Principals To Build Success
1. Understand the Profession That You Have Chosen for Your Career
The interior design industry is an industry that is highly charged with emotions. Designers typically are artistic individuals who enter this field to share their personal talents with their clientele. Artists can often create their own stress levels because of their fear of not pleasing. Designers must learn to put aside their artistic side and approach their project first as a salesman. You must understand what the client’s perimeters are for budget and look.
An average project often does not offer the designer the opportunity to create the whole look. Seldom are we presented with an empty room with white walls and asked to deliver a completed project. Instead we must specify a window treatment or add an accessory that will work with what the customer already has. The majority of projects often create the most challenging problems; the patterned sofa, the Southwestern rug, or the prized piece of art that you must incorporate into that new fresh look that you are being hired to create. You as a designer will spend many hours researching for a fabric that will tie the room together. Your purpose is to sell your client the finished environment not just merchandise.
2. LEARN GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Good communication skills are the basis for success in life. Regardless of the person you are communicating with, a loved one in your personal life or the clients in your professional life, you must learn to speak clearly and intelligently. Learning the proper terminology in your industry is mandatory. Taking the time to read and study current and past trends, fabrication guidelines, and fabric qualities, helps you to specify appropriate materials and designs for the final finished project. Speaking clearly to your client and the suppliers that work with you is one of the keys to a successful, rewarding and most importantly, profitable project.
3. KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS
In order to offer your client customer satisfaction, you must understand all of the components of the project. First and foremost you need to clarify budget, the completion schedule, feasibility of the project, and expectations. Spending hours of valuable design time to put together a project that costs too much money for the customer’s budget creates an uncomfortable situation for you and your client. Learning how to gently solicit the budget a client has in mind is a skill that requires patience and understanding. Knowing your client’s needs in the beginning lays the foundation of trust and good public relations.
4. LEARN FROM OTHERS
Listening to the professionals you are working with and respecting their areas of expertise is vitally important. When your workroom or installer offers suggestions and comments about your specific design, take time to look at their point of view. A fabric that is too heavy or not suitable for a particular design costs a workroom hours of extra time in trying to fabricate the look you want. Even with this extra effort, often the finished treatment falls short of what you and your client have visualized. Likewise, your installer will often help you to address the unique needs of the customer’s windows and help you to set your limitations before you finalize the desired look. Specifying the proper hardware will add to the success of the final project.
Communication with your design team is vitally important. Establish a relationship with a professional workroom and an experienced installer. Discuss your project with your design team before making promises to your client. Don’t take advantage of your workroom or your installer. Being demanding and difficult will cause you to lose valuable friends in any field of endeavor. Your customers will come and go, but your design team will stay with you for years through many good and bad projects. They will be with you to help when you encounter problems and share with you the joys of success.
5. BE ORGANIZED
Being organized is another key to success. Setting up an organized file that contains all of your customer’s information is vital. Keeping good notes as to conversations and expectations helps you to remember what each customer is expecting. When reviewing a project with your design team, have all the information with you. Asking a workroom to give you estimates on projects that you have limited information on is time consuming and often misleading. A pattern repeat on a fabric can change the yardage needed for a window treatment by many yards. A length on a valance or swag is a design decision, not a fabrication decision. You and your client need to decide on the look you want before asking the workroom or installer to finalize cost, hardware and fabric quantities.
6. INVESTING IN TECHNOLOGY
The custom window design industry has been one that has been slow to the table in technology. Designers and workrooms who have been in the industry for years resist investing time and money into new technology. However, new designers entering the industry over the last few years recognize how important it is to find software programs that will help them to run their business more efficiently. I was introduced to a great program called Drape & Blind Software. It is a program that will save time during the initial planning stages of your window projects. Eliminating the issues talked about in paragraph five eliminates wasted time and expense. Programs like DBS allow you to estimate fabrics and cost based on various window treatments both soft and hard, create an accurate quote, process an immediate order, create workroom and installation tickets as well as tie in with your QuickBooks Pro accounting system. The days of creating quotes on scrape paper, sorting through messy paper files and carrying around heavy price books are over. Time is money and investing in a computer system to help you run your business is the best investment you can make. Be open to joining other professionals and embrace today’s technology.
Being successful in the field of interior design is not a simple task. You are faced with the customer’s emotions, opinions of family and friends, budget limitations, difficult environments and an ever-changing society. The interior design business is filled with stress and is labor intensive. Success demands that the designer not only be creative but also be a good business person, a good listener and a good salesman. You must learn to sell yourself, your ideas and your skills. However as difficult as this industry is, the rewards of a customer’s smile or tears or a note of thanks, is what we all enjoy. The final joy of sharing our artistic talents is the reward we all strive for.