Five Fundamental Basics You MUST Put In Place To Create Your Successful Design Business
#1 Figure Out Who Your Dream Client Is
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the most important thing you can do. You must know who you really want to work with and what they need you to do for them. Many designers make the mistake of thinking that they want to design for everyone – that’s how you end up depressed and reaching for the vino every night. Fuck that.
Find a person who fits your idea of a Dream Client and learn everything you can about them. Ask them all sorts of questions about why they would hire a designer, what problem they would need a designer to solve, and what worries keep them up at night.
If you’re struggling to find this person in real life, invent them. Imagine all parts of their life. Start with the basic demographics and then go even deeper. You can’t move forward without this research. Period.
#2 Figure Out What Exact Problem You Can Solve
Seek to be an expert in a very tiny area. People who want to work with (and pay for!) an expert like you don’t want a generalist, they want a specialist.
Be the master of a small area like…
Paint and color
Home offices for entrepreneurs
Niche down, then take it a step even further if you can. Once you know who you want to work with, and what specific problem you can solve for them, selling that solution becomes MUCH easier.
#3 Outline The Process + Package It Up
Before you can craft the perfect solution your client will pay the big bucks for, you need to outline your design process – from start to finish.
What information do you collect from them at the beginning of the project, when do they get involved, and what exactly will they receive from you? List all the steps to complete the project and make sure you understand how the client fits into the process. This helps to build trust with the clients because you’ve thought of everything. You’ll be able to tell them what will happen before they ever open their wallets.
When you’ve got your process nailed, package that service up. You’ll know how much time the tasks take to deliver a completed project. This will help you with the next step...
#4 Price Your Services For Profit
Before you pick some random price out of the air, think about your overhead and how much you actually want to make. When I first started, I just picked some random number and had no income goals set up at all. I left a ton of money on the table.
Once you know your overhead and your income goals – put in how many hours you actually have available to work. You can’t work non-stop so when you figure this out this should give you a great starting place. Then add in a buffer of 30% or more to that figure – call it the “shit happens” metric.
Pro Tip from the HBIC (that’s me) - flat fees (instead of hourly fees) are often preferred in the client’s eyes. They like knowing how much the whole shebang is gonna cost. But this decision is up to YOU – if you choose to go another way, just know you’ll have to explain it to clients later on.
#5 Position Yourself
You CANNOT be in the everyone business. Period.
You can’t start a business hoping to work with everyone. Here’s why: It takes a lot of energy (and, hello, fuckin’ money!) to market your business to everyone and their different problems you solve. Save yourself a bunch of headaches by focusing on be an expert in one specific area serving a particular client. If you feel the need to expand later, GREAT! You can do it from a position of strength then instead of a position of total effing confusion now.
Then focus on selling just one of your design services – the one you want to sell the most of. Yes, you have other services you can offer, but be known and educate your clients about your #1 primo service. They will discover or ask you about the other services, but get it in their mind what you want to be known for first.
Want to know more about the nuts and bolts of making this happen STAT? Check out the Interior Design Biz Toolbox - It’s got everything you need to start workin’ it TODAY – and it works even if you’re not 100% sure where to get started.