Reveal Day: What I Learned From My First Design Market Trip

So I’ve finally had the chance to sit down and collect my thoughts from attending my first High Point Market.  As some of you may know I’m also hosting an epic virtual conference for creatives so time has been extremely limited lately.

If you are not familiar with Market, it’s basically the home furnishings capital of the world!  Well, let me scale it back a little and say for the States anyway.  It’s a 5-day event that happens every Spring and Fall in High Point, North Carolina.   Over the course of five days you will experience a mix of CEU sessions, celebrity design sightings, showroom tours, trendsetters and style spotters events and a slew of social events.

If you are in the interiors field and never had the chance to attend I highly recommend that you try to make the trip soon.  So read ahead as I highlight all of the insight I gained from attending educational seminars and networking events…


Passion Sucks.  It’s All About the Money!  

Takeaways:

  • It’s a common belief that creatives are not smart with their money and suffer from a lack of business know-how
  • Staging is the best kept secret for designers but it’s recommended to own your furniture
  • Much of your emphasis should be on increasing revenue. The panel discussed a mix of pricing strategies: making at least 20-40% on a project with mark-ups ranging between 35-50% and some hourly fees around $250.
  • Project minimums were discussed where some panelists have a min. of $20k for high-profile projects
  • Know when it’s time to hire your first employee and hire staff with skills that complement what you are not good at doing
    • Your business will only go so far without staff
    • Don’t hire friends!
  • Acknowledge your design circle encompasses a range of professionals including architects, designers, realtors, your staff, contractors and legal

 

 

  • Your business must provide the ultimate in customer service so always think about how you can take it to the next level
    • Provide a design concierge service to “woo” the client
    • Think providing their favorite wine or stocking their fridge with their favorite treats and other EXTRA special touches
  • Focus on keeping the client happy and don’t engage them in problems (for ex. back orders).
    • Always keep them focused on the total package of services

  • Social media has changed the design field
  • With the rise of social media, everyone can be a “star”
  • Think “rain drop effect” as you can repurpose content to promote your business across platforms
  • Look at everything you do and figure out how to use as marketing events
  • You can make 5 posts out of everything
  • Social media offers evergreen opportunities. Explore product licensing to make money while you sleep or “mailbox money”.  Now you’re thinking “rain drops” to “waterfall”.—Love this analogy!
  • Don’t forget LinkedIn to seek prospective clients
  • Make sure YOU stand out as the face of your brand
  • Consider hiring a publicist to get your work seen

A question was asked about the secrets of a successful creative entrepreneur and the answer might shock you… “Google it” and figure it out.  It can’t be that hard! (No really that was the answer)

Websites:

https://kelliellis.com/

http://favreaudesign.com/

The Chaise Lounge


Managing Client Expectations

Takeaways:

  • Recognize there are 3 different types of clients:
    • Client from hell- they can be abusive, critical and hard to please. Listen to your instincts and don’t ignore the signs just to get a job.  You will set yourself up for failure.
      • Warning signs: lack of hospitality and/or ask you to lower your prices
      • If something goes wrong with the project just apologize to defuse the situation
      • Apologizing is not an admission of guilt but offers a way to sympathize
      • Never admit fault (well of course unless you were really wrong)
    • Client in question- they tend to very indecisive, hold up progress and need constant reassurance. It’s important not to overwhelm them but always present a limited number of choices.
    • Client in heaven- this is the dream client that can do no wrong and lets you have creative freedom
  • Limit socializing and being friends with clients
    • Don’t forget you’re there to make money
    • If you get too friendly the client may expect discounts
  • Be very specific with your requirements in your design plan to the contractor
    • For ex. ceiling color/sheen; trim color/sheen, wall #1 color/sheen, etc.
  • All communication needs to have a paper trail (emails, etc.)
    • No random phone calls with no documentation

