Archive for the ‘Design Business’ Category

Six-Month Check Up

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It’s time for my six-month check-up – not with my doctor, but for my business. We’re moving into the second half of the year and before we know it, it will be the holidays. Scary, right?! So this is the perfect time to look back at goals that we’ve set for the year, to review where we are, and to plan what we want to achieve before 2016 is over.

In January, I set my Word of the Year, like I have for the past five years. This year, I chose the word FOCUS. And I said my intentions would be that:

  • I will forgo the good and Focus on the GREAT.
  • I will say no to many things that seem urgent and Focus on what matters.
  • I will travel less so I can Focus on my family more.
  • I will Focus on what I REALLY want.
  • I will Focus on change.
  • I will Focus on what I can control.
  • I will Focus on what excites me.
  • I will Focus on being healthy.
  • I will Focus on finding joy.


Already I can see where I have already succeeded, and where I still have some work to do. I have definitely been focusing on the GREAT this year, and I’ve said no to a lot of things that weren’t important for my goals. That’s given me time to really focus on my family and what I really really want to achieve this year.

And I have definitely focused on change – some planned changes, and some that I didn’t see coming. But that’s just a normal year in business, right? Change can be fabulous, and it can be scary. Some changes can rock your world, even if you wanted those changes to happen. But I’m excited about what I’m building this year and I know it will all pay off in the long run.

So what do I still need to work on? I need to keep my focus on joy and on being healthy. I struggle just like so many of you do on taking care of myself when I’m also taking care of my business and my family. Too often we feel guilty for taking care of ourselves – and it’s a cycle that so many of us need to break out of. I am already mapping out a plan to ensure that I have some “me” time to help me recharge my batteries, and to focus on my joy this year!


See how important it is to have this six-month check up? It allows us to re-focus on what we want and what we need to do. I’m going to sit down and rethink how I can move my focus off of goals I’ve achieved, and put that attention to the ones I still want to achieve. And health and joy will be a BIG part of that.

So what do YOU need to do to finish this year in a big way? What goals have you set that need more attention? And are there any goals that you set at the beginning of the year that now seem less important? Start making a new list for the last half of this year, and create a plan for achieving those goals. Together, I know we can do it!







5 Tips to Help You Attract the RIGHT Client

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In my courses and live events, I talk a lot about attracting your ideal client. Not your idealized client, but the one that is perfect for you and the way you do business. Many of you tell me all the time that you are getting clients, but for some reason they’re the ones that everyone warns you about, the wrong fit for you or maybe even one of those not-so-great clients that can drain you of energy and creativity. No one wants that!

So how do you avoid the bad-fit clients and attract the right ones for you? I’ll give you my top 5 tips to help you get it right:

1. POV. What’s your point of view, or your niche? What’s your specialty? What sets you apart from other designers? Do you know? That may be your entire problem! You need to differentiate yourself, and you need to point out HOW you’re different in your marketing and communications. That’s actually a two-part issue. For the first part, you need to define and refine your unique selling proposition. Even if you think you know what it is, take a hard look at your business, your brand, and your niche. Is it really solid? Do you believe it in it completely? Because if you don’t believe it, how in the world will you convince a great client to believe in it, too?

fit in

2. Tell them. For the second part of that tip above, I want you to review your website and your social media. What would those sites tell someone who knows nothing else about you? Are they sending the right message? For example, if you really want to attract clients who love modern design and super-edited rooms, is that what your portfolio shows them? Or are your photos all of traditional design? You might be confusing your message! You can always design a room or two in your own home, in a showhome, or in a friend’s home, to give you the photos and look that you want to show the world. And double-check your taglines and copy – do they clearly spell out your niche and your services? It’s difficult to attract the right client if they can’t figure out who you are and what you can do.

3. Remove emotion. It’s difficult to keep yourself from saying yes to every single client who calls or contacts you. That’s why I think it’s so important to have a screening system for clients – it helps you weed out the ones that aren’t a perfect fit without having you get emotionally attached to the client, or the money. If you can’t afford someone to answer your phone, at least have a client questionnaire on your website that asks some screening questions. On my site, I include a range of budget numbers so I can immediately get a sense of where that person fits. We also ask questions about the scope and size of a project, and my screener asks what they like about my work. If they say they haven’t really seen my work, then that client isn’t a fit. Find a way to keep from getting emotionally involved before you find out if that client is a fit for you!


4. Time for benefits. Studies show that people want to save time MORE than they want to save money. Their time is precious to them – so speak that language. Be sure you’re telling prospective clients exactly how your services will help them in their own lives, that you will save them time and energy on all the thousands of decisions that go into designing a stunning home. And if you have any other amazing benefits, be sure you’re listing those, too!

