Archive for the ‘Business’ Category
In most cases, interior decoration is a collaborative art. You’re the one whose skills turn ideas into reality, but each design you create has to please you and the client. This makes effective communication one of your most important skills as an interior decorator.
Good communication avoids:
- Mix ups and mistakes that could have been easily prevented
- Unhappy clients
- Bad reviews of your skills and services
- Time wasted having to redo and restart
As you communicate with clients, your goals should be to:
- Clearly let them know your expectations
- Get a concrete idea of theirs
- Form a plan and come to an agreement that makes everyone happy
Here are nine useful tips for communicating well with décor clients!
1. Keep it direct
Good communicators get right to the point. There are many things to consider when you’re planning a new interior décor scheme for any space, so get down to business without wasting time or trailing off topic. You can still speak kindly and casually, and even engage in small talk, without losing the purpose of your conversation.
Go into each conversation prepared and ready to get the information you need. Asking them good, direct questions lets you plan the new interior décor easily without feeling confused and starting out with the wrong information.
2. Give them time to ask questions
You want to make sure that they’re completely comfortable with your ideas and plan before you move forward. Answer any questions they have to the best of your ability and clarify anything that confuses them.
Some clients are shy and won’t feel comfortable speaking up if they don’t understand or have issues with your plan. If they don’t have any questions for you, you can ask them subtle questions to ensure they understand fully.
3. If you need clarification, get it
If you feel unclear about the details of the new décor or your requirements, ask for clarification right away. Of course, you don’t want to ask the same thing too many times because it looks unprofessional, so listen carefully from the beginning.
It’s better to ask questions, however, than it is to make assumptions and have to fix problems or worse, leave a client dissatisfied.
4. Listen well
Listen carefully to what your client tells you, asks of you, and expects of you. You should also listen well to their input and give their opinions thought while you work. You’re the expert, but it’s essential to listen to what your clients want and need if you’re going to work together successfully.
5. Avoid jargon
For the most part, your clients won’t be other interior decorators. Many won’t know the proper terms or slang words for your vendors, products, or designs. Make sure you use accessible language while you work so that your clients fully understand what you’re doing and why.
6. Use examples and visuals
Because not every client understands interior décor as well as you do, use examples and pictures whenever possible so they can actually see what you mean. Encourage clients to bring inspiration pictures with them as well so you have a clear idea of what they’re looking for.
7. Always keep it professional
Even if you know the client and have worked with them many times, you should speak and write professionally and politely during each interaction. How you conduct yourself with clients during every contract you do will contribute to your professional reputation.
Remember: You should always be present when you communicate with clients. Avoid distractions (including your smart phone!) and dedicate yourself to that conversation. This lets each client know that they matter to you.
Communicating through various mediums
Different clients prefer to be contacted in different ways. You need to speak well with them verbally and in writing. Check out these tips for dealing with interior décor clients through different mediums!
Take care with your appearance and be polite. You want to come off as professional but approachable. Make eye contact with your clients so they know you’re paying attention, and listen carefully while they speak. Try not to distract them with nervous habits like biting your nails, playing with your hair, or checking your cell phone.
Always use correct grammar and sentence structure when emailing clients, and always remember to spell check before you click send! No matter how good a decorator you are, your clients will think less of your professionalism if you send them emails full of spelling mistakes and Internet shorthand.
Reply to client emails within 24-28 hours unless you’ve told them that you’ll need more time for any reason. Read very carefully and reread if necessary. Organize emails into client folders so you don’t lose important details and keep all your emails unless you are absolutely sure you don’t need that information anymore.
Many clients prefer email as their primary form of contract, but it’s easy to mistake the details in writing if you’re not careful.
On the phone
Avoid having clients mishear you over the hone by speaking slowly (but now too slowly!) and clearly. Talking on the phone makes some people uncomfortable, so keep the conversation to the point. Clients will also appreciate concise conversation because it won’t waste their cell phone minutes.
Invest in a cell phone and an office phone if necessary, and set up voicemail. If you leave a voice message for a client, speak very clearly, briefly explain why you’re calling, and let them know in detail how they can contact you back.
Via social media
Remember that social media aspects like tweets or picture comments on Facebook and Instagram are public. Never discuss personal information on a public forum. Keep comments as short as possible and avoid the urge to use Internet shorthand, even if you would on your personal social networks.
Keep in mind that people use social media for convenience and will expect you to answer quickly. If a client sends you a personal message, follow the same etiquette as you would for an email.
The better you are at communicating with clients, the easier a time you’ll have working with them. Interior decorators who practice speaking in a friendly but professional manner to their clients no matter how they’re getting in contact provide a more pleasant experience for everyone involved.
Do you have other tips for good client communication that you don’t see here? Tell us about them in a comment!
It’s official- you’re a certified interior decorator! You’ve learned theories and techniques, practiced in your own space, and you’re ready to start your professional career!
Many beginner interior decorators feel apprehensive about how to spark their career once they’re finished training. How can you start building a client base? What steps should you take in your first year?
Turning your training into practical work experience doesn’t happen overnight. Here are 7 steps you can take to get the ball rolling!
1. Start networking
Interacting with other design professionals, or even just décor enthusiasts, will do wonders for getting your name out there. The professionals who trained you might connect you with job opportunities. Fellow designers might know of clients they can’t take but whom they’d be willing to refer you to.
Network online in forums and on social networks, interact with other interior decorators at conventions, or seek out other professionals who might need interior decorating services, like real estate agents.
Pro tip: While the Internet is a great way to make new contacts, nothing beats a face-to-face interaction! Don’t rely solely on Facebook. Take the time to meet key influencers in person!
2. Become a brand rep
Some qualified decorators look at becoming a representative for a brand as being a step down from working their independent contracts. Many interior decorators prefer to concentrate on freelance decorating that could lead to establishing their own business, or to working with design companies. In reality, becoming a brand rep can support these other jobs.
Especially during your first year in the industry, representing and selling a particular decorative brand can be both an educational and a networking opportunity. By selling décor as well as designing interior spaces, you’ll secure yourself a secondary source of income, either between or during other contracts.
