Knowing Your Value
Designing Your Business
From Contributing Editor, Andrew Mitchell, director of MR. MITCHELL, Interior designer and founder of The Design Coach.
Seven Tips for Knowing Your Value as an Interior Designer
In our second blog article with Andrew Mitchell from The Design Coach, we provide designers with seven tips to develop a stronger sense of their value, build their confidence and set themselves up for future business success.
You will be offered things that do not match up with your actual worth. Whether it’s in life or in business, there will be times where you have to say no to something that seems pretty good for the chance at something better.
Understanding the value that interior designers bring to a project will inform everything we do, from the time that we dedicate to setting up solid processes, to the confidence with which we deliver a proposal or push back on a request to discount our services. Sometimes knowing our value means saying no to opportunities that don’t align with us.
Saying no to a project can help us avoid working with someone with poorly aligned values, on a job that sucks our time and resources and leaves us feeling unappreciated, disrespected, and professionally compromised. Saying no can be one of the most empowering decisions we can make, and can open the door to better suited opportunities.
Consider the energy expended on a difficult, demanding client who’s project is not aligned with your business vision. How could that energy be better spent?
Believing in ourselves doesn’t mean offering a guarantee that things will always go to plan. As interior designers we juggle many responsibilities, often having multiple plates spinning, affected by external influences that can’t be counted or predicted.
Believing in ourselves means that we have a plan in the first place, and have the necessary attitude and aptitude to deal with any plan changes as they arise.
Knowing our value requires an awareness of what we bring to the table, but takes more than just trusting our instincts and believing in our talent. It requires knowing that we can reliably deliver outstanding results by having the systems and processes in place to effectively manage the expectations of our clients.
In this blog we provide designers with 7 tips to develop a stronger sense of their value, build their confidence and set themselves up for future business success.
1. Get clear on your offering.
What are the skills, experience and talents you possess that set you apart from the competition? Even if you’re new to the industry, something must tell you that this is the right career for you, and (hopefully) you know you were born to be a designer.
It’s easy for us to overlook the fundamental fact that our abilities and talents have value. Value that people will pay for. If you struggle to immediately think of a list of your abilities, start by writing down your skills and talents in the way a close friend would, if they were selling your services to someone. Include traits that aren’t just industry specific, like an amazing attention to detail, an unflappable nature, etc.
A major factor that will help set you apart from the competition is the design process you follow. This process will help you deliver successful outcomes, and will importantly help set and manage your clients’ expectations throughout the project (see Tip #6). This is something that provides great value to your clients, and should be part of your offering.
2. Know who you want to work with.
It’s important to know who our ideal client is and what our ideal project looks like.
That shouldn’t always be driven by how much money the clients want to spend! Other factors to consider could include the nature of the jobs (eg: small decorating or large, end-to-end design projects), the professional status of the household (eg: busy professional couples) or the location.
When we’re clear about who we want to attract, we can position our branding and marketing strategy to communicate our offering to the right people through the right mediums.
To ensure we say “yes” to the right clients, it’s a good idea to develop a structured onboarding process for new clients. Remember that we don’t need to accept every offer of work that comes our way. A good starting point is to have a clear set of pre-requisites that qualify a client as a good fit for your business. As a bare minimum, we recommend that a potential client should see the value in your process (see Tip #6) and choose you for your skills, experience and talent, not because you’re cheap or convenient.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others.
“Comparisonitis” is the scourge of the 21st Century. In a market flooded with perfectionism, it’s easy to feel like the smallest fish in a very big ocean.
Behind every beautiful office door and perfectly (photoshopped) curated interior image there lives a designer who is facing the same challenges that you face, doing their best to make a living and keep clients happy. Set your own goals, with your own measures for success. Don’t invest too much time peeking over your neighbour’s fence, wishing you had their green grass.
When we combine Tips #1 and #2 with a healthy dose of can-do and abundance mindset, we can be confident about the opportunities that lay ahead.
4. Set clear boundaries.
Don’t just rely on your fortitude and resolve. Make sure you set your boundaries in a clearly worded, easy to explain contract. Payment terms, work hours, methods of communication, extra fees, termination of contract.
A solid contract will act as your silent, strong business partner and will help prevent a breakdown in communication with clients. When we’ve set clear boundaries, we can step confidently into our creative role, knowing we’re all on the same page.
The most important role strong Terms and Conditions will play in your project happens at the start. The last thing we want to do is to rely on our contract to protect us in front of a jury! A well constructed, easy to explain contract will enable you to set clear boundaries with your clients from the outset.
5. Learn to say no.
For the majority of creatives, people pleasing is a default mechanism. We just want to make our clients happy and we want to be of service to people to help make the world a better place. Ohhh… So lovely, right?
Unfortunately no. Making promises we can’t deliver and setting expectations we can’t meet, with clients with whom we’re not a good “fit” is not doing anyone any favours. Least of all us.
Saying no is an important part of setting clear boundaries. Knowing our capabilities (see Tip #1) and being clear on who we want to work with (see Tip #2) enables us to make measured decisions about what we say yes to.
For those of you who quiver at the mere thought of saying no, start with a soft no: “Not right now” or “I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”
These are both great circuit breakers that can cut through even the most ingrained people pleasing.
6. Follow systems and processes.
We all want to present a professional picture to our clients, so that they feel confident in our ability to deliver successful outcomes. The most effective way of doing this is by setting their expectations from the first time we speak and then managing them throughout the course of the project.
In order to effectively do this, we need solid systems and processes. A well-refined Design Process sets out an obvious path for both the designer and client. When communicated clearly to the clients, a Design Process puts the designer in the control seat, which (believe it or not) is where the clients want us.
Document your systems in detail. Communicate your systems consistently. Stick to your systems. Rinse. Repeat.
7. Get help.
Knowing where to start can be overwhelming, but designers don’t need to do it on their own.
You can find valuable free resources to download at The Design Coach that will help set you on the path to building better systems, assist understanding how to communicate with clients and ultimately equip you with the tools to believe in and sell the value your services provide.
To find out more about Andrew and The Design Coach:
Book a Discovery Call here .
Set your studio’s processes in stone with Programa, project management tools built by & for interior designers. Start free.