5. Be honest. However, if you aren’t the speediest designer around (and that’s ok!), then don’t say that you can create a room faster than anyone else. That’s a recipe for disaster for both you and that potential client. Instead, point out that you have the knowledge and talent to make the job run smoothly and efficiently, bringing it in on time and on budget. Honestly is definitely the best policy when you’re talking about your niche and your abilities!

And as you’re weeding through those potential clients, watch out for those red flags that tell you the client isn’t a fit! You know what those red flags are – and they’re different for every one of us. But pay attention to what your gut is telling you. And use these tips to be sure the right potential clients are headed your way!







10 Tips for Winning Over that Skeptical Client

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We’ve all been there – we have a great client “on the hook” but they just won’t commit. It can be so frustrating, especially when you’ve practically designed their entire house in your head and you’re ready to jump in! So what’s a creative to do in this situation?

I have 10 tips that will help you move that client right off the fence and into your “current client” category! Try these to hone your art of persuasion:

1. Take it face-to-face. Often in this digital age, we’re talking to clients via email, text, and phone rather than sitting down together for a meeting. We use the excuse that everyone is too busy and that taking care of it all online streamlines everything. But what that also does is keep you from establishing rapport with that potential client, and that’s not good. So if you have a client that’s wavering, have a meeting where you can sit down and just talk!

2. Don’t make it personal. First, don’t let your emotions get in the way. If you’re pushing too hard, some people will naturally back away. I know you’re excited, but don’t let that overwhelm the situation. And on the other side of the coin, don’t get angry or frustrated because they aren’t saying “yes” right away. People can always sense that frustration.


3. Be strong. Okay, let me clarify: I do NOT mean that you should strong arm them! What I mean by this is don’t cave on your pricing structure or bend your own rules and procedures because you’re caught up in the moment of trying to get them to sign your contract. That’s not going to work out for you in the long run.

4. Show your knowledge – and confidence. There is one reason that people are seeking you out – you have knowledge and skills that they don’t. So be sure that you’re showing your confidence in your abilities. That confidence will make them trust you and your ideas.

5. Draw them out. See if you can get to the heart of their hesitation. What do they really want that they aren’t telling you? Do they need more time to decide? Are they feeling overwhelmed? Ask them how they are feeling about what you’ve presented, and tell them that you love feedback.

6. Listen. People can give you feedback, but it’s no good if you don’t actually listen to it. Be sure that you are really hearing what that person has to say and what they really want. Sometimes the very information you need to finish the sale is in what they’re saying – and not saying.


7. Use a little humor. This is always a really stressful time for people. Even if they have a lot of money, it’s hard for some people to commit to giving you thousands of dollars. And then you add to it the fact that it’s about their home, their most intimate spaces, and the emotion goes up 1000%. So try using a little humor to break the tension – but only a little.

8. Be committed. You have to commit to making the sale. What I mean by that is that this can also be emotional for YOU – and a real confidence sapper. So instead of following up with meetings and questions, you may avoid the hard work of getting to the heart of why the person is hesitating. But you have to commit to seeing it through. Go back and look at #2 – it isn’t personal.

9. Show you care. Everyone loves gifts, right? So be sure you’re giving something thoughtful and heartfelt to the potential client. Maybe for a meeting in their home, you could take a set of books for their child, or a basket of dog toys for their pet. Show that this is the type of fantastic client experience that they will have through the whole process with you.

10. Prove that it’s smart decision for them. This is really the big one. You want to show them how you will save them time, money, and headaches – and you’ll produce their dream home for them, too! Give them the facts and figures they may need to see why going with you is a smart idea. And of course, don’t let it just be about your fees because you never win when you play that game. It has to be about your expertise, your knowledge, and your contacts that will save them money in the long run – not a savings on your fees.

So what do you think of these tips? Do you think you can use them to get that ideal client into your pipeline? Let me know in the comments section below!








Are Your Subs Sub-Par?

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You could be the very best at what you do – the master of customer service, of creativity, and of quick delivery – and your entire project could be destroyed by one sub-par subcontractor. It’s scary, but too often the power to make or break our best clients isn’t actually in our control.

If you’re in a business like mine, who you choose to work with or to partner with, can really be critical to your company’s success! I work with some of the best subcontractors in the business – and I really reward them so that I will be able to work with them for years to come. In fact, I often tell people that I would rather get rid of my brand new house than my drapery guy! That’s a joke, of course, but it does let you know how important that person is to my business. He’s not just important, he’s critical.


And it isn’t just about providing a great product to you and your clients, it’s about reflecting your business’s values and branding, too. For example, you can provide the highest level of white-glove service, but if your art installer shows up in dirty clothes that barely fit and smelling of cigarettes, that’s also going to be a reflection on you! Maybe that doesn’t seem fair, but that’s how it is.

