Whether you're establishing a new design studio or several decades in, no business is immune to the occasional lull. These inevitable slow seasons are often marked by fewer new client inquiries or reduced billable hours when current projects get stuck in a supply chain holding pattern. Understandably, a slowdown can prompt a major sense of panic, but it doesn't have to send your business into a downward spiral.
There are many lucrative revenue stream options for interior designers looking to diversify their income beyond full client projects. It's something we learned firsthand from many of the industry's most successful designers, like Shea McGee, Blair Moore, and Lauren Liess. Read on for a complete breakdown of seven ways to expand your business model and ensure profitability, even during seasons of uncertainty.
Of the many ways to diversify your revenue streams, offering design consultations is likely the most cost-effective and least time-consuming solution. Designer consults or "Designer for a Day" typically include one-off services like selecting countertops, paint colors, or fixtures for a client who isn't ready to commit to full design services. Some studios offer this service to clients in person, while others provide it virtually. Either way, the common denominator is capturing a broader market of clients while maintaining the integrity of your brand. You'll bill clients a flat fee for your time – but there's no project management or rounds of revisions afterward. We even created a comprehensive bundle to make offering this service easier than ever.
Not to be confused with Designer for a Day, virtual design (also called e-design) involves comprehensive design services conducted entirely online. The scope of work varies by designer, but can include product procurement, layout plans, 3D renderings, or even full-service design. Offering virtual design allows business owners to expand beyond their local client market while keeping overhead costs relatively low. Designers like Peggy Haddad and CQ Interiors specialize in virtual design, making their services accessible to clients worldwide.
As a designer, your social media audience likely considers you a tastemaker for all things home and style. When posting a favorite product on social media or creating a round-up for your blog, it's important to utilize affiliate programs like RewardsStyle. Sure, affiliate income won't pay all the bills, but it doesn't hurt to create a source of slow but steady passive income. You can even take it one step further and embed an affiliate shop directly on your website via our limited-release website templates.
Branded content and product collaborations are everywhere right now, and interior designers can get in on the action through features like Instagram Creator Marketplace. This new feature is designed to connect brands with like-minded content creators directly on the Instagram app. Similar to online matchmaking, brands can search for creators who best fit their campaign criteria. Once matched, brands and creators can manage project communications, deliverables, and payments, all within the creator marketplace. It’s a great solution to diversify revenue streams, test out brand partnerships, and monetize social media content as a designer slash lifestyle influencer.
Designer mentorships are another creative way to earn extra income in slower periods of business. Many young designers have formal education (or are self-taught) but lack the real world, on-site experience they need to be successful. You can set up these mentorships however you’d like — one day, one week, six months with two days per month, etc. — but these should be charged at a premium as well. Your time, your energy, and your experience should be priced accordingly.
Real Estate/Rental Properties
The pandemic created a heightened demand for luxury vacation rental properties, and designers now have an opportunity to rise to the challenge and turn some profit along the way. Many industry mainstays like Blair Moore have long been acing the short-term rental game, but there's more opportunity than ever to expand into this dual business model. Not to mention, it provides a fun outlet to stretch your design muscles in a new direction.
For many design studios, e-commerce is a natural next step when looking to diversify revenue streams. As a studio's follower base builds, integrating an online store into a service-based website can be very strategic. However, unlike affiliate links, expanding into e-commerce involves navigating the logistics of tracking inventory, shipping, and quality control. The process might sound a bit daunting, but we've created a quick guide to get you started.
We know that navigating a slowdown can be scary, but remember that it's something every business owner will face at one point or another. Consider implementing these alternative revenue strategies to safeguard your profitability today and in the future. We're cheering you on and are always adding to our shop of dedicated resources if you need an extra hand.
Photography by Madeline Harper