What Your Interior Design Credentials Aren't Telling Your Clients


I think I drank the Kool-Aid when I was a brand new interior designer. Think? No, I did. When I started my residential design business I made friends with some designers and they kinda let me know that to be the shiznit designer, I should join ASID. So I checked it out.

When I checked out the requirements, I didn't want to put "Allied ASID" after my name on my business card.

Oh hell no, I wanted the top level!

That was only achieved by passing the NCIDQ. So I studied and did pass it. While I was at it, I went for the CCIDC cert, too.

Now that I had things in order, I was ready to go. It was $400+ per year to join and as a new designer who was going to focus on residential design I figured this was a business investment I should make.

I'm sure the benefits haven't changed much since I was a member, so let's look at their current benefits:

  • The ASID Appellation—the highest mark of professionalism in the industry

Yes, I could put the ASID appellation after my name, BOOM!

  • A national network that includes Industry Partners, media partners and consumer-focused communication to market the value of interior design

Sure, that sounds great.

  • Significant member savings on contract documents, education, publications, research, and ASID merchandise

Oh, boy! More stuff I can buy to help me get ahead.

  • My ASID public profile on the ASID website to showcase your portfolio in the ASID designer referral service, connect with Industry Partners, access job listings and more

That's sure to bring me lots of business!

  • Automatic membership in your local chapter including access to chapter events, learning resources and networking opportunities

I can connect with other designers, that should be fantastic.

  • An annual subscription to ASID’s award winning publication, ASID ICON

Yeah, I should stay in the loop for sure.

  • Multiple opportunities to engage as a leader and mentor from the chapter level to the national board

Eh, not too interested in that.

  • Legislative advocacy for the legal recognition of our profession and the development of laws favorable to the interior design industry

Of course, Interior Designers must fight. RAWR!

  • The ASID Foundation, which funds scholarships and grants, as well as research that sustains and communicates the value of interior design

Yes, let's help the youth of America.

So here I was, a brand new designer. I wanted to be a part of the ASID tribe more than anything. Be a cool designer displaying my "Letter Flair" after my name.


Just kidding, I didn't have those last five letters.

Here's what happened while I was a member of ASID

ASID Appellation: 99.9% of my clients didn't know what ASID meant, nor NCIDQ or CCIDC. When I explained what each meant, they couldn't care less. It was basically like I began speaking German to them, and they wanted to get back to the fun part of design.

Industry Partners: They started calling me and sending me junk mail (which they still do to this day) that I don't need.

ASID Profile: I got one client through my ASID profile who actually cared about my ASID affiliation. I attribute this to she was one of the few well researched clients who wanted to make sure she hired a professional.

Significant member savings on contract documents, education: I did get a contract sample discounted, but the other materials didn't really float my boat. I just went on Amazon to order what I wanted or eBay to get a better price. The CEU course selection they had available were pretty meh. Nothing I was interested in that would help me market online which was where I was focusing.

Local Chapter Membership:  Since I live in "The Land of the Dirt People" I was smack dab in the middle of two chapters. Palm Springs and Orange County. Palm Springs had a website that didn't work and didn't look like anyone was in charge over there. I emailed for more info and heard nothing back. Maybe they had heat stroke?

That's why I went with the Orange County chapter. They were active. And it was the OC, the place I felt most safe in So Cal. Then I went to a meeting...

"Hello." She said it with disdain as she put her hand out, like she wanted me to kiss it instead of shake it, as she gave me the once-over.

I asked her about herself and her business. She couldn’t be more interested. She made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t her type of people. 

After what seemed like a excruciating minute, I gracefully exited that conversation and tried to mingle again. Same results. 

I check to see if I smelled. I checked my hair in the reflection to see if I had an unsightly fro. I looked at my clothes to see if I had some terrible shit stain. Nope, I didn’t. 

As my mind raced with thoughts about why I wasn’t good enough I meandered around the showroom.

I chatted with the representatives of the showroom. They were nice enough, but they were looking for business. If I had a parrot on my shoulder with tourettes that cursed I’m sure they wouldn’t have cared.

I found one couple who talked with me, I guess they didn’t get the memo that the others had gotten about being snotty.

And that, folks, was my first ASID meeting in the Orange County.

It left me feeling like a leper in the design community.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt this way. No, I know (you've sent me your emails, thank you very much).

Legislative advocacy for the legal recognition of our profession: Meh, politics are bullshit and nothing has really changed since I was a member. And I'm not for writing letters to some politician schmuck to care about the design field. I'm sure it's the last thing on his assistant's mind when she files them in the round file for him.

This isn't meant to be bash on ASID, it just wasn't my tribe. And while I have already caught flack for expressing my opinions on ASID by their faithful members, I will say that this was my experience. Your experience may be way more awesome than mine. And for those faithful, I know not every designer fits the stereotype, but don't you dare think for a moment that there aren't designers out who aren't acting this way. The designer stereotype is still going strong all across the country.

Your Interior Design Credentials Won't Save Your Business

The problem in my thinking is that I never did any research to find out from potential customers if they wanted a designer with all of this street cred. Consumers are totally misinformed when it comes to the design industry. For awhile, I had to convince clients that "No, we can not do a room design for $1000." Thank you "Trading Spaces".

Yes, designers need to know what they are doing, but clients already expect you to know what you are doing when they hire you, it doesn't even come into their mind that you could be a complete dummy (which you're not).

Secondly, I find that consumers don't care about being educated on what a professional interior designer should know or what they do. Much like consumers don't know what's going on with this country, but can name all the Kardashian's goes to my point. Your interior design credentials, for lots of consumers, don't matter.

And that's why you can't rely on them to help you sell yourself.

You rely on your interior design credentials and all the letters at the end of your name when you can't rely on yourself.

In other words, you're insecure.

You don't think you've got what it takes to sell yourself without all the letters after your name.

Your Interior Design Credentials aren't telling your clients what they really want to know.

Your clients want to know if you can solve their problem. But only if they like you. If they don't know you, they can't really form an opinion on if they will like you. Then they don't care if you can solve your problem or not. They have to like you first.

How do you get your clients to like you?

You need a nice website. Sorry, but cheese ball isn't going to cut it. Clients are judging you hard when they check out your site. If you know it isn't up to par, then fix it. Make it your priority. Your website is one investment you can't afford to have looking stellar.

Figure out who you're selling to. If you don't know who you are selling to, you don't know what their problems are. And they've got 99 problems, try solving one of them. Do it with your blog posts, your newsletters or video blogs.

Sell solutions your clients want. If your design services are great, but no one wants them, you aren't addressing your clients problems. Get clear on what they need.

Research. Do some research, talk to people and let them know what you're up to and ask them why they would hire a designer. Do a deep ass Dr. Phil interview and get deep with them. Why or why they wouldn't hire a designer. What would make them consider hiring a designer, what would they look for a designer to create... etc. Otherwise you're guessing and it makes it so much harder.

Believe In Yourself. You are so creative, and so talented. You got this, just know that you can do this. The tech details may be elusive, but you can also find out the answer. You need to know where you're going, that this your life's purpose and nothing will stop you!

You can't fall into the trap of thinking that you aren't getting the business you'd like because you don't have all the letters after your name. Clients will buy from you when they know, like and trust you. Are you showing them that? Or are you relying on your interior design credentials to prove it?