Whether you’ve just launched your interior design business or you’ve been at it for a while, one thing’s certain: there’s always room for improvement. You’re building a brand and that will take time. However, there are a few things you can do right away to create a solid foundation and improve your interior design business. Doing these things will help you build trust with your clients, including current, past, and prospective. Let’s get started.
1. Niche Your Business
With an interior design business, it’s all about positioning, and we’re not just talking furniture here. You must find a unique value proposition, and the easiest way to do that is to dedicate yourself to a specific design niche.
We’ve discussed the benefits of choosing a design niche before (definitely check out that post if you haven’t already). Here’s the shortened version of why niches matter in interior design: You can become a go-to expert in a specialty that you naturally adore anyway.
More than likely, you already have a specialty anyway, so why not embrace it? Perhaps you love designing commercial spaces or tiny homes. Maybe you embrace the shabby chic aesthetic or you prefer minimalism. Whatever your style or preferences, you have a unique perspective, and it’s important that you double-down on it. By doing so, you’ll accomplish two things at once: Do what you love and attract clients who are looking for and will appreciate your work.
Another perk to specializing is that it allows you to concentrate your marketing efforts. Once you know your audience, you’ll be able to find them through advertising. For example, you can place ads in relevant magazines, posts on niche social media groups, and guest columns on websites that they may frequent. You can’t be everywhere at once, but specializing also enables you to better target your marketing and improve your interior design business.
You’re in a people business and that means one thing: you must make networking a priority. And for those introverts out there who loathe the idea of networking, don’t worry. There are several ways to get your name out there that don’t necessarily involve endless cocktail parties and business card swapping. Here’s a list of networking opportunities you should consider using to grow your interior design business:
- Attend conferences, luncheons, fundraisers, seminars
- Participate in showroom events
- Go to designer talks
- Attend, volunteer at, and participate (if invited) in designer showhouses
- Volunteer for interior design panels
- Get active on industry blogs and Facebook Groups
- Attend trade shows and and Expos to learn about new products
- Make frequent appearances at your local chamber of commerce meetings
When networking at these and other industry events, there are several key individuals you should seek to connect with, such as:
- Other interior designers
- Home builders
- Real estate agents
- General contractors
- Local home decor shop owners
- Furniture showroom managers
3. Create and Maintain an Informative Website
Another surefire way to improve your interior design business is to focus on your website. Your website is one of the most powerful tools you have to market your services. Prospective clients will often find you through your website, so it should be created and maintained with that purpose in mind.
Here are the most important things to consider on your website:
Focus on SEO
Perhaps you’ve heard of SEO before. It stands for Search Engine Optimization. You need to optimize your website for search engines. Doing so allows search engine users (a.k.a. prospective clients) to find you through an Internet query. Ideally, you want your site to be among the first page of returns for your targeted keyword. Your targeted keyword may be “San Francisco interior designers” or “art deco designers.” If your prospective client goes to Google and searches for that specific keyword, you want your website to be represented in the first 10 results.
You’ll do this through SEO.
SEO can be complicated, but the most important tips to do right away to optimize your website are:
- Make sure your website is mobile friendly. If you work with a web developer, verify that your site is “responsive” to multiple viewing screens. If you choose to “DIY” on your website, here’s more information on how to make your website mobile friendly.
- Use the keyword phrases that you’re targeting on your website in a natural way (i.e., create a blog post around that topic)
- Create a blog that churns out new, relevant information consistently (more on that below)
There’s nothing worse than a website that hasn’t be updated in forever. While most of the pages on your website are static (in other words, the information doesn’t really change), that doesn’t mean that your website can’t be refreshed with new photos and important news frequently.
Aim to update your website at least once every six months.
Add new projects to your gallery, discuss recent accolades or awards you’ve received, and promote upcoming events that you’re involved in. If nothing “new” has happened, you can switch out your main homepage photos or select a different testimonial to promote. There’s always something you can do to improve.
Create a Blog
An easy way to update your website is to add a blog and consistently post on it. Post frequency is up to your abilities, but try to post at least once a month.
When blogging, remember to blog for your prospective clients and not to impress other designers. The point of your website is to attract new business, not to set yourself up as a thought leader and industry influencer. This is an important distinction that sometimes gets lost on well-meaning designers. Always remember your audience. Choose relevant topics that prospective clients would most likely search for in Google and also use appropriate language that reflects how your audience speaks and thinks (i.e., no industry jargon).
4. Get Organized With the Right Tools
Need a boost to your productivity and efficiency? If you’ve cobbled together multiple tools like browser bookmarks, sticky notes, Pinterest, and Excel, you know how inconvenient it can be to switch back and forth. Something inevitably gets lost in the workarounds.
You need to find the right tools to help you run your business. Here are a few tools to consider:
Keep yourself covered by making sure you have the right legal contracts on file. Here’s a list of 8 legal templates to download for free.
These days, it’s crucial to have a quality interior design software tool to help your clients visualize your ideas. Consider an easy-to-use tool like Planner 5D or RoomSketcher if you’re new to 3D design. If you’d like a more robust system, try your hand at SketchUp.
When you work with clients, you can use Gather to quickly get approval on specific items (without the email back and forth) and then automatically create professional proposals at the click of a button. For your own organizing needs, you can use Gather to set up a digital library of all of your favorites or client-specific items. Once set up, you can easily browse through your digital resource library by name, type, date added, and other filtering specifications.
You need a tool that allows you to manage all aspects of your design business, from invoicing to vendor management to scheduling. For a full-featured software, check out Design Manager or Studio Designer.
If you’re not looking for a full-fledged project management tool that happens to include accounting, you can always use a tool that’s focused specifically on accounting. Try QuickBooks or FreshBooks to keep your finances in tip-top shape.
Remember that the right tools can easily (and almost instantly) improve your design business.
Use the above tips to improve your interior design business, but remember the most important tip of all: be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s going to take time to establish your interior design business. However, slowly improving your business will pay off eventually with long-lasting clients and consistent word-of-mouth marketing.
If you haven’t already, be sure to start your free trial of Gather now!