3. Become an assistant
There’s no shame in starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder when starting out in a new industry. Shadowing a more experienced interior decorator is an amazing opportunity to refine your skills and learn through hands-on work. That decorator’s clients might even recommend you to others if they like what you do!
Shadowing someone with more experience lets you see what successful designers do right and how they handle it when things go wrong. Assistantships are a great transition between your training and your professional career. They’ll prepare you for making your own way in the industry.
4. Volunteer work
Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean you should give your services away for free. Doing too much work for no pay devalues your skills. Potential clients might think that you work for free because you’re not very good. In your first year, however, certain volunteer work can be beneficial. Volunteering is a great opportunity to practice while you network. Contact local retirement homes, new small businesses, or charitable foundations and donate your time in exchange for experience and a chance to help people.
5. Keep applying
During their first year in the industry, many interior decorators struggle with inconsistency between contracts and jobs. Don’t let this discourage you from taking temporary contracts or applying for jobs with design companies.
Not hearing back from potential employers is no reason to stop distributing your portfolio and resume. Think about it this way: the more resumes you submit, the more potential clients or employers will be introduced to your name. In the time it takes for one of them to call you, submit more applications, work small contracts, take volunteer opportunities, or shadow more experienced professionals.
The things you do between big contracts keep you in practice, teach you new things, and build your resume. It also looks more impressive to potential clients and employers if you’re active between jobs, rather than disappearing from the industry.
6. Build your brand
One of the smartest things a beginner interior decorator can do in their first year is build their brand and establish a solid presence online and in their local industry.
When you’re not volunteering or assisting, work on building a quality website, starting a blog, and creating a professional portfolio. The stronger your branding platforms are, the more easily potential clients and employers can see the quality of your work, making them more likely to hire you.
Need help to get started? Check this out: Building Your Website: What You Need to Know
7. Offer lessons, workshops, or parties
If you find that you have space between work opportunities, do something about it! Try not to sit back and wait until something falls into your lap. Interior decorating is one of the few industries where professionals can create work for themselves.
Between jobs, tell your friends and past clients that you’re available for things like instructional workshops and décor parties where guests learn about decorating techniques and have the chance to purchase decorative pieces. Even one-time jobs like these support your resume, and they also show potential clients and employers that you’re pro-active about your career.
Keep it up!
Your first year working as a professional interior decorator might be a challenge, but there are ways to help yourself. Don’t let feelings of uncertainty stop you from taking steps towards an active career and a solid client base. New decorators who show initiative and drive during their first year in the industry will spark a successful career for themselves.
How are you planning on starting your career in design? Let us know in a comment!
For many people, becoming an interior decorator is something they choose to do as soon as they discover their passion for style, design, and coordination. For others, the choice comes later on, after other career paths and years of consideration.
The beautiful thing about interior decorating is that it’s never too early or too late to begin learning professional techniques. As long as you have an eye for style, can work time efficiently, are prepared to think outside the box, and are always willing to learn, you’ll be prepared to take the first steps toward professional interior decorating at any age.
“Am I too young to become an interior decorator?”
When it comes to learning basic interior decorating techniques and building a good foundation for professional training, you are never too young!
Any person with a passion for coordinating details and celebrating style and expression should begin practicing whenever they can. In fact, the younger you start decorating your own spaces (or even the spaces in your family’s home), the more time you have to improve and explore your skills.
It is true that many interior decorating programs or colleges require you to be at least 18 to enroll. There are some, however, that understand how the passion for décor can start at a younger age. Some programs accept students as young as 16, as long as a parent or legal guardian is willing to sign a consent form giving them permission to enroll.
In most places, interior decorating is an unregulated profession. If you wish to branch out into interior design and actually change the physical structure of a room, however, you’ll be required to complete additional training and become legally licensed. This doesn’t mean you can’t train as an interior decorator or begin developing your décor skills earlier to gain experience until you’re old enough to train and consider licensing.
If your local area doesn’t permit training until you’re 18, don’t be discouraged! Use online resources to help you begin practicing, or at least thinking about, basic décor skills. Google interior décor blogs or vlogs and read planning magazines to introduce yourself to themes, styles, trends, and decorating strategies. Use reputable resources as a research guide.
The best thing you can do is practice. Help your mom re-coordinate the furniture layout in her home office or give your best friend’s bedroom a complete decorative makeover. You can even build a small portfolio to present to the programs you apply to later. People might not pay you for the first few spaces you decorate, but your friends and family make great practice clients if they’re willing. The more experience you have before training, the higher your chances of being accepted into the program of your choice when you’re old enough.
“Am I too old to become an interior decorator?”
As long as you’re passionate about style and décor and willing to learn new things, you’re never too old to become an interior decorator. In fact, many decorators start their careers after years of working in other industries, raising children, or debating whether they’re ready to commit.
For some, a later start is actually beneficial because they’ve already achieved goals and reached personal or professional milestones. Many older decorators are prepared to devote their full attention to interior decorating. They’ve also had a chance to gain relevant life experience that might make them attractive candidates for training programs and potential clients.
Interior decorating programs and colleges have no age limit for seeking professional training. As long as you’re able to complete the tasks required by the decorating process, you are not cut off from training as an interior decorator just because you’ve reached a certain age.
Getting your first clients
No matter what age you are when you begin your interior decorating career, attracting your first clients can be intimidating. You can make it easier by knowing where your target market lies, which can be influenced by your age.
In the public’s eye, a young interior decorator might appear trendy, fashionable, and up to date on the latest social and pop culture trends. This doesn’t mean that older decorators can’t be these things too! It simply means that younger decorators might have better luck targeting a younger crowd of potential clients than they would with more mature groups.
For example, a young, single professional buying her first condo in the city might be more attracted to decorators that are closer to her age. Mature decorators are just as capable of planning chic, trendy spaces, but clients often like to work with decorators they can identify with. A 23 year old might be more excited to work with someone closer to her age who probably likes the same things as her.
Mature decorators often have the best luck working with clients in a similar demographic to their own age as well. An elderly married couple looking for help updating their living room will probably feel more comfortable hiring a mature planner with more life experience than they will hiring someone very young who perhaps hasn’t owned a home of their own yet. Once again, this isn’t because young planners can’t coordinate traditionally stylish spaces for older generations! Clients might simply see themselves reflected in the experiences of a planner closer to their own demographic.
