Design Business

7 Challenges Interior Design Firms Struggle With

Running a design firm requires a lot of grit, dedication, and patience, no matter how small or big your firm is. And if you’re the CEO or principal designer of your company, operating your business may even feel lonely at times.

It’s hard to…

Manage client expectations.

Deliver beautiful and functional designs.

Take care of every detail in between, like social media and emails.

Manage trades! 

Exercise?

Stay on top of branding updates.

And get published!

Now, take a pause and imagine for a second…

Instead of feeling unsupported or burnt out, you’ve just completed all your business tasks on schedule, backed by a happy team with measurable results!

What would that work week look like for you?

If you haven’t yet achieved the level of efficiency you dream of in your business, read on as we explore the most common obstacles designers face (and how to overcome them like a boss)!

Keeping up with Social Media 

From Pinterest to Instagram, you can’t escape social media in this digital age of information overload. 

And mastering social media as a designer can be tricky! The idea of self-promotion can feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re recording just yourself on screen.

But, using social media in this digital age is non-negotiable. The reality? If you mismanage your company’s social media, you risk hindering your business’s ability to reach its full potential and visibility.

Solutions: Outsource your social media posts. You can start by checking any business Facebook groups that post resource listings for designers. Here, you’ll see freelancers or virtual assistants offering various services from social media management to 3D rendering assistance and moodboards. You can also use social media automation tools like HootSuite, Buffer, and SocialPilot to organize your posting schedule, auto-populate your hashtags, and more!

Building Workflow Automation

You know operating any business (big or small) can deplete your time, energy, and resources FAST if you’re not careful.  

But, if you have the choice – why waste time and energy on repetitive tasks or reinventing the wheel every time you onboard a new client?

Instead, use workflow automation – a tool guaranteed to create consistency and structure in your business. 

What is workflow automation? 

It’s a system that identifies how you approach making documents, information, and tasks flow across your business umbrella. Automation can represent delegating tasks to team members or developing systems on autopilot (that do not need human intervention). 

A perfect example of this includes canned emails or templates. Why rewrite the same emails repeatedly if you don’t have to?

Solutions: Start by finding a CRM that completes this task for you, like Dubsado, which allows you to create and reuse email templates, schedule appointments, send automatic invoices, and set up intake forms.

Also, minimize the number of software options when possible. For example, find a design project management software that houses every design detail under one roof. At Gather, you can arrange all your products in one central library by clipping directly from vendor websites (instead of manually saving every product), chatting with trades, and creating interactive projects.

Managing Client Expectations (and Communication)

In an ideal world,  after you meticulously plan a full design, your clients would hardly have any revisions or pushback. 

However, revision requests are a standard part of the design process.

And if you have the right systems in place, this process doesn’t have to be painstakingly time-consuming.

Solutions: Instead of using email to discuss feedback, streamline your client communication process. At Gather, your clients can mark items as “liked,” “disliked,” or “approved” within a project (instead of countless hours of back and forth via emails). There’s also a chat feature embedded into each client portal where you, your team, and clients can share real-time feedback.

Communicating with Your Team

With countless productivity apps on the market, from Asana, Dropbox to Trello, and Monday.com, finding the best app for your team can get complicated. Plus, managing and communicating on multiple platforms can add unnecessary stress to your team. 

And when communication with your firm flows easily — you automatically mitigate unnecessary misunderstandings, missed deadlines, or overlooked details.

And we know interior design is all about the tiny details!!

Solutions: Gather runs in the cloud from ANY browser, so whether your team members are in an office setting or working remotely, every individual can work together on one platform. Plus, there are several document templates you can effortlessly share with your team, including Spec Sheets, Line-Item Specifications, Spec Books, Image Grids, Vision Boards, Purchase Orders, and detailed FF&E docs (for counting and costing by area, type, or supplier).

Filling the Pipeline 

If you don’t take the time to execute methods to attract and sustain new clients, as scary as this reality may be – your business can dry up. 

We all know having an official marketing strategy is critical to business success, but don’t overlook the simple things too! 

Solutions: Get involved in your local community, attend design networking events, and unapologetically share your business and strengths with your network – all easy ways to fill your pipeline. Also, consider building your email list, which is 6x more likely to get higher click-through rates and 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.

Sourcing Products  

A design process can become lengthy and complicated when it comes to sourcing products. 

Especially If you’re using excel spreadsheets to manage your product resources. 

Good news: we have better methods for you! 

Solutions: You don’t need to keep track of every product description, URL, and price. With Gather, you can build a product library, generate specifications, and source rapidly with our Chrome extension Clipper Tool.

Clients Shopping You 

With nearly every product accessible online (making it easier for clients to hunt down a bargain or deal), clients now have more purchasing power. 

And this can be frustrating for designers. 

You may recommend a product to a client only for them to find it elsewhere for cheaper, eliminating your markup potential (and creating more back and forth).

Solutions: To boost your profit, one of the most transparent ways to organize procurement is to have a solid contract that describes your process. Every designer will be different – you may bump up your flat fees to compensate for losing furnishing markups or instead, charge a separate flat rate for procurement altogether. Some of you may even let clients purchase independently (while setting liability parameters). 

Ready to increase your firm’s organization and productivity?

At Gather, we help you streamline your design processes so you can spend more time designing (and less time on busy admin work). Learn more about Gather’s features here and start your FREE 14-day trial.