As inflation hits record highs, the stock market sinks, interest rates soar, crypto crashes, and new project inquiries become increasingly less frequent, you might be experiencing some uneasiness. We’re all wondering: "How will this impact our businesses?
The best thing you can do for your interior design studio during a time of deep uncertainty is to take preparatory action – that means making a plan and refining your processes before the industry potentially feels any negative effects.
That's why we’re walking you through actionable steps to safeguard your business from a recession. We might not be able to predict the future economy but we can predict this: If you follow this five day plan, no matter what happens, you can move forward feeling calm, cool, and collected.
Sounds good, right? Let's get to work.
Think Before You Speak...Or Spend
It’s simple: We need to get strategic about how we’re using our marketing resources. Before you spend another minute or dollar on creating social media content, sending email newsletters, running an ad, or drafting a blog post, you need to identify who you’re trying to reach and what you’re going to say to them.
Our number one tip is to niche down, cultivating a specialty that helps you stand out from competitors and allows you to identify a specific target audience. If the number of people looking for interior design temporarily decreases, it’ll be more important than ever to be attracting the right people.
Today's To Dos
1. Refresh your website.
As soon as people land on your website, they should get an immediate sense of who you are, what you do, and if they're your people. This might be as simple as updating your imagery to feature a stronger curation of your portfolio or giving your copy a look over to make sure it's clear and compelling. Pro Tip: Read it out loud to catch errors and ensure the tone matches what you’re striving for.
2. Overhaul your hashtag strategy.
Where is your ideal client located? What’s your ideal client's aesthetic? What are they reading? Create a group of 20 hashtags specific to your services, your look, and who your ideal client is, then customize the rest based on the individual image. We dig deeper into this topic here.
3. Tidy your Pinterest.
When someone visits your page and reads your bio, do they know exactly what you do? Then say a loving goodbye to all of those miscellaneous boards you’ve got floating around. If visitors come to your profile for interior design inspiration and see random boards related to your kids or pets, it can make an awkward first impression. Finally, title each of the visible boards with something straightforward and searchable. Read this post if you want to dig more deeply into optimizing your Pinterest. Does your online presence need more than a quick refresh? We can help. All of our website templates can be bundled with copywriting and implementation.
Where Do You Hang Out? It Matters.
Now that you’ve defined who your ideal client is, you need to show up where they’re spending their time. It’s important to realize this is likely very different from your go-to accounts or where your design network is gathering online.
Today's To Dos
1. Create and schedule two pieces of social media content per week for the next three weeks.
We’ll do the math – that’s six pieces of content. Is your ideal client tapping through Instagram Stories, watching Reels, or scrolling through TikTok? Get active where they’re at. Use each piece of content as an opportunity to share who you are, what you do, and how you can solve your ideal clients’ pain points. As you begin to tackle outbound engagement, it’s important that your account is active when they click back to discover more.
2. Identify five Instagram accounts your ideal client is likely following.
How are they using Instagram? i.e. travel planning, watching beauty tutorials, discovering new recipes, getting working out motivation or tips, etc. If you’re targeting professionals in downtown San Francisco, there’s a good chance they’re a member at the Equinox on Market Street. Hamptons vacation homeowners? You’ll find them following the newest, buzzy restaurant in Montauk. Growing, young families? Check out the account of your city’s most sought after sleep consultant.
3. Respond to five comments on each of the accounts you just identified.
These are real people, so leave thoughtful, supportive, and kind replies. Remember, the goal is to have them read your comment, click through to see your profile, and then begin to follow you. Have a favorite project or client you adored? Interact with their friend circle on Instagram via your client’s profile. Don’t be afraid to comment, like, and engage with their online content. Not only does this keep you top of mind, but you also might just make a great connection to land your next big project.
4. Brainstorm five geotags to focus on.
This is the location people select when they post. Geotags could be cities, neighborhoods, or even specific landmarks or places like “The Eiffel Tower”. You want to focus on your dream neighborhoods and the key spots where locals would gather within those zip codes.
5. Like and comment on 10 interesting posts from each geotag.
Use the same principles to guide you as in step three. By liking, commenting, and joining the conversation of a community, you’ll get face time with potential clients.
6. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Now that you’ve got a few pieces of content scheduled on your social channels, keep the momentum going. Often people turn to social media to find community, solidarity, or even creative outlets and escapism during stressful times. If creating regular social content is something you struggle to fit in your workflow, it may be time to outsource.
Tidying Your Processes Sparks Joy for Everyone
Day one, you niched down and identified your ideal client. Day two, you got your marketing plan in place, and now you’re hard at work attracting your dream clients. Today, it’s time to make sure you can serve those potential clients well, and serve as many of them as possible, as they find you and start their projects. How? By establishing or refining your processes.
No strategy is more important to an interior designer than a seamless client process. From initial inquiry to the final goodbye, I walk you through how to impress every step of the way on Episode 2 of The Interior Collective.
Today's To Dos
1. Assign all tasks to the appropriate team members.
The number one reason why things fall through the cracks is confusion about whose responsibility it is. As teams grow, clearly defining roles is imperative – we always say you need to hire for a specific role, not just an additional person. When shifting from a solopreneur to a team it can be easy to pass off tasks as they come. As soon as you delegate roles (Instagram management, blog writing, client on-boarding, etc), the more efficiently your processes will run.
