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How to brand your interior design business

Perfecting your Interior design niche and finding your design brand.

What do you think when you hear niche? Why do people say riches are in the niches?  Wouldn’t funneling out people and work just make a business more limited?  This whole concept seems strange to me until I figured out a new way of looking at it.  

I am sure you have heard the saying “If you talk to everyone you talk to no one.” The messaging and the way you differentiate yourself is really hard to determine no matter what work you do. Niching comes from a perspective of limitation and restriction. If the world is your oyster your niche is the pearl.

This is the challenge, You can niche your work and be open to every beautiful aesthetic out there. I am talking about the perfect client in a different town.  Someone with the right budget and style that stretches your creative brain.  Why wouldn’t you want to pull from all those options?  You can niche yourself and not limit yourself.

Interior design is a service based business.   We provide a service to a group of people that need it.  We also need them to behave a certain way, while respecting and trusting us to keep things on track. Our niche becomes the overlay a kind conversation in everything we do.

Kindness towards ourself and our clients + audience.  In a way that we serve them and in return they become a better client.  Then the process sifts out the behavior creating a better, effective experience for everyone. Clients read us.- they can tell if their is a hunger, if there is a fear, if there is an uneasiness,  Its best to be clear on boundaries to be comfortable. And create comfort for others.

Crafting a design niche that is perfect for you and generates the work that you love.

Niche the client type, not the work

Your design niche is NOT a portfolio of design photographs. Your niche is serving the person who hired you. You could have one client that has 3-15 projects and each has a different vibe and look.

Curating the person you work with: 

not the style, 

not the location, 

not the aesthetic, 

Niche the client.

Unique perspective =Unique Messaging

Messaging, naturally changes from the designer that can serve everyone to the designer who serves a specific person in a specific way. The client centered conversation focuses on the perfect person you serve.  The niche can encompass any style or any project size that your ideal client dreams to achieve.

Let’s practice viewing our design niche as the client you serve.  Identify and become a designer that can help a certain type of person, in a certain place in life, accomplishing a certain goal.  

Once you determine who your favorite client is talk to them:

Stand out messaging becomes more desirable: fun and dynamic to work with.  

Who are we as a person? 

Who do we enjoy working with?  

What type of projects are our best ones? 

What make your process: fun, interesting, or dynamic.  

Explain in details how you are the best person to solve that exact problem.

Here are some tools, Mirjam Lippuner “Write as you would speak.- look a your messaging.  What differentiate you from the rest? Bio’s and website platitudes that don’t mean anything because it’s generic. It’s a speciality with a whole process around it and its choosing the right words and what differentiates.  

Hire a Public relations to drill down to what makes you stand out to the competition. An excellent designer may not be a good copywriter.  It’s about what you don’t say.  The website should prequalify your clients”.

Curate your clientele.  

Niche the client not style, or type of project.

Think back if you were to Sift and filter- the person made or broke the project so much more than the final pictures. We focus on the beauty, yet we are bombarded by the client. We should pull back to see the client experience from the very beginning.

My goal is to let you see how you can weave more personality and emotion into your business story.You may not realize that having an open honest conversation about how you work and who you work with is actually a kind conversation that serves you first.  It can be serious but it can also be Nice, Controlled, Playful. While being Informative. 

Design businesses are not all about fluffy clouds and unicorns.  You can gain clients by having a true and compelling story.  When we use real stories we are kinder to our future self.  Do they get you? Do they get the process? Do they want to take some risks with you?

The niche is a result. Curate the client become servicing the niche – ideal client avatar specific.

Ex:.  I don’t need a lot of clients I need my clients to have lots of properties.  The work niches itself once you find the right people.

Curated the type of avatar after working with people and how you prefer to work.  Which that curation of the person want that experience results in the niche.

Build boundaries into your conversations

I like to call these kindness conversations.  What creates kindness moving forward? We are ultimately responsible for crafting the context our clients interact with us within.  Leading the narrative by explaining how outcomes change based on both the designer and the client is a kindness conversation.

Tell me about some of your rules to create something beautiful and how those rules allow for the beauty to happen.

Talking about boundaries is helpful in more than one way.  It helps to teach people who want to work alongside and what that experience is like on a day to day basis. It also helps to support and build up the industry as professionals that expect a certain level of respect.

Pull back the veil a little and have an open conversation with your pre -clients through your social media.  What are some characteristics of a client that really enjoys working with you? What do your current clients appreciate? You can bring up a conversation even in a social media post. Teach your future clients how you work and help them to understand you.

Speak to your social audience as if they are your client too.  

They have no idea. 

You know they have no idea.  

You have so much information that is helpful to them.  

Where in the phase of construction do you order furniture?

Timelines and planning are magic behind the wall of unknown. Anything in the is area is helpful.

How much is a budget for a designer interior? You can also bring up prices often and it’s ok.  Once they learn how much things costs they have a better expectation in the future. They can set an aspiration goal to afford you. Until the know, they don’t know.

What makes a great client for you? The client did the hard work.- go beyond that and describe characteristics about how you work with them and even in hard times how you worked as a team.  

What is a successful project?  The characteristics of an excellent client doing the hard work so the process was easy that the success of the project was through their lens successful each step of the way. Do the online friends know that you clients pause judgment and jump off into the deep end with you scared? But also filled with excitement and exhilaration over being stretched and learning more about themselves?

