As 2019 comes to a close, you’re likely thinking about this year’s achievements and lessons—both personal and professional. When it comes to reviewing your year as an interior designer, there are ways to be more intentional about analyzing progress and laying the foundation for next year’s goals.
Mid-December we always take stock at IDCO, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. Throughout the year, things get so focusing on client projects, that we don’t regularly stop to make adjustments for efficiency and growth. Today, we are sharing our exact process for how to review your year and adjusting our systems and priorities moving forward.
Interior Design: Jean Stoffer Design | Photography: Stoffer Photography Interiors
Our level of outsourcing was the biggest change we made in 2019. And, on the other side of that experience, I can say: outsource as much as you can! I know it can feel so overwhelming, especially for a solo-preneur, but when you hand off tasks that aren’t your magical sweet spot gift, your business will thrive. Hire an expert and they’ll get it done in a fraction of the time it takes you (and better!) while you focus on the parts of your business that you enjoy and excel at. A few things you might not have thought to outsource are things like renderings + elevations, bookkeeping, receiving orders (which should be billed back to your clients anyway!), and press pitching. IDCO Studio has expanded our offerings to include tasks like blog content creation, Pinterest management, newsletters, Instagram management, portfolio curation along with our signature branding and web design for interior designers. We’ve found this allows our interior designers to streamline their outsourced work with one creative agency, keeping things consistent across platforms.
If you’re going to make big changes to your business, the new year is a great time to get the ball rolling. As designers—and this goes for everything from graphics to interiors—everything you’re paid to do requires your hands and eyes on it. In a service-based business, it’s particularly important to diversify your revenue streams, because sometimes, projects are delayed or there is a lull in your billable hours as you’re waiting for product to arrive. Multiple streams of income gives you a little insurance when business is slow in one area or another.
As an example, you could consider offering hourly design consultations for one-off services like selecting countertops, paint colors, or fixtures for a client who isn’t ready to commit to full design services. These consults will be billed at a 3x premium rate. So, if your hourly billable rate is $220 on a standard design project, these calls should be limited to 60 minutes and billed at $660. Keep these calls limited to a single day a week (we like Mondays, as they are often our admin days) and limit yourself to no more than three so it isn’t eating into your other work.
Affiliate links are an easy way to link similar items from a project and have them live permanently on your blog, creating passive income. We’ve also found that our affiliate links make us steady revenue when pinned to Pinterest. More on the best ways to use affiliate links as an interior designer here.
Designer mentorships are another creative way to earn extra income in slower periods of business. Many young designers have formal education (or are self-taught) but lack the real world, on-site experience they need to be successful. You can set up these mentorships however you’d like—one day, one week, six months with two days per month, etc., but these should be charged at a premium as well. Your time, your energy, and your experience should be priced accordingly.
Pro Tip: DON’T FORGET TO TELL PEOPLE YOU OFFER THIS SERVICE. The key to diversifying your income is that you need people to know it’s something you offer. Talk about it on Instagram Stories, announce it in newsletters and reference it later, share case studies/examples on social media or blog posts. People need to know there are ways to work with you aside from full-scale projects for these other revenue streams to generate income.
Interior Design: Lilly Walton | Photography: Jessie Webster
Take a look at your profit loss statements and see how and where you made the most money this year, as well as where you made the least. Don’t forget to take into account the amount of work that went into each. Once you identify your biggest moneymaker, consider how you can scale that facet of your business further. For example: if full remodel/new build projects NETTED you the most money (so, after your costs, your team’s costs, materials, lunch dates, and gas are covered, you had the most money in your pocket), plan on focusing more on that side of the business. If a full renovation project brings in $200,000 gross: $50k goes to one employee’s salary for the year, $50k goes to the second employee’s salary for the year, $20k goes to business costs, and after taxes, you’ll have increased your revenue by $56,000 and paid for two new employees.
What projects were your favorite? What about them made them a favorite? Was it the client, the budget, the location, the design style? Which projects would you rather not repeat? What about those less-perfect projects made them less favorable? Of those items, which could you have handled differently to change the outcome?
Of all your projects, rank them in order from least favorite to favorite. Now focus on your top three. Pick three similarities about them. Those three similarities are what you’re going to build your marketing + branding around in 2020. They will build the profile for your ideal client going forward.
For example: when we did this exercise heading into 2018, we realized all of our favorite clients were interior designers with 2-5 years experience. From that moment on, we stopped focusing on anyone with a creative business and honed in on serving interior designers exclusively. Those other creative entrepreneurs created the same revenue, but when we took stock of what we loved and felt we did best at, the answer was clear. It’s important to note that this recommendation isn’t as much about niching as it is messaging. The similarities in your top three projects might not be type, but budget or location-based. It could be that they’re second homes. The point is that by identifying your ideal project, you know who you are targeting. This allows you to write more effective copy on your websites, social media captions, and email marketing that resonates with that market.
Interior Design: Ames Interiors | Photography: Kate Osborne
A good end-of-the-year practice is determining where the majority of your web traffic is coming from.
You’ll see four categories: Social, Referral, Direct, and Organic Search. You can click on any of these categories to see what links referred your site, which social platforms sent the most traffic, as well as what keywords people used to find your site via Google search.
HINT: Instagram is NOT our top referral. We get by far the most website traffic from Pinterest—about 25x the amount from Instagram actually!
This information will show you where your efforts are worth the time and where they might not be. Better yet, you can use these stats to reallocate spending or to justify investing more money in certain marketing channels.
Successful businesses are those that are analyzed and edited regularly. Don’t let this analysis fall to the back burner, schedule in time to review your year and set goals for 2020. As always, don’t forget that every loss or misstep was a learning experience to celebrate. Not every win in business is a win!
For more information on creative business strategy, check out these posts:
IDCO Studio is a full-service creative studio for interior designers and boutique lifestyle brands. Offering bespoke branding, web design and social media content creation, we help brands built around beautiful living elevate their digital presence to represent the physical spaces they design. Our recently launched limited-release website templates are the perfect way for interior designers to get a luxury website on a budget. These templates allow designers to maintain control of their content. Want to work together? Shoot us an inquiry here.
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