There’s nothing quite like the feeling of setting down your laptop after finishing a design concept you’ve spent months meticulously planning and curating.
This honeymoon-ish period is when you and your team feel accomplished and relieved. And your clients feel excited about next steps.
But then everything starts to look bleaker once the procurement phase sets in.
It’s no surprise— many designers find this process tedious and stressful. Maybe for you, procurement entails hefty spreadsheets, lengthy emails, or countless folders with images and bookmarks.
But it doesn’t have to!
In this post, we’ve rounded up industry tools and expert advice from Chad Smith, Director of SideDoor, on how to make procurement easier for your firm.
Minimize Clients Shopping You
When you’ve sourced the perfect collection for your client and feel confident driving them to check out, this happens…
“I found a better price.”
“I found this exact end table with a square-shaped leg on Wayfair. Why can’t we use this?”
“Why is this lamp $700? I saw something similar at Pottery Barn!”
Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
In our current digital era, clients can shop you, and there’s no stopping them.
Smith agrees, “there’s an epidemic of that going on. Here’s the real issue behind that— all these brands, even trade-only, are now selling direct to consumer on sites like Perigold (Wayfair’s sister store),” adding “if you don’t have your own website, social media or aren’t working directly with clients 1:1 (and adding value), clients are 1 click away from shopping you, and this is just the way it is. It is not going backward.”
It gets even more complicated when Google Lens takes away your purchasing power. With this image recognition technology, Google Shopping will display any relevant information about a product (or similar products on sale).
Smith also encourages designers to stay ahead. “Access to products pricing points will be universal, so if you want to be a successful designer, you need to carve out a niche, and if you want to make money, you have to do so with products; otherwise, you’re selling your time.”
Top tip: “Do not send your clients to e-commerce sites; send them to YOUR website, curated collection,” Smith says, adding, “when possible, monetize social media Instagram reels” too.
Lessen Competition With Large Retailers
Profiting from products you sell is an instant way to increase your earning potential, especially since retailers may not always have your best interest at heart (and technically are your competition).
However, clients may not understand why they see the same products at an online retailer for a lower cost than what’s displayed in your invoice or design board.
We all know that charging a markup or purchasing fee is crucial, as you’re providing clients with a high-level service that’s twofold. One, the convenience of managing product selection, fulfillment, and installation, and second, expert oversight of the full ordering process.
This management side of order fulfillment also means you’re saving your clients the stress that inevitably comes with receiving a damaged or defective product. You’re taking this pressure off your clients’ shoulders.
And even though you know this, your clients may not fully understand it. And so, confidently explaining to clients why and how much of a fee you’ll be charging is non-negotiable. This will help clients understand that although purchasing from retailers may be the more budget-conscious choice, it inevitably equals a lower-level service.
Top tip: Start thinking outside of the box. “Designers are the tastemakers— you know product lines, you know what each can do, how it can make people feel— but you’re limited in scale because you can only work 1:1. The premise of the Sidedoor tool is simple. It helps you monetize your taste, but how you go about is up to you: shoppable moodboards, Instagram shops, share 1:1, or by monetizing Pinterest,” Smith notes.
Use Software to Simplify Your Design Processes with Teams
Procurement can also be problematic when tasks and items are lost when working in a large team.
So, how can you separate specifications and sourcing when everyone is working fast?
It’s not through 100s of folders or bookmarks.
Or 25+ purchase orders.
Or chasing 5 reps.
Or logging into 20 websites.
Using a single platform, Smith describes the advantages of seeing all brands and products in one place, downloading the product information and sharing it with clients, or having clients buy directly from the platform. Using project management software like Gather, designers can accomplish this.
You can also source and build a reusable library using Gather’s chrome extension clipper tool. This clipper prevents you from re-clipping the same products (or reinventing the wheel whenever you work on a new design).
Top tip: Find a beneficial combination of tools for you. Utilizing Trello or Asana, in addition to Gather and Side Door, can streamline your workflow and make it more profitable for you and your team.
Focus on Strengthening Your Basics
When we asked Smith what he felt was holding designers back from reaching their full business potential and growing financially; he summarized 3 things:
Lack of confidence: Smith urges designers to stop making excuses. “If you have a point of view and you believe you’re a good designer, there are tools that can put you everywhere, Pinterest, Shopify, Squarespace, Instagram shop, Facebook shop.”
Inability to cut through the industry noise: “Learn how to decipher bad advice! There is so much garbage out there— so many business coaches who are looking to turn you into their products. This can be confusing, make designers question themselves, and can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong (creating another reason why you don’t put yourself out there),” Smith says.
Lacking Business 101: Smith provides a simple alternative, which includes mastering basic business tactics like…
- Valuing your time
- Knowing how to sell
- Marking up your product
Top tip: “The industry can be hard; it is not an easy way to make a living. To do it well, you must have a holistic view of this and realize where you fit in the industry. And don’t think other brands will want to help you grow. You must figure out how you will grow your brand and business and have the confidence to put yourself out there,” Smith advises.
More About SideDoor
SideDoor was founded by Lynsey Humphrey, a designer and entrepreneur. She also founded Design Kollective (an online marketplace for furniture boutiques) and co-founded Alder & Tweed (a wholesale furniture company and luxury interior design firm). SideDoor has paid over a million dollars in commissions to designers of all shapes and sizes. Sidedoor can cater to several designer levels, from solo designers to AD100 designers and to large firms, allowing creatives to get back more time in their day. SideDoor also helps designers build shoppable looks, where each pro can repurpose their designs and link to products they show (allowing clients to shop directly from you). Plus, with Side Door, you don’t have to worry about curating from so many brands or meeting any minimums. The best part: Sidedoor stands behind the scenes, centralizing orders and managing fulfillment and delivery for your clients. In essence, they become an extension of your team! Typically, Side Door offers a full designer net commission of about 30%.
“The interior design industry is complicated, it’s overly nuanced, and we’ve tried to build a tool that’s flexible and meets the needs of e-designers, stagers, all the way up to a big commercial firm,” Smith says.
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 ff&e software features here and start your FREE 14-day trial.
Shivani is an expert writer for Gather who covers interior design, decorating, and home improvement. She has worked as a residential interior designer for 4+ years and has extensive training in space planning, 3D renderings, 2D floorplans, whole room furnishing and décor, and color consulting. She is passionate about educating communities on industry topics and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, The Spruce, My Domaine, Domino, Martha Stewart, and Atlanta Magazine. Currently, she is also completing her residential interior design certificate from Rhode Island School of Design’s continuing education program.