even worse. For free. Don’t do it.
Figure out now who you want to work with and stick to it. Let’s start dreaming about our ideal client. Who they are, what they like, what they do?
The best way to get into their head is for you to write a diary entry pretending to be your ideal client and write with their biggest problem in mind.
Here’s a diary entry from someone’s ideal client:
Dear Diary, We’ve been in this house for a few years now. We moved all our ugly shit into this brand new house. It just doesn’t make sense to buy new stuff, yet. I don’t know what to buy.And the hubby … well, he will be Pissed Pistofferson if I go off and buy another sofa that doesn’t fit like this dumb one we have now. And I can’t forget when I bought that armoire. Oh boy. He was so mad to have to move that thing around. And when it didn’t fit where I wanted it to go. Yikes. Talk about someone being mad
Then he wanted me to get our money back, but it was on sale. I know I should hire a designer, but I’m just so unsure about hiring a designer. How can they possibly know how my home is? They aren’t here. And how do I know that they aren't some fraud? I wish I could figure out how to decorate on my own. Like, I know what I want our home to look like; I just don’t know how to get it there.
Signed, Penny, Sonia’s Dream Client
First I want to dispel the myth that there are two different client types you need to market to.
Audience #1: Real Life Clients vs. Audience #2: Virtual Clients
I’m going to give you a really important piece of information that will help you focus your marketing results like a laser beam when you are trying to figure out how to get interior design clients.
You see, all of your “real life clients” and your “virtual clients” are going to look for you on the internet.
Meet Mabel, she lives in Eastvale, California (my current spot in the “Land of the Dirt People” until I can escape to a tiny cabin in the mountains to get away from stupid drivers here) and she’s hankering to hire a designer.
She will ask her friends first, but her friends may reply with either a) they did and that wench was horrible or b) no they haven’t. Next, Mabel will be Googling, not using the doorstop formerly known as the phone book, to find an interior designer.
I know a lot of interior designers in the past relied on referrals, but even now, a good referral is great, but your clients are still gonna Google you/read your blog/virtually judge you and then decide if they want to call you. All of this based almost entirely on your online presence i.e. your website.
And Mabel is going to click, bookmark, stalk, ponder and repeat. For a while. It may seem like a lifetime, but unless you have an online presence that Mabel finds irresistible, she’s gonna wait on hiring you.
My point, whether you’re going for a real life or virtual interior design client, you must be online. And be doing it right.
All the other marketing you’re gonna do in person, trade shows, chamber or networking meetings, of course, will help you spread your info into the world, but you must be online with a website that your clients find smokin’ hot that they are scrambling to find the “WORK WITH ME” button within minutes.
If you do your work on the front end to figure out who you want to work with and where they are, you can start to devote some time to get your dream client’s attention.
What Design Services Should I Offer?
First. Whatever you offer, make sure it is something you love to do. Do not ever do anything for the money. When I first started my design business I offered too many services which are not a good thing either. But I find it is always good to make a list of possible services then find a way to package them up in a way that solves your client's problem perfectly.
If you have a bunch of ideas for your design services pick three TOTAL services.
Here is a list of interior design services ideas you could bundle up to offer your clients...
Window Treatment Ideas
To Do Lists
Accessories Mood Boards
Wall Art Ideas
Fabric Mood Boards
Be a Personal Shopper for Specific Items
Design On-Call Service
Finish Selections Service
Pre-Made Room Designs
Pre-Made Paint Color Palettes
Window Design Ideas
Private Message Board for Monthly Subscription
Set Up Your Website
You need a website because it will become your virtual pad online to connect with your dream clients. This means you need to buy a domain and a place to host your website.
Along with your website, set up your email address that belongs to your domain like firstname.lastname@example.org
Add standard pages: Home, About, Contact, Portfolio, Services and Blog
Create a Home Page that tells what you do, who you do it for and why you are the bomb-diggity.
Create an About Page that you write from your heart that is more about THEM than you.
Create a Contact Page that makes it easy to find you online and offline.
Create a Portfolio page to showcase your work (even if you haven't had a single client yet, you can also share the mood boards you've created)
Create a Service page that reads more like a Sales Page than a list of ingredients (Scroll up above to find some services to bundle together)
Create a Blog page (we'll go deeper on this later)
Install analytics and set up SEO on your website.
Add links to social media
Add newsletter sign up (upper right-hand corner is the best)
Integrate a payment process to receive payment for your services!
Once you have your website is set up, you won't need to update most of it unless you hire a copywriter to spiff up your words or change your design services. The only task you'll be continually doing for your website moving forward is updating is your blog.
Your Blogging Plan
Post often. If you want your blog to be a successful extension of your business, you must commit to updating on a regular basis. Once a week is a good start.
Create Categories (SEO keywords are better than cutesy)
Create an editorial schedule for blogging
Publish blog posts that answer your potential client's questions and how you can help them to solve their design dilemmas. Your blog posts are little pieces of advertising in that they are valuable but you can end the post with a call to action for your reader to learn about working with you.
