As a coach teaching effective marketing to interior designers, I hear the same story over and over …
Designers everywhere are barely cracking past $25,000 in annual income – which, as you can imagine, doesn’t really pay the bills and cripples one’s ability to be independent within their life.
What I also see is this …
Because of the low earnings, most interior designers’ spouses and family don’t take their career seriously, and because of this, most designers don’t take their own careers seriously! It’s a heartbreaking cycle.
Hold on, I’m not done …
As if all of this wasn’t enough, the public’s perception of value for interior design services is at an all-time low. Over the past 25 years, companies like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Restoration Hardware and – more recently – Laurel & Wolf have given consumers a way to bypass designers’ services (and fees).
I’m not telling you all of this to discourage you, but rather to give you a snapshot of the truth – an accurate picture from where you can plan your marketing strategy.
I believe in interior designers and their talent because I was one in a previous career. I know the profound impact good design can have for home values and people’s well-being.
So I want to talk to you about how Interior Designers can learn to love marketing and actually make a reliable, respectable living – and beyond.
First, let’s talk about how designers can start to love marketing, because – right now – they definitely don’t.
I know from first-hand experience that no one gets an education in marketing from their interior design training. Out of my four years of schooling in a Bachelors of Science in Interior Design program, we had only two quarters of “business branding” where we created a logo and business cards. From talking with other designers, I know this experience is common and no one recalls learning anything about marketing, business development, and lead generation.
AKA: actually getting clients.
The question is: how can we get designers to love marketing?
Because this is the core of my business, it’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time. I know that, when anyone sees results and success from their efforts, they’re likely to repeat them. That’s how we’ll know they love marketing.
But actually getting them to take the steps in the first place requires some deeper mindset work.
Imposter Syndrome is when you have so little confidence in yourself, that you constantly fear being “found out” as not having enough experience, credentials, and/or talent to meet the standards of a ruthless, imaginary prospective client who is just waiting to bust you.
Imposter Syndrome exists across many different industries, but I believe that the root of Imposter Syndrome within the interior design community actually begins with the culture of “peer critique.”
If you haven’t been through design school, peer critique is where, once you’ve completed a design project, you present it to your class and you get feedback from not only the instructor, but also your peers. The process is meant to teach designers how to create designs once they’re out working in the field, through constantly asking, “is this the best, possible solution?”
The problem, in my opinion, is that peer critique spirals out of control among designers, creeping out from the only place it belongs – design – and into personal territory.
Designers critique. They are people with opinions. Sometimes, those opinions are critical of each other personally. Even if you haven’t been the subject of critique, hearing someone critique another instills fear and insecurity within you.
As a result, I’m seeing swaths of designers afraid to take even the smallest risks, instead preferring to play small by busying themselves with their website design, pro bono portfolio building, and chronic undercharging.
The hesitation they’re feeling comes down to one, simple thing: fear of failure.
They fear that, if they put out a website that isn’t perfect, or ask for a reasonable rate, or get a client and not know the exact process, or even pitch a client in the first place, they could fail miserably – spectacularly – and that would look bad in front of their peers.
Peers would critique, the designer who took the risk would have egg on her face, and this would be the only possible outcome of risk-taking.
It’s true, sometimes you pitch a client and they reject you. You could also land a client and find yourself not knowing the next step. In fact, there are an infinite number of possibilities for missteps and failure (and, as you’ll learn in just a minute – opportunity) in your business.
That’s entrepreneurship. Perfection is never an option.
As an entrepreneur, failing at things is something you do on a daily basis. Most of the time, it’s pretty harmless. Sometimes, you get an epic smackdown. Every time, you have the opportunity to learn something invaluable about your business.
In fact, failing on a regular and consistent basis means 1.) you’re acquiring knowledge about what works and what doesn’t, and 2.) you’re actively moving forward toward your business goals.
Let me repeat that: trying – and sometimes failing – on a daily basis is PROOF you’re moving forward and growing your business.
Yes, there may be processes and protocols to help you create a business without having to reinvent the wheel every single day, but the majority of things you learn will be by good ol’ trial-and-error.
This process of failing every day toughens your spirit – which is essential for entrepreneurship – and also makes the wins you do get feel incredible, because you earned them with the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears.
If I haven’t convinced you yet that taking risks in marketing your interior design business pays off, literally, I want to give you something easy to remember …
The thing you’re most afraid of – approaching that client you’d love to work with, usually – is the the thing you need to do right now. You might think that fear is protecting you from looking like a fool and, in a way, you’d be right. That’s your primitive, survival instinct leveraging fear to protect you from a sabertooth tiger attack.
But, in the modern world, life isn’t quite as fragile, and those fears are intuition and inspiration speaking to you about what should be done. A wise woman once said, “feel the fear, do it anyway.”
Fear has evolved from primal protection to modern inspiration. Use it to win.
Winning = an unyielding sense of empowerment. It’s that sense of empowerment – the feeling of it – that causes you to LOVE marketing your business.
Despite reports otherwise, the world is a big place – so vast, in fact, its out of our ability to comprehend. It’s full of all kinds of different people looking for help and solutions. Some people are going to want help and solutions from the most credentialed, most celebrated, and most famous of designers.
But, the truth is, most people in this big world don’t have the time or patience to go on an epic search like that. They just need solutions – YOUR solutions.
If you’re reading this and you’re a designer or a decorator, where ever you’re at in your career or training, YOU’RE ENOUGH. You don’t need more experience, more education, more training or more portfolio material to get a client NOW.
Stop planning and go get some clients. It’ll be a win you’ll want to feel over and over again.