Identifying your target market is a crucial step to building a client base in any business. Interior decorators are no exception. Don’t restrict who you’ll work with simply because of your age, but keep in mind which groups might be most keen to work with you. Who will identify with your experience and style?
A trendy young decorator could very easily be hired by an elderly lady looking for a fun, colorful new kitchen design and an older decorator might be hired by a young couple who want elegance and class in their master bedroom and see that capability in the decorator’s maturity. Don’t let yourself stress over whether or not you’re too young or too old to find clients. Instead, use your age to your advantage and market yourself to clients who will value your life experience!
Regardless of your age, pursuing your passion for interior decorating is worth the time and effort. You should never be discouraged by other people questioning whether you are too young or too old to become an interior decorator. Professional decorating is the type of industry where you are constantly learning and growing, no matter your age or experience level. If you have the dedication to develop your skills from basic to advanced, then you have the potential to excel at any point.
Would you like to learn more about becoming a professional interior decorator? Check out the courses here at QC Design School!
Whether you’re an interior decorator, a professional organizer, or a home stager, design professionals are responsible for more than just making a space look aesthetically pleasing. You are also obligated to consider what your clients need within that space to stay safe. In most places, there are certain codes and regulations that your designs must comply with.
Don’t let the idea of safety regulations overwhelm you! As long as you do your research and stay alert while you develop your plan, you’ll create a space that both pleases your client and meets all of the safety requirements they need.
Design professionals are responsible for considering things like:
- Fire codes
- Building codes
- Accessibility regulations
- Health guidelines
- Environmental issues
In addition to your clients’ wants and tastes, you should also think about their:
- Needs and safety
- Mental and physical health
- Physical and emotional wellbeing
Here’s a quick breakdown of how safety needs and regulations in your area can influence how you alter private homes, workplaces, and public spaces.
Fire and building codes
To comply with fire and building codes, pay attention to where you place furniture and décor. Avoid blocking entry ways, safety exists, and high traffic areas like hallways. In the event of a fire or emergency, these key areas will be used by panicked people trying to get out, and/or by emergency crews trying to get in (sometimes with large equipment). Make sure everyone can move comfortably around the space, even in a hurry.
Fire codes also influence which materials are safe to purchase when it comes to carpets, furniture, and curtains. In the case of a fire, people are actually in more danger of being harmed by inhaling toxic fumes released into the air when certain materials burn than they are of being hurt by the flames. Research the fire codes in your area and avoid high risk materials.
Particularly in workplaces and public places, the spaces you design should be accessible to everyone. You’ll be responsible for ensuring that people living with disabilities can move about the space and reach things properly, even if they use a mobility device.
In the United States, accessibility is governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Public buildings must meet the ADA standards and accommodate persons with disabilities. Accessibility guidelines vary from place to place but they are regulated almost everywhere. While you’re considering the needs of your clients, research the regulations in your area, especially if you’re working with a business or public building.
Health and Safety
Consider the health and safety of everyone who uses the space. Does your client have pets? If so, avoid decorating the space with plants that are poisonous to animals when consumed. There aren’t many cats that can resist chewing on the leaves of a new house plant.
Will small children be in the space frequently? Try not to decorate with small objects that might present a choking hazard. Little figurines placed low enough for small hands to reach can be swallowed easily. Curtains with long, looped tassels hanging down are a strangulation risk for children and animals alike, because their necks might be level with the loops.
Shelves that aren’t anchored to the wall might be climbed and tipped. Open storage for risky products or tools might be too easy to get into. Evaluate the space and your plan very carefully. Part of addressing health and safety concerns is to pet- and child-proof the space reasonably, without getting carried away and bubble wrapping the room.
Consider more than just the physical safety of your clients in your design. You should also design with their mental and emotional wellbeing in mind. Make sure there’s enough natural light, give them enough space to move and adjust, and choose a decorative and color scheme that helps to reduce stress rather than contributing to it.
As you transform a space, choose products and services that are environmentally friendly whenever you can. Use materials that aren’t toxic, avoid products that create pollutants, and generally try not to waste resources. Check your local building codes because some cities include guidelines and standards in order to reduce that area’s “global footprint”.
Lighting and acoustics
Especially in the workplace, adequate lighting is important and can even be a safety issue. Many building codes actually regulate the amount of lighting required in workplaces and public buildings. Good lighting helps your clients avoid eye strain, reduces the frequency of accidents, and is essential in the event of an emergency.
You should also be aware of the acoustics in the space. Will that noisy ceiling fan annoy everyone in the office? Perhaps you should skip it. Don’t underestimate the importance of your clients’ ability to see and hear comfortably while they go about their day. This contributes to their overall wellbeing.
What if the client won’t co-operate?
Some clients already know what they want and talking them out of it can be difficult. If that idea presents a blatant health or safety hazard, however, you’ll need to convince them to choose something else. Your responsibility is to negotiate what the client wants and what meets mandatory health and safety requirements. Steer them towards an option that has a similar style but isn’t as risky. If your client insists that the office should be organized according to their self-taught feng shui ideas, claiming that the best place to put the office desk is right in front of the fire exit, you’ll need to gently guide them towards a safer floor plan.
You might need to help clients rethink what they want even when their idea doesn’t threaten formal building regulations. For example, the client who wants to include a floating staircase as part of the chic new daycare perhaps doesn’t realize the danger this presents. Floating staircases have spaces between each step and can extremely dangerous design for small children, and you should respectfully help them understand why a different style of staircase should be used instead. Remember to keep in mind that a floating staircase (with more than three steps) that has no railings is against safety requirements! Your goal isn’t to scare your clients with stories of things gone wrong, but rather to help them see why another design is safer.
Aim for balance
Navigating safety regulations while you’re trying to design with style can be a challenge, but it’s essential to coordinating a great space. If you design with safety in mind, the space will meet codes and regulations while also making your clients comfortable. Don’t forget to take your own safety into account as well! If you’ve got a design element in mind that is outside your scope and ability, speak with your clients and contract a professional to get the job done right!
Have you ever encountered a blatant safety violation in a public space? We’d love to hear your stories! Share them in a comment!