Allow comments and respond to them. A good blog invites readers into a conversation. You may want to moderate comments, but be sure that readers are allowed and encouraged to comment. A response to a comment shows the reader you care and value their opinion, increasing their chances of commenting again and spreading the word.
The 80/20 rule still applies: 80% of your posts should be valuable tips, ideas, and insights; only 20% of your posts should be self-serving.
Write engaging headlines that capture your reader’s attention. A dull headline may make your reader think a dull post is ahead
Try to link to other posts from your blog to keep the reader engaged and visiting your site more often. And it helps you with your SEO, too!
Include photos or images to grab attention and engage with your readers.
Use the categories and keyword options to make searching your blog easier. This also helps search engines find your blog when someone is searching the Internet for a specific topic.
Make your blogging style like you're writing an email to your best friend because you will be able to make a connection with your prospects.
Set aside one hour at the same time each week to post a new article. Scheduling your time will help you be disciplined about updating regularly. Keep a small notebook with you on which you can jot down topic ideas when you get inspired so you have ideas ready when you sit down to write. Or take cell phone pics when you’re out of things that inspire you to blog about later.
You could set up a page for your business on every social media site that you want, but as we have all seen on Facebook you can’t count on getting your fans eyeballs on your updates. If you relied entirely on a social media platform to reach your clients constantly for free you are smoking some special weed and I want a hit. This is why you need to get an email list started pronto. You can get started for free at Mailchimp.
Sign up for e-mail service and set up your sign up form to embed on your website.
You can add email addresses to your list ONLY if you have that person's permission.
Customize your email newsletter template to match your brand.
Decide what day and time of the week that you will you send your newsletter.
Add email opt-in form to your website (place for the reader to put their name and email address).
Always have your design services you offer showing in a sidebar or at the bottom of every newsletter. It’s a way to keep your services in your client’s mind. Did you know it takes 16 times for a potential client to see your service before they considering buying?
Send an email newsletter weekly, the same time every week. Your peeps will come to expect and want it from you.
Your Social Media
Start with a couple… that your dream clients would be on. If you’re sure they are on Facebook and Pinterest, start with those two. Whatever two you pick make sure to consistently update it, otherwise, it will look like you’re out of business and disengage. So no bueno.
*My top pick for a platform to start on and master is Pinterest. It's not a social media platform as much as it is a visual search engine. You can automate much of the process (score!) and get in front of your dream clients who typically are six-figure earners! There's a Masterclass in the Society to show you how to do that!
Set up a Pinterest account for Business
Verify your account
Upload logo or profile picture of your smiling face
Fill in basic bio information
Create boards in categories (Portfolio, Home Office, Color Inspirations, Bedrooms, Windows, Doors, Stairs, etc.) that your audience would search for. Hint: Keywords matter.
Follow Other Pinners & comment on their pins.
Pin to your boards from your website to a board just for your website (and maybe even create once for all of your blog posts, too!).
Pin items as the trusted resource for your potential clients.
Include descriptive keywords in the description of your individual pins, so people searching for specific items (like “#whitebedroom”) will be able to find your item if it applies.
It’s very important if you’re pinning to your own content to make sure it links back to your website.
Create a Facebook Page for your business (not a personal profile, but you must have a personal profile to create a Page).
Put your URL in the ‘About’ section on FB page
Upload Timeline Cover Image
Upload a profile picture of your smiling face
Invite your friends and colleagues to like your page
In the About section be sure to include contact info like your company website
Like other Facebook pages as your business page and comment on them as your business page.
Be consistent. Aim to post on Facebook once a day.
Make sure you balance your business posts by posting much more about things of general interest. Follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts should be good, useful content; 20% or less should be self-serving. A self-serving post is anything that directly helps your business, such as a something you’re selling.
The Daily Tasks Once You've Got Your Foundation In Place
Know that the above guide is the overall plan, but know that there is some other stuff you'll need to work out like how much to charge for your design services and what your signature design process looks like for you.
Once you have your foundation in place the best way to find your rhythm for your daily tasks is to set aside certain days of the week for certain tasks and chunks of time throughout your day for specific tasks.
You also should think about how your energy is throughout the day. I'm the best in the morning and later in the day. In the middle of the day, I'm zapped and my brain doesn't like to work.
When you know your best times of the day to get things done are for you, you can use that to structure your day.
Maybe it means that Tuesday thru Thursday mornings are when you work on client projects.
Maybe it means you don't work on client projects, or take client meetings on Monday and Fridays.
Maybe it means that in the afternoon you work on your marketing tasks like scheduling social media, interacting on social media, writing blog posts, creating images to share on social media or writing your newsletter.
The key to coming up with a schedule that helps you to be more productive is to know your energy levels and know what you need to work on.