Tips for your LOA…

  • Include specific deadlines of when payment must be made, late fee if not received on time and timeframe for legal action
  • State that you are not acting as general contractor but only as a liaison
    • You are not responsible for contractor mistakes
    • You can recommend 3 contractors but client does research and quality checks
  • State an exit clause
    • Either party can sever contract within X amount of days
    • Any services delivered and any remaining payment of services will be due (specify days for both)
    • Can simply state visions are not aligned and you are “bowing” out to let them continue their creative journey (which oh by the way will suck without you- jk)
  • Explain your fee structure and mark-ups
    • Include fee process if the project timeline is extended, runs over budget, or products are back-ordered.
  • State if the budget is reduced then explain items that can’t be completed
  • State installation done in phases
    • Client is excused for X amount of hours during the install
  • State you are the sole purchasing agent
    • If that is breached then the client is charged a 50% commission on creative permission
  • Provide you have the right to do photography once the project is completed
    • You will remove any private items such as photos

Websites:

http://coreydamenjenkins.com/


Getting Your Stories Published: Strategies for a Digital Age

Takeaways:

  • Put a strategy in place for which magazines to pitch
  • Determine if the branding and imagery of your projects matches the aesthetic of the magazine you want to publish.
  • Recognize scale (large or small) as well.
    • Not every project is a fit for AD. (Let’s keep it real)
  • Become very familiar with the publication of interest: know the departments, all editors and who have been recently featured
  • If submitting for a national publication, just submit to 1 that you feel is the best fit
  • Submit to several if regional which are good to provide visibility off of smaller projects
  • Realize the number of max issues per year with the publication of interest
    • For ex. Veranda magazine publishes 6 times a year and taking submissions now for 2019
  • Know that acceptance rates can range from 1% of 600-700 submissions
  • Have a marketing plan for each project: local, national, international
  • Realize some magazines have restrictions that work can’t be shared until published
  • Magazines may be more likely to include your work if a design influencer with a large audience refers your work
    • Mags are losing ad money so it helps if you have a large social media following or work with an influencer
  • How to pitch your project:
    • What makes your project special, or why does it have a unique concept or embody new ideas?
    • Who are the clients?
    • What’s the back story?
    • Were there any design challenges?
    • What was the solution?
    • Provide basic information about the project.
  • Do not send huge photo files, just send a few images and don’t forget to put your name on the files
  • Present your submission as a presentation of photos that tell a story and include a handwritten note for a special touch
  • Become familiar with the photographers that are getting published
  • Do not send photos that only focus on the details or vignettes but look at entire rooms and the progression of the project
  • Average spread for a project is 10 pages so make sure you have a range of photos of various rooms to fill the spread
  • Do not include people in your photos and don’t over prop
  • Being in a national magazine won’t solve the issue of getting more business
  • Hire a PR agency

Websites:

I and D Magazine (in conjunction with ASID): http://digitaledition.iplusdmag.com/iplusdmagazine/july_august_2017?pg=1#pg1


How To Deliver Luxury Projects in Under 90 Days

Takeaways:

  • Use tools such as Asana and work backward from goal date
  • Conduct daily and weekly check-ins with staff
  • View your vendors as partners
  • Have an efficient system in place that when the client writes the check the order is placed the next day
  • Work with product partners who can deliver within your specified timeframe
    • Develop a relationship with vendors
  • Work with artisans with small clientele who can deliver custom orders quickly
  • Always ask vendors their lead time
  • Generate a checklist for each floor plan
  • Always check stock before you “fall in love” with items and put items on hold
  • Educate clients on pricing and help them set realistic budgets
    • Provide items in price categories for clients (good, better and best)
  • Celebrity projects don’t refer but family projects do
    • Celebrities like trends but families not so much
  • Decide between hourly vs. flat fee
    • Flat free is priced per sq ft
    • $100k flat fee equates to about 400 hours
    • $250/hr for medium to large jobs for complete house
  • Collect 100% of fees up front (margin 45%)
  • Ensure staff stick to their roles: ordering, accounting, design, bringing in clients, CAD, etc.
  • Key points: communicate, partner, plan, and budget

Websites:

https://www.curreycodealers.com/c-293-currey-in-a-hurry.aspx

https://www.scarletthreadconsulting.com/

http://returnoninteriors.com/


Hey, check out photos of my showroom finds HERE!


Need more tips to help with your design biz, sign up fir the Interior Decorating Business Blueprint: From Hobby to Profits.  A 5-module program sharing strategies from over 25 experts to help you build your design story, speed business growth, spur creativity, and boost revenue.

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