Getting a raise is exciting no matter your career. Design professionals can actually create ways of increasing their salary. Even if you don’t see immediate profit, professionals of every level can do things to benefit their salaries over time.
Assess your skills
Trying to increase your design salary in too many ways at once can be overwhelming. Choose methods that will improve what you do. Ask yourself:
- Where your strengths lie
- Where you could improve
- What you realistically have time for
Assessing your abilities helps you decide which course of action to take. Choose one that will let you profit and thrive.
Ways to improve your design salary
Options that are good for experienced design professionals aren’t necessarily the same for new professionals, and vice versa. Any designer with confidence and a good work ethic should take whatever steps they’re comfortable with for improvement.
New professionals might consider:
- Additional training
Experienced professionals might consider:
- Secondary revenue streams
- Diversifying their skills
You might also try:
- Networking for new opportunities
- Improving your portfolio
- Adjusting your attitude
Choose a strategy
Design professionals who are willing to invest time and effort into improving are already on track to increased salaries. Check out these other strategies!
Some design professionals become certified if their local industry is regulated. It is also, however, quite experienced-based. Skills develop during your studies and evolve during hands-on work.
You can also study to specialize in other areas of design and décor. For some professionals, returning to school is the ideal way to increase their design salary. You might not see immediate profit, but it is a solid investment in your career.
Professionals with qualifications and real-world experience build a solid foundation of skill. The better your qualifications and experience, the more people are willing to pay.
Classrooms aren’t ideal for everyone. Professional programs can also be lengthy and expensive. If you’re already licensed or working in an unregulated area, there are other ways to become a more qualified design professional.
Some experienced professionals hire assistants. Working for a reputable designer or decorator is a great way to learn tricks of the trade. You’ll work closely with a professional, picking up on what they do well and absorbing how they deal with mistakes and emergencies.
Assistantships might not sound glamorous, but they help you become a more qualified design professional. If you train under the most prestigious interior decorator in the country, clients will be willing to pay higher prices than they would otherwise.
Networking with potential clients and other professionals is a great way to find new opportunities that can help you work towards a higher salary.
Learning to network online and in person is important. Design professionals use Facebook groups or website forums to discuss industry related topics and advise each other on problem solving techniques. Perhaps another design professional is looking for a partner for a prestigious contract? Maybe they know of an upcoming position at the company they worked at before branching out? Networking with design professionals that you respect you at tradeshows and events might result in new contracts or recommendations.
Improving your portfolio
A professional portfolio is the design professional’s best tool. For some people, reading or hearing about your work is fine, but pictures of your amazing designs will convince them to hire you.
If you don’t have a portfolio, invest time in creating one. If you have one, make it better! Build an electronic version to send to prospective clients and employers. Put together a physical portfolio to bring to and from meetings. Create a brief online portfolio to give website viewers a taste of your skill.
Well organized, professionally displayed photos of your best work shows preparedness. Prospective clients and employers pay more for the services of someone with an impressive portfolio than someone who expects to be hired without proof of their skill.
If you’re looking for ways to improve, you’ve already got the right idea. A positive attitude won’t immediately increase your design salary, but it plays a role in reaching your goals.
Your attitude influences how clients and employers view your professionalism. If you are egotistical, unfriendly, or easily defeated, you won’t be hired as often. Being positive, passionate, and approachable shows others how much effort you invest in your work. Clients and employers pay according to your work ethic.
Secondary revenue streams
Experienced design professionals supplement their income with secondary revenue streams. This means more responsibility, but it can also mean higher profit. You’ll continue taking contracts, but you’ll offer additional services as well.
Makeup artists have a wide range of options for supplementing their income.
- Product representation: Many design professionals become representatives for products and services that they use regularly during their decorating process. They might sell the product at events or tradeshows or suggest it to their clients while they work on contracts.
- Workshops and seminars: Between contracts, give seminars, guest-speak at events, or host workshops. Also consider online webinars, tutorials, and consultations. Experienced design professionals are often paid to share their expertise with other professionals or advise clients who want to learn about making over their own interior spaces.
- Expand your services and diversify your skills: If you are a professional organizer, take advantage of the skills you already have to branch into another area of expertise. Seek extra training and expand your skills and services to include interior decorating, adjusting your prices accordingly.
Being pro-active about your career sets you apart from the competition. Waiting passively for an opportunity won’t benefit you. Find ways to make it happen! Have confidence in your plan of action and take pride in the fact that your profit is based on your own hard work.
Many small business owners and professionals collect payment from clients by invoicing. This is common and convenient for makeup artists, interior decorators, and event planners, just to name a few. Parties sign a contract and at the end the professional sends an invoice to the client for the amount owing. Clients make payment when they receive the invoice.
This sounds simple enough, but what if the client doesn’t pay the invoice? How should you handle the situation and what can you do to get paid?
Remember: the goal is to get what you’re owed without burning bridges.
Here’s a ten step guide for dealing with non-payment. These tactics maximize your chances of getting paid without making the situation worse.
Tip #1: Have a standard process
Establish protocol to follow when non-payment happens. This way, you can handle each case similarly and fairly. You’ll feel less stress if you’ve already thought about the process and have an idea of what to do next. Don’t leave payment due dates open ended, even if your clients are your friends and neighbors. Set a firm date at the beginning of each contract and standardize how you’ll proceed if it isn’t met.
Tip #2: Contact the client immediately
If the invoice isn’t paid on time, approach the client immediately. Communication is the best strategy for securing late payments. Some professionals send emails or re-send the invoice, but phone calls tend to be more effective because you can discuss complicated details right away.
Perhaps the client simply forgot and one phone call is all they need? Maybe they’ve had unforeseen expenses and can’t settle the invoice until pay day?
Calling the client directly helps you work toward a solution more quickly than an email and feels less passive aggressive than a repeated invoice.
Tip #3: Ask about their satisfaction
When you call the client, ask if they were satisfied with their experience. It’s possible they haven’t paid their invoice due to a problem with your service. Some clients are hesitant to confront professionals due to the misconception that you won’t do anything to fix the problem. Asking about their satisfaction lets you offer a resolution to any problems and re-evaluate payment from there.