Because whoever you choose to partner with must represent your best, too. So if you have painters entering a home you’re designing, they must be professional, courteous, and look professional. Or if you are a photographer, your assistants must be well groomed, on-brand, and in the background.


The best advice is to be sure you spell this out upfront before you start to work with a sub. My letters of agreement and contracts spell out what my expectations are – that I expect the same level of professionalism that my own company provides. I even talk about personal grooming and presentation. That may seem over-the-top to some, but it’s the best way to protect the hard work I’ve put into building my brand and my customer experience!

And I once even had to ask a person to leave a job site when they showed up with sloppy clothes and a really nasty attitude. I also called the company that sent that person out, to be sure they understood what the issue was. Again, not the most fun thing to do, but I would rather have a few uncomfortable conversations with subcontractors than to lose a client or future business!

So be sure you do the hard work of vetting companies and people that you want to work with – it could save you a lot of headaches in the future. And when you find that perfect partner, be sure you treat them like gold! They’re worth a lot for your future success!







Too Much Information

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A few weeks ago, I told you about the importance of turning off the noise, which would be the constant bombardment of emails, Facebook, news, and phone calls. You’re far more productive if you don’t have that continuous interruption. But I want to go even further this week and tell you what that TMI (too much information) is really doing to you and your company.

We’re lucky enough to live in an age where we carry the world’s greatest libraries, weather station, information tool, television, mailbox, and phone around with us everywhere. It makes us more knowledgeable, but it also can be overwhelming. Having access to nonstop news, to people feeling that they can get an answer from us immediately and at any hour, or to an overwhelming tide of info about other people’s lives – that can make us feel like we’re drowning in information. And that’s not good.

We’re being bombarded by irrelevant information – things that we really don’t need to know to get through our workday or to run our companies. And what is that doing to us? It takes our attention and energy away from what’s REALLY important.


For example, if you have business news on in the background as you work all day, then you’ll see a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs in the stock market. Or if you click on CNN on your computer, you’ll be hit with horrible events and tragedies from around the world. That can only increase your sense of worry – especially over things that make no difference to your business.

That news can also increase your fear, making you less likely to take risks or to try new things in your company. Studies show that seeing all that scary news has a negative impact on our mood and our sense of well being. And even if you are just checking Facebook, you’re seeing those articles and news flashes as your friends and friends-of-friends like them or respond to them.

Checking email, texts, and Facebook obsessively can also make you feel like you’re being pulled in 20 directions at one time. And the sad thing is that more than half of those things aren’t important at all. But it’s almost a reflex to respond to them in some way now, and that’s a very bad habit.

All of those distractions are keeping you from being your most creative and idea-generating self! They’re keeping you and your company from getting to your goals more quickly, to finding the success you crave. And you’re allowing them to have that power over you!


Two of my favorite authors have recognized this scary trend and have talked about solutions that work. First, Tim Ferris, who wrote 4 Hour Work Week, says we need to put ourselves on a Low Information Diet. We need to turn off all the noise and only pay attention to information that helps us do a better job, or to news that will truly impact our company.

And in Steven Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he says that we need to focus mental and physical energy only on things we can control – so we have to forget about obsessively checking the weather, or worrying about traffic before we even get in the car.

So how do we put ourselves on that Low Information Diet? You already know the answers if you think about it. If you work with a TV on, turn it off. You’re taking in that information, even subconsciously, so cut off that flow.

Eliminate all irrelevant information by taking all those bookmarks off your browser. It’s too easy – and tempting – to just click a button and check the news quickly. Or to see the score on a game. Don’t make it easy!


You should also turn off ALL notifications on your phone and/or tablet. And I mean all. You do not need to know that someone liked your Instagram post, or that a tweet mentioned you, or that someone responded to you on Facebook. That is not important to your job or to your company, so shut it all down.

On your computer, make it a habit to log off from your email and Facebook once you’ve done a check for the day. Force yourself to have to log back in to get any of that info – if it takes you longer to do it, it gives you more time to consider if you really NEED to do it.

Use your Do Not Disturb function on your phone. That will screen all of your calls when you’re trying to be creative or work on your cash flow. You have to be able to focus on your work without distractions. That will make you more efficient and will help you get through your tasks more quickly and with a clear mind.

And if you work with others in your offices, shut the door. Make it a can’t-break rule that you must not be disturbed when the door is shut.

If you set these rules for yourself, and stick to them, you will be able to get more done in a much shorter amount of time. And you’ll keep yourself focused on what needs to be done. I guarantee it will make you more creative and better at generating new ideas, too!

So what do you think about the Low Information Diet? Let me know in the comments section below!