Have you ever seen a baby bird leaving the nest for the first time? Taking flight with their unsteady technique and newfound amazement they just do what instinctually feels right. Now think about starting your interior design business. Your instincts kicked in, just like the baby bird. Your creativity is the piece of the puzzle that you likely never questioned. After a couple of years and some good projects under your belt you start to realize that the instinct for the business side of things isn’t quite as strong. A few more years go by and now it’s panic time. The need to understand the business and work on processes is urgent. You’ll be relieved to know that it’s actually not that difficult to create processes to improve your interior design business. While creativity is a gift that can’t be taught, processes can be learned at any time.
Here’s How to Create Processes to Improve Your Interior Design Business
There are 2 important distinctions to make when you start to focus on processes:
The client experience processes and your internal processes.
They’re both equally important but there’s a world of difference between them. Today I’m addressing the client experience processes but there will be a part 2 with internal processes so stay tuned…
CLIENT EXPERIENCE PROCESSES – processes to improve your interior design business
Think of this as how you interact with your clients. It’s the ease or difficulty someone feels in being a part of your business. It usually doesn’t involve your design since that’s your creative process although it does include the presentation aspect of your designs.
Your client experience begins long before the homeowner becomes a client. If your client process is off-putting you won’t ever make it to the first stage.
1/ INQUIRY PHASE PROCESS
Are you struggling to get inquiries? A broken inquiry process means the rest of your process could be A+ but clients will never get that far.
During the inquiry phase you have no way of knowing you’re being evaluated. Prospective clients are looking at you but they’re not yet ready to engage. They’re looking at your website, your social channels and asking about you if it’s a personal referral.
how to create a strong inquiry phase:
Load your website with content that will answer questions that new clients might have.
Have a content strategy for your website and talk about the clients you serve versus talking about yourself!
(Pro tip – if you do this, you already have a massive advantage over your competition).
Your blog library needs to be stacked with answers to the questions that clients most frequently ask you. This shows your expertise and positions you as an authority.
How easy is it for someone to contact you? Do you have a contact form? Is there a link to your scheduling calendar?
Do NOT put your phone number up and think that’s good enough. Your future client is busy with their own life. Make this step easy for them to do on their time.
Let’s say Mrs. Jones only has an hour between 10-11pm to do research for her upcoming renovation. She’s not going to call you but she will schedule a call with an online booking system. You might be missing out on inquiries because she’ll move on to her 2nd choice designer who has made this step easier.
This is the first introduction to your business. If this is hard Mrs. Jones will assume all the rest of the process is going to be hard as well.
Are you sending follow-up reminders after you book the discovery call? Do you offer an easy way to cancel or reschedule the call?
2/ ONBOARDING PHASE
Congratulations, Mrs. Jones has agreed that you’re the right designer for her project. You’ve completed the discovery call and maybe even an initial consultation. What’s next?
Always respect the fact that your client doesn’t know what’s next. Make sure you nurture them and share next steps before they ask.
How to create a strong onboarding phase process:
Review your company policies at your first meeting. This should include how and when a client can communicate with you, revision policies, timelines and scope creep policies. Add any other policies that are important to you in maintaining open dialogue.
- Communication – ie “office hours are M-F between 10am and 6pm. I am happy to receive all inquiries via email and will get back to your inquiries within 12 hours. Inquiries sent over the weekend will be reviewed on Monday.”
- Revision Policies – ie “2 rounds of revisions are included with each presentation. Any additional revisions will be outside the scope of work and will be billed at an hourly rate of $x/hour.”
- Timeline Policies – ie “Once a design has been presented all revision requests must be approved within x weeks.”
- Scope Creep Policies – it’s so important to go over the Scope of Work line by line to make sure your clients know exactly what’s included. Be sure to address scope creep in there – ie “any work requests outside of the SOW will be evaluated and addressed separately in an Addendum.”
Explain in detail the entire process of how you will guide your client from A to Z. Again, remember that they may have never renovated and they have no idea what to expect. It’s your job to assure them that they are in good hands and put them at ease.
WANT TO BE MORE CONFIDENT IN YOUR DESIGN BUSINESS? READ THIS POST
3/ THE DESIGN EXECUTION PHASE
This is without a doubt where most problems occur between designers and clients. It’s often the time when the clients are panicking and you’re feeling the pressure from everyone.
Create a strong policy around the design execution phase. This benefits you more than your clients as you’ll continue to work while having a way of responding to their needs.
How to create a strong design execution phase:
Maintain regular communication with your clients. This can be via a weekly end-of-week email update. I recommend you create a template that makes it easy to report on the status of the design as well as what’s upcoming the following week.
Include a schedule of meetings in your contract. This should allow for design presentation meetings as well as update meetings. Take the time to plan for and include these so you don’t attend meetings without compensation.
4/ THE OFFBOARDING PHASE
If you’ve ever been to a restaurant where the service was great but the server disappeared before the bill arrived, you’ll know how frustrating this is. This can ruin an otherwise great experience.
You don’t want your clients feeling the same way at the end of their project. For most designers, this process is non-existent so if you don’t have one, you’re not alone.
how to create a strong offboarding phase:
Schedule an offboarding meeting with your clients. Allow them to ask any final questions and understand the ways in which they can contact you. Present warranties and receipts they may need for purchases made on their behalf. Give them a paint guide with colours and locations. Generally, just hand over whatever information belongs to them.
This meeting is a great way for you to get feedback around your processes. Learn what went well and how things could improve. If you want to be better after every project, use this time to learn more about your business from your clients.
How do you acknowledge and thank your clients for trusting you with their project? A card, a gift, a small party are all options and entirely up to you but don’t forget this step.
Be sure to include a testimonial request during this phase. Your future clients want to know what it’s like to work with you. If you’re uncomfortable with asking this in person you can send a follow up email.
Schedule regular check-ins dates for yourself. Stay in touch even if it’s just an annual check-in. Let your clients know that you’re interested in working together in the future should the need arise.
Just as the baby bird continues to improve with each new attempt, small steps towards creating strong processes can happen over time. I hope you can see how easy it is to create processes to improve your interior design business. Just commit to adding a new one with each project.
If you really want to kickstart your processes, check out my services and see how I can help you.