NOTE: If a client happens to be dissatisfied with your service, you might also want to check this out: How to Deal with Bad Reviews
Tip #4: Agree on a new payment date
Set a new payment date that works for both parties. Don’t settle for vague promises to “as soon as possible”, but remain understanding if there was a legitimate reason for non-payment. Working with your client rather than against them can salvage the business relationship.
Tip #5: Re-evaluate your approach
Some professionals send reminder emails or repeat invoices before they call the client. If you’ve done this, change your strategy and call them. For some people, going from receiving emails to a sudden phone call is enough pressure to get payment.
If that doesn’t work or you’ve already spoken to the client with no luck, maybe assess your tone and language. A formal tone and official wording might be more effective than your usual friendly greeting and warm, casual speech. You don’t want to be rude, but you do want to communicate that you mean business. Remain polite and professional, but get straight to the point.
Tip #6: Send a written warning
A written warning is a formal letter sent to the client. This documents the steps you’ve taken so far, and informs the client of the steps you’re prepared to take.
Never make empty threats! If you aren’t sure you’ll actually take legal action, don’t mention it. Falsely intimidating clients will only make the situation hostile. You’re simply giving the client additional motivation to pay. Instead of threatening legal action if you’re not prepared to go that far, tell the client you’ll be forced to permanently withdraw future services if non-payment continues.
Tip #7: Get professional advice
Facebook groups and professional forums are useful, but they shouldn’t be your only source of information. If you want to pursue the non-payment further, consult a professional. Speak with a lawyer about whether the situation is serious enough for claims court or approach a collections mediator about the details of forwarding the case to a collections agency.
Networking is helpful to get an idea of other professionals’ experiences, but don’t take the information there as concrete fact. The better you educate yourself about your options, the more effectively you can handle the situation.
Tip #8: Decide how to proceed
By now, you’ve tried negotiating with the client, accommodating their needs, and warning them that you’re prepared for further action. If the client still won’t pay, the best strategy in most cases is to permanently withdraw your services. Write them a letter informing them that they are in breach of contract and letting them know that your services are, from this date on, withdrawn. This means that you won’t take them on as a client again.
Legal action might also be an option, but remember that this can be very expensive and time consuming. The cost of hiring a lawyer and taking the client to claims court might be much larger than what you’ll lose from accepting non-payment and moving on. Forwarding the case to a collections agency is also an option. Evaluate whether the cost outweighs the size of the payment.
Tip #9: Stay professional
No matter how frustrated you feel, make sure that you stay professional. You should not, under any circumstances, speak badly about the client to your other clients or colleagues. How you handle non-payments says more about you to the public than it does about your client. Losing future contracts because you were rude or unprofessional isn’t worth getting the money you’re owed by one person. Your private financial dealings with each client should stay private.
Tip #10: Know when to cut your losses
The unfortunate reality of non-payments is that sometimes you’re best to let the contract go unpaid. If the cost of pursuing the payment is higher than it’s worth and negotiations have broken down entirely, continuing the process becomes a waste of time and resources. Account for the loss of profit from the non-payment in your budget and move on to other contracts. Are there aspects of this case that you could have handled better? Are there ways that you could improve communication next time? Learn from your experiences and adjust your non-payment protocol accordingly.
Bonus Tip: Minimize your risk!
It’s not unusual for a professional to require an up-front payment for services. Of course this will depend on the service you provide, but many professionals will at the very least require a deposit from the client when they sign the contract, usually about 30-50% of the estimated cost of the job.
If it’s a large job, such as a home redesign or a luxury wedding, you can also consider a payment schedule during the course of the contract instead of waiting until the job is done. For example, you can require a 30% deposit at contract signing, then another 30% payment on a date about half-way through the job, and the remaining balance at the end of the project.
Collecting payment throughout the job will not only ensure that you will get what you’re owed from your clients, it will also help your client meet their obligations by allowing them to make smaller, more manageable payments instead of one large lump sum.
Non-payment is a frustrating experience. You are a professional, however, and handling yourself with tact is the best strategy. Remember that getting the money from one contract isn’t worth a poor reputation.
Have you ever had an issue with a client who wouldn’t pay their invoice? How did you deal with it? Let us know in a comment!
The ability to describe your interior decorating skills is essential, but it might not convince every client. For many, pictures of your work will make the difference between considering your services and actually hiring you. Your portfolio is one of your most important tools, so investing time in taking high quality pictures that display your very best work is well worth the effort.
Design portfolio pictures should show your work in good resolution, displaying details and colors as closely to reality as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that you need to hire an expensive photographer when you’re first starting out. If you take the time to learn a few basic elements of photography, you can take good portfolio pictures yourself.
Check out these tips for taking great pictures that will help your portfolio stand out!
1. Learn to work with what you’ve got
Taking your design portfolio pictures on your cell phone might not be the best idea, but if it’s all you have access to then learn how to do it well. Investigate your phone camera settings and practice taking quality shots. Some modern phones feature very high quality cameras. If you have a camera, familiarize yourself with its features and how it works before you choose any shots. Practice thoroughly whether your camera is a small “point and shoot” or a professional grade DSLR. Higher quality cameras can mean higher quality pictures, but only if you use them properly.
2. Pay attention to positioning
You want your work to be the focus of the picture, so be careful about where you place it in the frame. If you’re trying to show clients the ornate details on a chandelier, make sure those details are actually visible. If you take the picture from too far away, your client won’t get the insight into your tastes that you’re hoping for. If you take the picture with the chandelier far off to one side and the rest of the picture is an empty space, your client’s attention will be drawn away from the detail and over to the blank space instead.
3. Good lighting is essential
If you don’t have access to professional lighting equipment, photograph your work in natural daylight. Natural light keeps the colors looking balanced and true to reality. If the space you’re photographing doesn’t have enough daylight, use a lamp containing a daylight bulb, which mimics the effect. Light up the end table or wall mural you’re photographing to get the best color and definition in the shot. Pay attention to how you angle your light. Straight-on light eliminates distracting shadows.
4. Stay focused
Most cameras have auto-focus features, meaning they’ll automatically adjust to get the clearest image. Sometimes, however, autofocus fails, giving you a blurry picture. Clearly, these aren’t fit for your portfolio. Learn how to focus your camera manually and pay attention to how clear and sharp the image is before you click the shutter. You want the picture to be as detailed and high definition as possible.