2. Turn your client email communication into templates.
What communications take place on your end? List them all out. This might include the email that accompanies your design proposal, your weekly update email (more on that later this week), your monthly invoice email, homework reminders, out of office messages, feedback requests, and potentially dozens more. By having these emails templated, you not only save hours a week retyping the same message and ensure a consistent client experience every time, you can also have anyone on your team send emails for you.
3. Decide how and when you will return client calls and emails.
We know this seems unnecessary, but staying productive (and time blocking, especially) is so much simpler when you set aside specific days times to return messages and calls. For instance, we respond to all emails twice a day, Tuesday-Thursday, at specific times. We suggest 11:30am and 5:00pm as a starting place because clients are likely on their way out to lunch or wrapping up for the day and are more likely to respond to their personal messages.
4. Brand your process to create a comprehensive experience.
Every point of communication with clients should be branded and strategic, especially during the onboarding and off-boarding experiences. First things first: your inquiry form. This is where people submit their contact info on your website and is essentially the first point of contact.
The next points of communication are your client process documents. These include your investment guide, proposal, welcome guide, design presentation, and goodbye packet. Having these documents keeps your client touch points polished, on-brand, and educational throughout the entire process.
5. Update your contract.
Make sure your contract includes a Force Majeure clause. This is a contract provision that cancels both parties’ obligations under the contract when certain circumstances arise beyond the party’s control.
Don't stop with the Force Majeure addition; reevaluate your contract termination policy with your lawyer, too, ensuring that you and your employees are financially protected if a client gets cold feet during the recession and pulls the brakes on a project.
Diversify Revenue Streams, Avoid Panic During Lulls
As designers, everything you’re paid to do requires your hands and eyes on it. In a service-based business, it’s particularly important to diversify your revenue streams, because sometimes, especially in a recession, projects are delayed or there is a lull in your billable hours as you’re waiting for product to arrive. Multiple streams of income act as insurance when business is slow in one area or another.
Today, your action list is simply to look into some of these options and consider which might be the right fit for your business model.
Today's To Dos
1. Design Consultations
As an example, you could consider offering hourly design consultations for one-off services like selecting countertops, paint colors, or fixtures for a client who isn’t ready to commit to full design services. These consults will be billed at a 3x your rate. For example, if your hourly billable rate is $200 on a standard design project, these calls should be limited to 60 minutes and billed at $600. Keep these calls limited to a single day a week and limit yourself to no more than three so it isn’t eating into your other work.
2. Affiliate Links
Affiliate links are an easy way to link similar items from a project and have them live permanently on your blog, creating passive income. We’ve also found that our affiliate links make us steady revenue when pinned to Pinterest and when saved in Instagram Story Highlights.
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.
4. Boutique Rental Properties
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it feels like every designer out there, myself included, is branching out into running beautiful Airbnbs. If stretching your design muscles, enjoying some time away from the office, and turning a little profit sounds exciting to you, head over to The Interior Collective to learn more from Blair Moore, an interior designer running a small fleet of luxury boutique stays.
Don't forget to share about your new service. Talk about it on Instagram Stories, announce it in a newsletter and reference it again later, share case studies or examples on social media, dedicate a blog post. People need to know there are ways to work with you aside from full-scale projects in order for these other revenue streams to begin generating income.
Turn Your Clients Into Forever Fans
One of your most powerful tools – especially during a recession – is client retention. While it’s easy to get caught up on making sure we have new projects coming down the pipeline, it’s essential that we serve those who have already entrusted us with their homes to the best of our abilities. Today, we’re going to address how to create trust while surprising and delighting your current (and former) clients. In short: Loyal, repeat clients are more profitable than acquiring new clients.
Today's To Dos
1. Mail physical, handwritten notes.
Handwrite notes to previous clients (on branded stationery, of course), checking in on them and asking them how they are doing in their homes. Mailing something tangible is a thoughtful and memorable way to follow up and see if there’s anything you can do to help. As a bonus, it keeps you top of mind – you'll be who they recommend when their friends ask.
2. Send an end-of-week check-in email.
Now, more than ever, you should be checking in with your current clients weekly. Let your clients know what you worked on this week and what to expect next week. Even if your project is on pause or you're in the procurement phase, send the check-in email. You don't want to give clients any opportunity to question your value. Then go ahead and add this as part of your process from now on (if it isn’t already).
3. Identify one way to go above and beyond your current clients this week.
During our chat with Clara Jung of Banner Day Interiors, she shared this anecdote: When a project was wrapping up for an expecting client, the movers didn’t quite complete their job. Clara didn’t blink an eye – she went to the project site and unpacked those final boxes at the last minute. And guess what? That family is still a client of hers now. In summary – serve your clients well in little and unexpected ways. Those small gestures and moments of service are what turn current clients into lifetime ones.
We’re so proud of you for investing time in your business and implementing what you’ve learned throughout this mini-course. You’ve laid a solid foundation, so no matter how this economy turns, we’re confident you’re prepared to not only survive, but thrive. We’re cheering you on.
If there's something we can partner alongside with you on or help you dive more deeply into, we encourage you to reach out – as always, we’re here to help.