Tammy Hart, I.D.D.P, CAPS is a graduate and Tutor of Q.C. Design School and is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist from the National Association of Home Builders.  She is the Senior Designer for the Designer Chick Co. (www.dznrchik.com) and is the Past Director on the National Board for DDA (formerly CDECA).   She is a professional speaker, speaking at venues like IIDEXCanada and Heart of Networking.  She’s been featured as a guest spot on Daytime Durham, Rogers TV and works to empower young women to become successful future leaders and supports ocean clean-up efforts.

As a residential designer, QC Design School tutor, and an entrepreneur, I find I’m often asked what my hints and tips for success are.

Success didn’t come overnight for me.  SURPRISE!  I’ve compiled what I think is the best advice I could possibly give you to help you be successful in this exciting industry, no matter which path you take.

5 Essential Tips to Build a Successful Design Business

1) Build a Tribe

As an entrepreneur, especially when you are starting out, you could have a lot of solo time.  It’s important to have a tribe of people who:

  1. Support you and your business
  2. You can bounce ideas off of
  3. Can help you build your network
  4. Who will kick you in the butt when you need it

My tribe consists of family and friends, networking partners, other designers and decorators, and my coaches.  Each plays a very important role in my success.

My family and friends are my emotional support system.

My networking partners are relationships that I have built over years whom we can bounce business ideas off of, learn from each other and help each other grow our networks.

I count on other designers and decorators to support my business.  Sounds crazy right?  It’s not.  When my firm can’t take a client on, I want to be able to refer those clients confidently to another.  And sometimes, it’s nice to have a partnership to bounce ideas and build successful industry projects with.  It’s always nice to go to industry events with industry peeps.  Make friends, don’t make competition.

I couldn’t make my business successful without my coaches.  My coaches have guided me through huge transitions.  My coaches keep me accountable because my creative brain has the power to make my business side procrastinate.  They give me guidance, insight, and help me push my business to new innovative limits.  They help me see my business through a different looking glass.

5 Essential Tips to Build a Successful Design Business

2) Never Stop Learning

If you want to be successful, and you want to keep clients happy, never stop learning.  Learning will benefit your clients by helping you keep up with trends, by learning industry technology and advancements, and by teaching you new areas which can help you create new niches for your market.

When I set my business goals for the year, I also set goals for education.  I’m a bit of a nerd.  I love school.  So for me, I love going on courses, especially conferences.  But there are many online courses that can help you push your industry knowledge further that are sometimes offered at no cost through many suppliers and industry leaders.

5 Essential Tips to Build a Successful Design Business

3) K.I.S.S

The best piece of advice I can give you when it comes to a design concept is to Keep It Simple Sweets.  Less is more when it comes to design.  Especially in this day in age when we are focusing on sustainable design, look for ways to reuse instead of buying new.  The trick is knowing when to stop.  Follow the rule of odds.

4) Devil’s in the Details

Our job is to be extremely detail oriented.  From our concepts to our presentations to fruition to our invoicing and our summaries – devil’s in the details.  Everything we do reflects our ability to deliver on our promise to create an unforgettable experience for our clients that will, in turn, help them create a life they want. No pressure!

So cross your T’s and dot your I’s; use capitals and proper grammar; draw to scale with crisp straight lines and visualize your thoughts for your clients.  Go above and beyond for them and ensure you tell them that you value their business because, they could choose to use anyone in our industry – but they chose you.

5 Essential Tips to Build a Successful Design Business

5) Eat, Live and Breathe Design

As I mentioned earlier, my success didn’t come overnight.  At the risk of being vulnerable and very authentic, when I first started my business, there was a lot of self-doubt.  “Could I do this? What am I doing?  Am I nuts? Who’s going to buy from me? Can I make this work?”  It’s completely normal to be scared.  But what I learned is anything that’s worth doing will be a little scary and will push you out of your comfort zone.

Believe in yourself and your product.  Exude your passion and people will get hooked on you, and then your business.

Most of all, eat, live and breathe design.  I compare my business to raising my children.  Your business idea is born.   You need to nurture it.  Praise it.  Raise it. Like raising children, it’s a 24 hour, 7 days/week job.  But one day, your children are grown and successful just like your business will be.  And you will be incredibly proud of yourself and all of your partners and tribes that made it happen.

5 Essential Tips to Build a Successful Design Business

Just like I’ve found what has worked for my business and my design concepts, you will too. And when you do, share that information with others.  By sharing your knowledge with others, you’ll be helping build a strong industry of supportive individuals with a like-minded end goal – to create an experience that will impact the lives of others.

Inspired to start your own design business? Check out the business training included in QC’s courses!

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