5. Pay attention to your backdrop
Naturally, most of your attention while you’re taking a picture will be on the object that you want as the focal point of the photograph. Even so, make sure that you pay attention to what’s in the background. Are there bright colors that clash with what you’re photographing? A plain or muted background is best so your client’s eye doesn’t stray from the central focus of the picture. Did the dog wander into the background? Take a new photo. Remember that your clients are expecting professional quality pictures.
6. The bigger picture
Some of your portfolio pictures should showcase the entire room. Pay attention to the sharpness of each color, whether each element of the picture is in focus, where the objects in the room are positioned, and whether the whole scene is well lit. Adjust the angle of both your camera and your lighting to rid the picture of shadows. Is the real focal point of the room the vintage chaise lounge in the center? Make sure your clients can see that by where you position the camera.
7. The finer details
To balance the shots of the entire room, photograph some of your stylistic details. Choose ones that truly showcase your ability to provide unique décor services. Simply photographing the wall paper pattern on an otherwise blank wall might not be the best way to show the client how you coordinate colors and patterns. Instead, consider a close up shot of how the modern clock you hung on that wall offsets the large vintage mirror, or how the sleek black framing of the photos compliments the bold red geometric pattern of the wall paper.
8. Use a tripod
If you’re holding a heavy DSLR while you try to take a picture, you might have trouble holding the camera still. Camera movement decreases the quality of your pictures. Invest in a tripod that you can attach your camera to for very still photographs. Tripods come in different heights and sizes and you don’t need an expensive one to start. The steadier your camera is during the picture, the sharper the details will be. A tripod will help keep your camera in focus.
9. Consider a shutter release cable
A shutter release cable is a cord that plugs into your camera and has an extra shutter button at the end. They usually work with quality “point and shoot” cameras and professional DSLRs. When you plug the cord in, you can push the button at the end rather than the button on the camera itself to take the picture. Shutter release cables help you avoid touching the camera, letting it stay as still and as focused as possible while you photograph. They’re not an absolute requirement, but they are often affordable and can help you get clearer, sharper pictures.
10. Learn basic editing techniques
Learning how to edit your pictures doesn’t require you to be a Photoshop master. Most computers provide basic setting adjustments when you upload pictures to your computer, and these should be sufficient for photos that were taken well. Learn how to adjust the color contrast, shadows, saturation, and sharpness of your images to maximize the quality of the picture. Keep in mind that you’re simply fixing the pictures to display your designs effectively. You don’t want to edit them so heavily that they look obviously touched up. Clients want to see your actual work, not work that has been created digitally.
The ability to photograph your own work well is a valuable skill for design professionals. Your work is a visual art and your clients will love being able to see your style and expertise rather than just hearing about it. Practice each of these techniques to the best of your ability and strive to showcase your work professionally.
Do you have any tips for taking good portfolio pictures that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them in a comment below!
Picture this: you sit down for a client consultation meeting with brand new clients. They just moved into a newly built home and they want you to completely design their bedroom. You know that they want a unique design with a very different style, color scheme, floorplan, and atmosphere than they had in their previous home. The clients seem eager to get started, but you quickly realize that they have no idea what they want. How do you handle the situation?
Before the meeting
Believe it or not, you can prepare beforehand for clients who don’t know exactly what they want. Enter the client consultation meeting ready to guide clients through the process of choosing colors, styles, and floorplans. This will help you stay calm and organized if you’re met with a blank stare.
Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- What do you already know about the clients?
- What can you ask them to learn more about their needs and tastes?
- What can you ask them to get the information you actually need to begin?
- Precisely what information do you need to determine whether you can work well with them?
You’ll encounter many clients throughout your career who come to you with little or no ideas. The consultation meeting can still be productive for everyone. Use it as an opportunity to figure out what they like, what designs meets their needs, and whether you and those clients might work well together.
Gather what you do know
Analyze what you already know about these potential clients. Even before the consultation, your initial interactions can inform which concepts you propose first. Think about:
- Their age
- Whether they’ve mentioned kids or family
- Where their house is located
- The size of the space
- Any likes or dislikes they’ve mentioned
Even basic details can set you on the right track for thinking of a design concept. Gathering the details you already have gives you something to work with in case the potential clients have no idea what they expect from you.
Outline what you need to know
You can only go so far with basic details. The consultation meeting is your chance to learn what else you need to move forward. Before the meeting starts, think about the kind of information you’ll need to get from the client in order to consider entering into a contract with them.
Quote a price
Most consultation meetings range between an hour and two hours in length. Clients are charged by the hour, but you should give them an idea beforehand of how long the meeting should take. If the space is simple and small, allot an hour and quote them the price, but let them know that additional fees will apply if they go overtime with you. If the space is large, complicated, or you’re looking at multiple design projects at once, quote the clients two hours.
During the consultation
The design client consultation is an opportunity to exchange information. Some professionals conduct their meetings at their office and set up a separate time to view the space, for example, if it is still in construction. This way, they can concentrate on determining some details without distraction.
Other professionals choose to visit the clients in their home so they can conduct a walk-through of the space as part of the consultation. Viewing the space while you discuss ideas can help you decide whether you and the clients are a good fit for each other, and whether the project is within your scope. It also helps the clients visualize your suggestions, especially if they don’t know what they want yet.
Ask clear, constructive questions
Asking questions that are direct and to the point helps the clients focus on their wants and needs rather than just agreeing with your suggestions. You want to learn about them but you probably don’t have time to listen to their life’s story, so your questions should be friendly but concise.
Find out the budget right away. You won’t be able to move forward if you don’t know what the clients can afford.
Ask questions about:
- Colors they like or dislike
- What their careers are
- What their other passions are
- What makes them feel inspired
- Whether anything (ex. a color, a painting, a piece of furniture they saw somewhere, etc.) has given them ideas.
- Elements of other rooms they like or dislike
- If they’re not sure what they do want, is there anything they absolutely don’t want?
- What did they like and dislike about the design in their previous space?
Make sure the questions are about the clients and what they want. Keep in mind that learning about their dislikes and the things they don’t need can be almost as useful as learning about the things they do like or need, especially if they’re unsure of what they want.
