Design Resources

How to Grow a Design Business That Truly Reflects YOU

In this multi-part blog series, we’re taking an inside look at some super cool online courses created specifically for interior designers – to help you grow your business, become more profitable, and market yourself better. In this article, we’re covering The Golden Blueprint by Capella Kincheloe.

“Have the confidence to run your business the way you want to. When you have confidence the rest is so much easier.”  – Capella Kincheloe

You can build your own successful design firm. You can read all about business strategy and systems, do the research, attend the lectures and presentations, and experiment with trial and error. But how much time does all that take?

Capella Kincheloe spent years doing exactly that. She started out working for the renowned AD100 designer Michael Smith Inc in Los Angeles, went on to build two successful design businesses in two different cities, and along the way founded the industry organization Design Collective. From all of these experiences, combined with extensive research, Capella created her seven-week business course for interior designers called The Golden Blueprint.

Being a Designer vs. Being a Business Owner

“As designers, we typically aren’t taught business in school. Like most degree programs, unless you’re studying entrepreneurship or marketing, you don’t learn how to start and run your own business. You learn how to be really great at the thing you do. But then if you want to go out on your own and create your own business, it can be tough starting out. There’s a lot to learn.”

Designers starting out on their own aren’t alone. More and more professionals are creating their own businesses, as technology continues to make it easier to for small firms to grow and become successful. Believe it or not, self-employed workers are already estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and by 2020 are expected to represent 43% of all workers, according to research from Intuit and Emergent.

When friends and colleagues asked her questions and advice about growing and running a business, Capella was excited to share what she knew and help her fellow designers. She realized there was a need for this kind of information.

What Kind of Business Do You Want to Have?

Everyone is different, every designer is different, and all of our businesses should be different. There is no one way to build a successful design business. Once you know what you want and how you want to do things, it becomes much easier to create the structure for growth. The Golden Blueprint is all about helping design business owners to create that structure.

Through exercises and by asking some fundamental questions, Capella helps people design and build their own unique business. It may feel harder than simply following a pre-established set of steps for “How to Build a Successful Business,” but this approach helps designers create something that aligns with their personal goals and values. It feels true to them.

“There’s no right or wrong as long as you are running your business with integrity,” Capella explains. “I think understanding that gives people a lot of confidence. It’s kind of a giant permission slip: to say no clients, to not to respond to a text at nine o’clock at night, to specialize in the kind of design that you want to do, to ask for a retainer or more money. You can run your business the way that you want to be successful.”

A Peek Into The Golden Blueprint

One of the biggest questions that designers struggle with is how to price. “Everyone thinks that everyone else has some secret, fantastic way that they’re not sharing,” Capella laughs. The key is to find a pricing system that works for you and your clients, and to be totally transparent. In The Golden Blueprint, Capella discusses strategies and tips can help you find that middle ground.

The Golden Blueprint is a blueprint for participants to design and build their own business in seven weeks, so they can do what they want to do: design. It was created specifically for designers who have been running their own business for one to five years and are looking to grow (but has also been a big success with participants who haven’t yet signed their first client and those who’ve been in business for 20+ years).

Capella Kincheloe - The Golden Blueprint Course

During the course, there are six modules, each of which includes four to six lessons on that module’s topic. The course encourages interaction with Capella and other participants. She is active on live calls and responds to email questions. There is also a private Facebook group so course participants can discuss what they’re learning, vent about challenges, and develop new friendships. Being a sole interior designer can be lonely, so Capella sees her course as an opportunity for connection.

Module one begins with a series of conceptual exercises that ask participants to answer some fundamental questions about their goals: Why are you in business? What does success mean for you? Next Capella takes people through some business fundamentals: how to choose a good name; tax structure (like sole proprietor or LLC); legal structures like licensing, contracts and a letter of agreement; and basic accounting strategies and tools. The third week addresses how to create a distinctive brand, define what makes your business different from others, and establish a specialty.

“There’s something special about each and every designer out there that will draw clients to them. They just need to figure out what it is.”

Then comes the popular client module: how to find your ideal clients (and what to do about the not-so-ideal ones), ways to identify red flag clients, how to qualify clients, and setting expectations.  Once participants know who their ideal client is, Capella walks them through marketing and selling, social media, and having their work photographed. The last module shares best practices for running a successful interior design business: everything from setting up a professional (non-Gmail) email account to goal setting and creating business processes.

When the course is finished, participants have continued access to the material and can take it again during future sessions – and Capella is always adding new content as the industry and designers’ needs change.

“When designers succeed, the industry succeeds, which helps us all.”

In addition to The Golden Blueprint, Capella Kincheloe also offers three free courses through her website:

Learn more about The Golden Blueprint [Registration for the next session will open in September 2018; cost starts at $799] Find Capella Kincheloe on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.   

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