You have always loved interior design. If I ask ten designers why they are successful, nine of them will tell me it is because they are passionate about what they do. I need to be honest with you; most of them are NOT successful because they are passionate. I think it is important to be passionate about whatever you do and it might help, but it is not the reason for success in an interior design business. I am passionate about soccer, and love to play. I could play every day of the week, but my love for it is NOT going to make me a professional.
On my podcast, The Chaise Lounge, I interview nothing but successful interior designers. I have a set of criterial to determine at least a minimal level of success, but within that, there are varying degrees of success. Now, I know success is not necessarily determined by the amount of money one makes, but for the masses, success should mean that you have a thriving business. I would guess that the average interior designer in the United States makes less than $40,000, but that is going to include those that work part time, as well as full time. Fees can vary greatly across the country. I have heard of designers in New York that are able to charge over $250/hr. and I have heard of designers in the Denver market charging $50 to $75 per hour. I do not ask my designers on the show what they charge, or what kind of income they receive, but a designer that works in several states, has a staff assisting them, and has been in business for several years, is typically well past the start-up stage, and has some great insights to share.
Being a painting contractor, I have worked with a lot of designers. Unfortunately, a lot of them do not have thriving businesses. As a business owner myself, I have wanted to give lots of tips and suggestions, but am sad to say that many of them see me as nothing more than a painting contractor that couldn’t possibly know much about real business. There are business practices and principles that we could talk about, but today, I want to simply discuss marketing mistakes.
FIVE Top Marketing Mistakes
I am sure that many reading this may get offended at some of the items that I will list here, but please know that these are things that I see consistently in the interior design business world, and they DO NOT help you attract more clients and customers. I want to help you raise your game, and get to the next level, whatever that means for you.
- Un-professional Business Card. This is the first and easiest thing for me to spot, because as I meet designers, they hand me a card. I have seen cards with perforation, free cards from Vista Print (and trust me, we can tell), and all sorts of horrible looking cards. This is the first impression you are making on your client. Make it a good one. It does not need to be expensive, but have a real graphics designer, design you a card, and then have it professionally printed.
- Bad Website. I am still amazed that some designers do not have a website. IT IS 2015 PEOPLE! GET A WEBSITE! But then, it also needs to be clean, simple, and have great pictures. If you have not read my blog about creating a great website, click here to read it.
- Wrong kind of Email. You should not be using @gmail, @yahoo, @me, @hotmail, or any of the free email services for your professional email address. This is a tell-tail sign that you are not serious, and that you are not a full-time interior designer.
- Not using Houzz.com. If you haven’t heard, Houzz.com is only the largest website for homeowners to get inspiration for home projects and the best way to get new clients. I am not saying you need to sign up for their paid programs, but do everything you can with the free services on the site. Create your profile, upload project portfolios, and get reviews. I am a painting contractor, and I have 14 great reviews on Houzz.
- Networking in ALL the Wrong places. If you are going to the local chamber of commerce, a LeTip meeting, or just some numbers-driven leads group, you are NOT networking with the right crowd. If you want to work in the big homes, you have to go where they go. Get involved with a charity, work with organizations filled with high level CEO and top executives, or join a prestigious club. If you involve yourself, and get into the right circles, you will work in those circles. But don’t be fake and phony. Be authentic, helpful, and try to solve problems. The word will get out, and you will be super busy with the right clients before you know it.
As an interior designer trying to run your business, you have lots to do, but marketing is one of the most important. If you aren’t “getting your name out,” then the phone could stop ringing. Word of mouth is great, but in order to grow a sizable business, you have to think about the marketing piece, and take it as serious as you do your designs.
If you want to connect with Nick May and The Chaise Lounge, please do so on our website at TheChaiseLounge.com where we talk the business of interior design.