As you learn more about the clients, let the details jog your creativity. Help them get a clearer picture of what they like, or at least what they don’t like, by using pictures. Visual aids help clients communicate things they’re having trouble describing. Look at catalogues and photos on blogs. Show clients a mix of trendy styles and classic elements and make note of what catches their eye.
Create lists to keep track of progress made throughout the meeting. Make them for:
- Things the clients absolutely want or need
- Things they absolutely don’t want or can’t have
- Potential ideas that develop throughout the meeting
For now, don’t worry if these ideas are vague. Any material is better than what you had when the meeting started! You’ll define ideas further if you choose to work together.
Special considerations can be anything your clients require that other clients might not. Inquire whether there are particular things the clients absolutely need so you can think about how to incorporate those into the design. For example, if one client uses a wheel chair, you’ll have to take accessibility into account.
Make suggestions with confidence
If you choose to work together, the clients have the final say about what the design looks like. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should sit quietly until they’ve made a decision. A large part of your job is anticipating what they’ll like based on what you know from the consultation meeting.
Try not to throw out random suggestions without thinking them through, but be comfortable bringing up ideas during the meeting. In fact, clients will appreciate your suggestions if they’re feeling stuck. Your ideas might help them with decisions and suggestions of their own.
After the meeting
Ideally, you should have all the information you need to move forward by the end of the consultation meeting. You should have an idea of:
- What the clients are like
- What they need
- What they want
- What they don’t like, want, or need
Analyze the information you have and consider the budget. Think about your experience with the clients in the meeting. Ask yourself:
- Is the project feasible within their budget?
- Is the project within the scope of your skills and services?
- Do the clients seem ready to move forward following your meeting?
- Did you feel like you could communicate easily and effectively with them?
- Did they take your advice into consideration?
- Did they provide you with the information you needed and cooperate with your consultation process, answering your questions to the best of their ability?
- Can you see any potential problems or roadblocks to working with these clients?
- Do you feel like you and the clients meshed well enough to complete a project together?
When you’ve come to a decision about whether you’re ready to work with these clients, contact them. A phone call is best unless they tell you they prefer email.
If you decide to work with them, let them know that you’d like to take on their project. If they would also like to move forward, set up another meeting time to discuss the terms of your contract and sign it.
If you decide that working together isn’t the best idea, kindly explain that their project is not within your scope and wish them the best of luck. If you know another design professional who you think might be a better fit, speak with them about the project. If your colleague is open to meeting with the clients, recommend them to the clients in your phone call or email.
Trust your instincts
When it comes to both making design suggestions and choosing whether to work with a client after the consultation, trust your gut feeling. The more experience you gain, the easier you’ll be able to read what people want based on facts and designer’s intuition. Imagine how impressed clients will be if you lay out the perfect idea before they’ve even realized that’s what they want!
Have you ever had an experience where your client didn’t know what they wanted? Share you experience in a comment below!
Home Staging and Interior Decorating are two fields that are very similar but have many differences as well. It is important to understand these differences before jumping into either one. If you are interested in a career in one of the two, having a good understanding of not only what the job entails, but what is included in the industry, what will be expected of you, and what type of skill and knowledge you will need to have, will help you decide which field is right for you! Both Home Stagers and Interior Decorators need to understand the principles of design from color theory to floorplans, but it is how they use this knowledge that creates the difference.
Home Staging is ever increasing in demand. With the housing market becoming more difficult, many people turn to home stagers to help them prepare their home for sale. Home stagers are incredibly important to the real estate process. Home stagers need to understand how to properly declutter a room, removing unwanted items and creating a superbly organized and simple space. Stagers need to work closely with clients to depersonalize their homes, removing personal items and favorable mementos. It is the home stager’s job to stage the home so that it is appealing to many different people and allows potential buyers to envision themselves in the space. Home stagers learn how to not only create an appealing space inside the home, but they are responsible for the outside of the home as well. Curb appeal is incredibly important for first impressions and this is something a home stager needs to be aware of.
As a home stager, you will need to have an eye for design. Home Stagers understand color theory, focal points and different room styles. They will need to know how to work with the items within the home and how to restyle creatively to obtain a different feel within the room. Home Stagers also need to understand floorplans and how to work with different structures and lay outs. Lighting, window treatments, and furniture selection are all key components a home stager must understand when hoping to become successful in the industry.
What is incredibly important to differentiate a home stager from any other design career is the understanding of real estate principles. Home stagers need to know a considerate amount about the real estate market. Is it a strong market? What are housing prices like? What are people looking for these days? Being able to perceive and predict what’s happening in the real estate world will help any home stager get ahead while staging a client’s home for sale. Home stagers often work very closely with real estate agents and in different agencies.
Interior decorating is the art of going into a client’s home, working with their items and budget, and creating a new style to please everyone’s needs. Interior decorators are responsible for furnishing and accessorizing a client’s home based on their preferred taste and style. Interior decorators work with the already existing elements throughout a home and use their experience and knowledge to make the idea come to life. They need to be up-to-date with current trends and styles while always listening to the client and having their preferred ideas in mind. Understanding organizational principles is especially important when working as an interior decorator.
As an interior decorator, you will need to understand advanced color theory and the classic elements of design. Interior decorators need to know how to work with many different materials and textiles. They need to have an understanding of window and wall treatments, lighting, papering and more. Interior decorators use floorplans quite heavily and will need to have a deep understanding of space planning, balance, visual weight, and how to use scale.
Interior decorators work very closely with their clients. They follow the budget the clients set out for them and are responsible to work with the client to decide on the best style and idea for the room. Interior decorators need to understand the principles of customer service. They need to be able to present their ideas in a professional manner and learn to adapt to whatever the client throws their way. Interior decorators have the amazing opportunity of helping individuals design their homes however they imagined. Using their keen eye for design as well as their skills and training, interior decorators can transform a simple home into a masterpiece!
While Home Staging and Interior Decorating share many of the same principles, they are certainly quite different when laid out side by side. Home Stagers use their skills to redesign a home for sale. They declutter and depersonalize in the hopes to make the house seem appealing to all potential homebuyers. Interior Decorating on the other hand, hopes to achieve the opposite. Interior Decorators want to follow the client’s ideas to make their home unique and special to them. In both cases, people hoping to work in either industry need to have an eye for design and a love of working with people.
