One of the worst things you can do for your interior design business is to:
“Offer to do anything for just about anyone.”
When you get your first 3-5 clients, it’s okay. You need the experience and to figure out what the heck you’re doing.
But as soon as you get some clients, some data, feedback and a feeling for what you’re doing, you need to start specializing.
This is because no one can be good at all things. No one has the time to create processes and knowledge for a wide range of subjects.
I think of it just like the Medical industry. There are hospital, doctors, nurses and medicine. But the best doctors specialize in a very, very specific field. A general practitioner knows a little about a lot. But a neurosurgeon is more knowledgeable, specialized (and gets paid more). Even better is a neurosurgeon who specializes in only Epilepsy, or just Spinal Cord issues, or just Brain tumors. If you had a brain tumor, wouldn’t you want a doctor who specialized their entire life in treating brain tumors and nothing else? That doctor will have a very high success rate (very important!) as opposed to a neurosurgeon who did everything with the brain, and didn’t specialize. It’s a lot scarier to have them as you doctor! Always good for the specialists, and the exports.
If it’s important to specialize in the medical industry, it is important for any business owner to do the same thing. As an interior designer, the more broad you focus, the more you suck. You’ll scramble to learn about everything, and never get really, really good at what you do.
Businesses that do everything stay small forever. If you are an interior designer who does every style, residential, commercial, hospital design, retail design, single story, multi story and everything in between, you’ll stay up every night trying to get it all done, deal with lots of unhappy clients, and be totally miserable.
The best thing you can do for your interior design business is to specialize.
Here’s how to do it:
First, get clients. If you have never gotten a client, just get experience. Charge them very little and get the hang of doing some projects.
Second, analyze the results. Once you get 3, 4 or 5 clients, analyze very closely which ones you loved working for most, and which ones you hated. Document all the good and bad experiences. Then, make a GOOD and BAD list. Good projects & clients have these characteristics. Bad projects & clients typically have these elements.
Third, discover a specialty. Once you know which elements of projects and clients you like doing best, you can start creating your niche. Do you love only doing bathrooms? You could be a bathroom specialist. Do you love traditional, classic interior design? Specialize in that. Do you love working with families with young children and focus on creating play spaces? Do that exclusively.
Update your marketing. Once you establish a niche, you must update your marketing. This must be on your website and business card, your social media, your email marketing, your email signature, and as your business slogan. You must start telling people what you do. Instead of saying “I am interior designer” say “I design spaces for children to play in” or “I design Texas farmhouses.”
People gravitate emotionally to niches. If you are just an interior designer, no one is emotionally connected with you. But, if you specialize you’ll find more clients just like you who value the same things. If you are an interior designer specifically or the disabled community, they will love you for it. If you design only with antiques and furniture that is made up of a history, your clients who hire you will love to work with you.
Re-analyze your niche as you get more clients. As you get more clients, you will lose focus. People will pull you in every direction. Or, you may find an even more specific niche that is even more relevant and powerful that before. You might find that you started as a “Classical interior designer” and now you design for “Retired people who live in Washington DC that love classical architecture.” After you get 10 or 20 clients, you find that 2 or 3 of them fit an even more specific niche that you really, really well in.
Document the process. Throughout each of these steps, you need to create a Master Checklist that documents each step of the process along the way. Eventually, all your projects need to go through the same One (1) Master Checklist that ensures all your clients will be 100% happy. This makes you more efficient, and it makes you more of an expert. If you specialize exclusively in “Interior Design for Chiropractors in Chicago” you can be the go-to, with a proprietary, documented process that no one else in the entire world can compete with. You will dominate your industry.
If you want to truly be successful as an interior designer, you must find your niche. Otherwise, you look like all other interior designers. Clients wont understand the difference between you and your competitors, and they will mostly go off of price, or something arbitrary. If you can identify a niche you love working with, you’ll grow faster than specializing, you’ll be an expert, and you can start hiring people to follow your process and do most of the repetitive work for you.