In season one of the podcast, we dedicated an entire episode to perfecting your client processes. We shared step-by-step how to provide a concierge-level client experience, but today we’re focusing on your studio’s internal workflow. These are the systems and processes that keep design teams organized on the backend and ensure the profitability of your business. Let’s dive in.
The first step to a more efficient workflow is writing down every step of your business from start to finish. This exercise will help you streamline and delegate tasks. Once that list is complete, it doubles as a fantastic foundation for your operations manual. At IDCO Studio, we created our operations manual as a Google Doc so it can be easily accessed and edited as needed. We suggest pairing that document with brand guidelines to give new hires a sense of your backend systems and company values during the HR onboarding process.
Internal Processes for Interior Design Studios
Clearly define everyone’s roles and responsibilities
Confusion about roles and responsibilities is the number one reason things fall through the cracks. 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. To learn more on this topic, listen to our podcast episode featuring Shea McGee as we discuss the power of delegation.
Assess how time can be best spent
For day-to-day operations, we highly recommend using a time blocking system. Essentially, you and your team will break the day into time blocks and assign each block a specific task. When time is up, you move on to the next block to stay as productive as possible. This method is especially effective for creatives who tend to fall down the rabbit hole of research for inspiration.
Time blocking is also very applicable to client communication. Responding to emails and phone calls is so much simpler when you set aside specific days and times to return messages. 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. This practice also protects your time instead of unintentionally spending the day in your inbox.
Put documentation procedures in place
Every client project should have proper documentation from start to finish. And there needs to be a standard process for how to stay organized. Ivy is our favorite project management software for interior designers, but we also recommend a physical binder or box for samples organized by project.
While we’re on the topic of paper trails, you’ll also need a consistent system for tracking invoices, proposals, and billing schedules. Have a clearly defined plan for when payments are due and the consequences that follow an overdue payment. This is another area where an email template is super helpful. It’s not an efficient use of time to write a brand new email each time you need to send a client invoice. Save your creative energy for the actual project and important discussions.
Protect your studio with legal contracts
If you don't already have one, make sure your contract or service agreement 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. Typically, they'll include events like epidemics or pandemics, along with war, terrorist attacks, famine, strikes, and fire in the list of events that excuse overall performance or cause a delay.
In addition, reevaluate your contract termination policy with your lawyer to ensure that if your client gets cold feet during a recession and pulls the brakes on a project, you and your employees are financially protected.
With these internal processes in place, your studio will be able to better serve your clients from day one.
Photography: Madeline Harper