Are you thinking of starting a career as either a Home Stager or Interior Decorator? Check out QC’s courses in Home Staging and Interior Decorating!
When it comes to using social media for business, there are many things you should consider and be aware of. Your social media sites are a way for people to find you, engage with you, and to get to know your brand. Projecting a professional image is key, especially in a public forum where everyone can see exactly what you’re posting and how you respond to certain situations. Good or bad, this can drastically affect whether or not a potential client who follows you wants to give you their business. Check out our do’s and don’ts when using social media for business in order to get the most out of it and avoid getting into any hot water.
Do: Be prompt and courteous
If you’re using social media for your business, be aware that clients and potential clients will use this as a means to communicate with you. This may be a post to your Facebook timeline, a comment on your Instagram photo, or a reply to a tweet on Twitter. Whatever the case, you should reply in a timely manner and be polite! Your social media business page is visible to the public, and if you’ve written a poor response to someone, everyone can see it. By replying quickly and professionally, you’re giving your followers a taste of the quality of service you provide.
Tips for replying:
Say “hi” first
Thank them for reaching out
Be polite but not overly formal
Stay friendly and upbeat (use emojis and exclamations!)
Provide relevant links to your website when applicable (like pricing information, samples of your work, contact info page, etc.)
For Twitter in particular, because you are limited to only 140 characters, you probably won’t be able to follow all of these tips. Provide as much information as you can, use shortened links, and don’t be afraid to respond in multiple tweets if you need to.
Don’t: Get into heated debates
When browsing the social media world and engaging with other users through your business account, try your very best not to get into heated debates. Everyone has an opinion, and you should be confident in yours but understanding to those that differ. If someone tries to spark a debate with you, remember to respond with dignity and grace (should you decide to respond at all). I like to follow the motto of “kill them with kindness.” Even if it’s not on your own business page, your followers are sometimes notified of your activity and you don’t want them to see you in a pointless debate with someone you don’t even know. This reflects poorly on your business and followers will be hesitant to work with you.
On the other hand, you might have someone causing trouble on your own social media page. Before you do anything, like “hiding” their post/comment, blocking the user all together, or responding back, you should investigate. Are they simply being an “internet troll” (someone who starts fights over the internet for their own personal amusement), are they just being plain rude or offensive, or are their negative posts justified? After you’ve investigated, decide whether or not it merits a block or a direct response from you. But don’t go on a blocking spree! If someone gives you a bad review, however, you should address it professionally instead of blocking it from the public. Learn more about dealing with bad reviews here.
Do: Post original content
Social media is one of the best ways to get your original content out there. When you post a blog article to your website, share it on all of your social media sites so that your followers can check it out and then share it with their friends as well. When posting your own content, this shows your followers that you’re the authority on the subject and their go-to guru when they have questions or need to hire a professional for the job! Want to learn more about blog writing? Check this out.
Don’t: Steal images
When working in a creative field like makeup artistry, event planning, or home decor, it’s almost impossible to log on to your social media sites without seeing a stunning eyeshadow application, an exquisite centerpiece, or a perfect kitchen design that you want to share with your followers. But you should never save an image you find on social media and pass it off as your own – that’s a no-brainer! But what a lot of people don’t know, is that you could still get into a lot of trouble for using other people’s images without their consent, even if you don’t try to claim it as yours. That’s why you should always use the share/retweet/regram functions available if you want your followers to see something you loved, unless you have received explicit permission to use the photo from it’s original owner. Using the designated sharing functions is a perfectly acceptable way to pass something on to your followers.
Note: Be careful when asking someone permission to use their images. Even if they say “yes”, they themselves may very well have stolen the image from elsewhere… and you can be held liable for using stolen pictures.
Do: Stay relevant
Remember to post things that are relevant to your brand. If you’re a makeup artist sharing blog posts about your favorite restaurants downtown, that might not be something your followers will appreciate! If you’ve branded your site as a source for makeup inspiration, then that’s what your followers are expecting from you and will most likely engage with.
You can, however, post things that are in the same ball park of your particular industry, but may not be 100% on-brand. For example, if you’re an event planner, you might share a cool video of cake-decorating, or as a professional organizer, you may share an article about the best natural cleaning products for the home!
Do: Find a voice
One of the first things you should decide when starting your social media business pages, is what sort of voice and personality you want to project. This will ultimately depend on who your audience is. Are they more mature individuals you would appreciate a more formal tone? Or are they younger, dare I say “hip,” people who would engage more with a funny or informal tone? Regardless of the tone you decide to take on, you should be attentive to grammar and avoid using too much slang.
Don’t: Get too personal
Save the more personal things for your own social media accounts. One of the worst things you can do on your business sites is rant about something totally unrelated to your following base. This projects a negative image of yourself and your followers will question your professionalism. If you’ve decided to take on a relatable, more casual voice on your social media pages, you can definitely get away with posting more personal content, like a funny picture of your cat or a family photo at Christmas time.
The selfie: While some of your followers may not appreciate a daily picture of your face, there are times when it can actually be totally appropriate. Remember to keep it relevant to your brand and industry. For example, as a makeup artist, you may want to post cool looks you’ve created on yourself or just show off your makeup for the day. Selfies can give a personal touch and allow your audience to relate to you better! But there’s a time and a place, and you don’t want to over do it.
Do: Research best-practices
As you’re well aware, social media is a great way to connect with your potential and past clients and will help grow your business. Because it is such an important tool, you want to ensure you’re using it correctly and getting the most you possibly can out of all your efforts. Perhaps there’s a particular image size that gets more views than another, or maybe there’s a time of day when it’s best to post something. Whatever the case, you should be aware of it and use that to strategize your posts. Consider subscribing yourself to a blog, do a few Google searches once in a while to ensure you’re still on track, and read more articles about social media like this one.
In the social media world, there’s a lot to know and most of it will come with practice, trial, error, and eventually, success. Play around with the “do’s” mentioned above, but don’t ignore the “don’ts!” Find your voice, keep educating yourself on the best practices, and stay positive, upbeat, and respectful.