Designers: What’s holding you back from your biggest success? What obstacles are you putting in your own path? Too often, we are our own worst enemies, so I want to give you an idea of how to avoid the Top 10 issues that can keep you from realizing your best success, and better profits for your business!
Obstacle 1. Commoditizing Your Services. Do not commoditize your services. What does this mean? It means there isn’t a going hourly rate for all designers like there is corn, or chickens, or soybeans or any other commodity. We are all different and we each offer a different experience and expertise to our clients. You must be sure that you’re offering services that have a lot of VALUE to your particular group of clients – and that includes your customer experience. You should also think carefully about charging an hourly rate that can set up a comparison between you and another designer purely based on your hourly rate, not your experience, not your signature style, not your level of service, and not your uniqueness. Consider moving to a fee-based structure or maybe a block system for hours that will remind your clients that you are a creative consultant, not an hourly worker.
Obstacle 2. Not Requiring Up-Front Payment for Service and Merchandise. Are you a sofa salesperson or a creative consultant? Your clients need to pay you for the time you invest in creating their design, and that means an upfront payment or at least a retainer for your creative concepts and intellectual property. And they absolutely have to pay you before you order one stick of furniture. You are not a lending institution and you are a not a furniture store. They have to pay you for the goods before you order them. Period. And a 50% deposit really isn’t enough.
Obstacle 3. Maintaining a Costly Facility/ Overhead and Large Staff. This is the age of lean-and-mean business. Do you really need that large office? Or any office at all? Do you really need five employees? Can you use outsourced help rather than full-time employees? Are there some jobs that you just don’t need to do at all? Find your sweet spot between being overstaffed and understaffed, because going too far to the other extreme (i.e. taking out the trash and running errands yourself) can also really hamper your profitability. Ten years ago I wanted my business to be BIG BIG BIG, now the only thing I want to be big are my profits!
Obstacle 4. Not Knowing Your Current Financials, Client Pipeline, and Earnings Goals. If you don’t get your financial house in order, then you aren’t going to ever be profitable. You have to know how much money you have coming in and going out each month and if all you have is one type of design service where you wait for the phone to ring from a new clients, it’s going to be REALLY difficult to project your revenues for the months ahead. And you have to know your markups and margins and which services you offer (because hopefully you have several) are most profitable and which you should even stop offering. Plus you have to have financial goals and one eye on future business. Planning for future growth and profitability is the key to less stress and more financial and time freedom.
Obstacle 5. Not Investing When Necessary to Grow in Profitability. As I said in #3, there is a fine line between paying too much in overhead and expenses, and not paying enough. Understand the difference in something that really is just an expense, and something that is an investment that can help you truly grow your business. This can include key hires, consultants/coaches, marketing/PR, professional photography, web design, and more.
Obstacle 6. Working With Non-Ideal Clients. A non-ideal client can actually cost you more than she can pay you. If you have a difficult client, or a client that doesn’t pay well, that one person can drain you creatively and professionally, taking you away from other clients and from the work you need to do to get more business. Ask yourself if that person is really worth it. If you spend hours in stress that you could be marketing and networking or you spend hours chasing down payments that you could be creating an effective business development system, then the client is not worth it. So stop telling yourself you can’t afford not to take every client that comes along. The truth is you can’t afford to say yes to them!
Obstacle 7. Inconsistent or Non-Existent Design Procedures. What is the #1 best quality in an interior designer? It’s the ability to LISTEN, really listen to the client. That should be the first step in your design procedure, but you also must have a good, organized plan that will keep you on track. A solid process, an organized schedule, and a detailed task list will keep you on track, no matter what challenges are thrown into your path.
Obstacle 8. Not Listening to What the Public – or Your Existing Clients – Want. Again, it’s all about listening, whether it’s to what is happening out there in trends and new ideas, or listening to your clients and what they need in the way of service and experience. Keep your ears, and your eyes, open.
Obstacle 9. Never Taking Action. Take Action! Many people have no problem imagining what they want their business to look like or run like, but they never get there because they don’t put the process of HOW to achieve it on paper. All great success begins with the first step, and any action is better than inaction.
Obstacle 10. Fears that You are a Fraud or a Fake. The idea of Impostor Syndrome has been a hot topic recently – it’s the idea that you are going to be unmasked as a fake, as a person who doesn’t know her business. This is such a self-destructive idea that women in particular feed themselves over and over. Don’t do it! It will undermine your professionalism, your confidence, your commitment to your business and your ability to sell yourself or your design visions. Of course you don’t know everything. No one does. But listen up! You are NOT a fake – you are a professional who deserves respect – and that includes respect from you!
So are you putting any of these obstacles in your path to success? Make it a goal today to clear out those obstacles, even if you have to work on them one at a time. Print this list, hang it by your desk and knock out all 10 of these obstacles this year. You’ve still got time to make this happen in 2016. But only if you make it a priority. Taking even a small step to knocking these challenges out of the way will make your business stronger and more likely to survive the inevitable changes we will continue to see as small business owners.
You can do it!
PS – Too overwhelmed to tackle these obstacles on your own? My Designer MBA event can help put your financial house in order, get your fees in place so you’re charging what you’re worth, and will talk you through my sure-fire design processes! It’s set for May 10-11 at ADAC in Atlanta and I’d love to see you there! Click here for more!