You’ve graduated from your Interior Decorating Course and you’re ready to take the world by storm. Congratulations! Now you’re ready to start your interior decorating business. You want it to be a successful one from the start! Here are a few best practices to get your career off the ground, and on the right foot.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Starting your own business can be exciting, but terrifying. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone! Don’t be afraid to seek out experts’ help, especially when establishing your business. If you completed your business training in your online decorating course, you likely already have a good business plan that’s been reviewed by your tutor. Now it’s time to put that plan into practice. Other experts you can consider are:
- An accountant or bookkeeper to help set up your business financials
- A lawyer to review your business contracts
- A graphic designer to help put together your logo and brand identity
- A web developer to set up your website
You don’t need to hire all of these professionals if you’re confident in doing some of these yourself. But there’s no shame in admitting you need help when you’re uncomfortable taking on a task. Getting help from experts now can avoid tons of heartache later!
Take the time to set up your brand
It’s tempting to hastily decide on a business name, launch a generic website, and start soliciting clients. Your business will be much more successful in the long run, though, if you take the time to establish a reliable brand. This includes:
- Establishing a brand identity and focus
- Researching your target audience
- Developing your marketing materials
- Focusing on your customer service efforts
Remember: brands who have a solid identity, and focus on two or three types of customers are much more successful than brands that try to appeal to the masses. You don’t want to end up as a Jack-of-all-trades – but master of none.
Don’t accept exposure as payment
In the age of social media influencers, everyone tries to get a free meal. It can be easy as a new designer to fall into the trap of offering “free” services in exchange for exposure. This. Does. NOT. Work. You’re a professional, and you have to pay the bills. Never be ashamed to charge for your services. This includes working for friends or family. Offering a modest discount to friends and family is one thing, but don’t let acquaintances bully you into working for free!
Here are some alternatives that are more effective than offering free services:
- Do work for a local charity “at cost”. You can gain a lot of good press by helping do design work for a local women’s shelter, for example. You won’t make a profit, but you also won’t lose money, and your generosity (and talent) will shine!
- Offer free consultations as a promotion. A one-hour consultation costs nothing but your time, and can lead to paying clients. It’s a great way to use the word “FREE” in your marketing materials without actually compromising on your pricing.
- Offer incentives for referring clients. Instead of offering discounts or free services, consider paying people to refer clients your way. In this case, “paying” doesn’t have to be with money! Maybe you gift something tangible to anyone who sends you a client referral. Then, once that client signs a contract, you give the person who provided the referral a Starbucks gift card, or concert tickets, etc. You’d be surprised what people will do for free stuff!
When you start your new business, you might be surprised with just how many people try to negotiate with you, and then attack you and your business when you don’t compromise. These people are called “choosing beggars”. They’re never happy unless you bend to their every will. The best thing you can do is ignore them and focus on clients who intend to pay.
Focus on excellent customer service
Businesses live and die on their reputation. There’s no easier way to ruin your reputation than treating your customers like inconveniences, rather than valued clients. You need your customers more than they need you! Treat them that way:
- Respond to all communications promptly. Have clear business hours so customers know when they can (and can’t) reach you.
- Always be professional. Don’t use foul language, and make sure all your written communications use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
- Don’t engage with trolls. Especially on social media, keep your cool when you disagree with someone. If you get a negative review, make sure you’re calm before you deal with it.
- Go the extra mile. Proactively reach out to clients to keep them abreast of your work. Never wait until a client asks for an update. Let them be thrilled with your level of service!
- Under-promise and over-deliver. No one likes a missed deadline or a broken promise. Try not to be that person! It’s perfectly acceptable to give your client a deadline that includes some wiggle room, in case mistakes happen. Customers will be thrilled if you complete tasks ahead of schedule!
- The customer isn’t always right, but he always deserves respect. You don’t have to bend over backwards to accommodate every customer, but you do have to treat every customer with deference and respect.
Always remember, it can take weeks or even months to gain a new customer, and only a second to lose her! Keeping this mantra in your mind while dealing with customers – especially the challenging ones – will help secure a stellar business reputation.
Launching a new business isn’t easy, but it’s worth the hard work, sweat, and tears you put into it! Follow this advice, and you’ll have a much easier time starting an interior decorating business that will become a raging success!