Demonstrate for people if they have good characteristics or not.

It is ok to explain that certain personality types may not find working with a designer a good fit.  Describe people who require certain processes with find your business a relief or/are not a good fit.  Tell me about it.  Did you know that some people need to see every selection to feel like they can make up their mind and they never feel comfortable handing over the control of their home to a professional.    

These 5 items increase the design fee.  

If you do this then anticipate wasting money on higher design fees.  

These are all predictable. Guaranteed these acts that are the barrier between easy and fun design and creating emotionally inflammatory barriers of the design experience. 

What is your current messaging?

Your Process:

Client process:

Client behavior:

How do you understand your client:

Natural discomfort responses clients will experience the home design process

Beyond aesthetics, Interior design is a lot of moving parts, from construction, to ordering furniture and logistics are handled during this process.  The design process sifts out certain behavior creating a better, gentler experience for everyone with experience.

A good way to know how a client experiences the design process is to know if they have been through it before or fired by other designers.  

You might be a bad client if

Client issues to Anticipate

Predictable behaviors are technically the same time over time. Top things to warn you about: 

Every person will respond predictably in an irrational way under these exact circumstances.

  1. New is no- you will need to see something 5 times for it feel comfortable.
  2. Don’t go into the cloud of self-doubt; Asking others opinion breeds doubt and makes you doubt your professional and feel worse
  3. Neighborly advice emotion design tax
  4. New ideas that show up as a change after most of the work is done
  5. Research will eventually create paralysis
  6. Your question can wait til the work day. Late night emails or weekend binge home ideas are typically a waste of everyones energy. Some people will experience racing thoughts about home design and wait tile business hours to see if they have passed.
  7. Spend the money it’s your house- the savings to rework get eaten up with time and time costs money
  8. You will forget what you picked out- there is a large drop off of memory after appointments
  9. If there is no timeline to make decisions you won’t decide. Decisions are uncomfortable.
  10. You will need to practice at making decisions and pushing through the process.

Outside of the client experience they don’t see the way they are going to interact with the designer.  They don’t know that they will require discipline and respect on their part.  

Kindness conversation

Be kind to ourselves

Is that a client that abide by boundaries?  makes decisions? 

Do we have trust building in place?  -Does the client trust us?

What do we require of clients to be kind to ourself so that we can create our best work and have naturally happy clients.  

Here is an example of a kindness conversation to hold before working with the clients;

We know from experience that both parties need to be available for these specific appointments.  There is expected frequency of appointments and priority for the work to move forward.

UNDOING THE SOCIAL MEDIA DAMAGE

Have you ever posted that you met with a clients  and interviewed them to see if  they were good fit for you?

Designers are in general kind, interesting, beautiful people, honest with hearts of gold. Fun and able to overcome any obstacle. We are an industry of people that make socializing and interacting better than real life.  It’s a servitude and lightness that permeates and can be taken advantage of by people.

Lean into that same level of kindness and use the beauty to tell the stories that are more beautiful and more honest.  Why not be more interesting?

Words Matter:

Use better words.  Better words are ones that don’t cast such a wide net that it falls on no one.  Words that really speak to the heart of a real person.   

You are being hired because the client wants to be smart.  The person who hires you is smart efficient and willing to experience the best while being an active participant in their own happiness.  Working with people who are willing to be in control of their emotions and respect you as a designer in your craft.

The words on AD Pro or BOH article are starkly different than the words I see in websites or social media.  The words talking about design in those articles are more powerful and more interesting.  Taking a leap, testing design boundaries together as a team. More exciting and fun words.  You have to talk to the client that behaves in a way and has goals you will be able to meet.  If we are working together and having fun that is my goal.  Authentic relationship with your client.  A symbiotic relationship where you both need each other.

A conversation that speaks to the heart

If you are the right client for me. Then we will have_____ If you an I are a fit it will be ____+__________for both of us.  I can do my work the way that is best and you will find it’s more fun and enjoyable for you too.  

A high anxiety client will not let go enough to have fun and they will not be willing to take a leap.  They will not lean into adventure and exploration and talking about design in that way.  Those words will dig down deeper into the heart of someone who will be good to work with,  there are lots of great clients.  There are also lots of miserable people looking to boss a designer around.

You may be familiar with the client that can’t make a decision.

They don’t talk to their spouse in a honest way so that the project can move forward.  

What about the person who uses condescension with their spouse and in their work.  And that behavior also happens on the job site.

A person who manages people and does not think the house design will be stressful for them will not need to see how you will make it less stressful. That is not their concern. They will want it to be handled, and expect it no other way. 

Do they want their home to be a show piece for entertaining and social status. Is the home an extension of their Family brand?

We could be more honest and act like a real friends on social media without being seen as unprofessional.

Are you honest about the ideal design experience?  

Give it before you are trying to get paid.  Lead the conversation.

We let them clients dive into the  experience and we spend out time dealing with the aftermath.  The design fees, stress and increase when their are no guidelines.  Standardized outside factors that will impact our client experience.

 In kindness and serving the client is delivering this message before it impacts them.  Before they become the bad client..  Beforehand we can implement messaging to change the expectation and make the whole experience better for both parties.  When curating the client you let them know its a job for them to do so that they have more control over their emotions and expectations.

What words? Can we predict what the ideal client wants to hear to explore the emotion the client wants to anticipate.

Remember: they don’t know.

Designer at ipad with tile samples

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