Today, we’re addressing an issue that so many interior designers seem to relate to. They have found themselves torn between wanting to grow their business and being unsure of what to outsource first and at what capacity.
There are so many factors to consider here. For a small business owner, giving up control of any aspect of your business can be daunting. Even when you’re ready for that leap, it can be difficult to know what kind of service best fits your business process, long-term goals, and budget.
When it comes to choosing the right team members, we live by the quote “Hire slow, fire fast.” Don’t hold onto someone who is using more resources than they are creating. If they’re slowing your productivity, then there is no benefit in delaying the inevitable. Find people you can trust, who understand your vision, and make your business better. Contract hires are a great way to remove the pressure and emotions around letting someone go. We’ve found our best hires are those who have side gigs as it makes them more creative, more efficient with their time and constantly evolving.
Photography: Madeline Harper
Who to Hire First
IDCO client Lindsey Brooke Design has grown her team of staff and contract workers to eight people in less than two years.
“Hiring can be scary but also so important for the growth of your business. Not only does it allow myself more time to focus on more clients or more behind the scenes stuff, it also allows someones else to shine in different ways than I can. Everyone brings something different to the table and has different strengths then I and that what makes this team successful.” – Lindsey Brooke Design
If you’re looking into adding an employee or hiring an agency or virtual assistant to lighten your workload and increase your overall productivity, this is where you should start:
Photography is THE first things you should plan to outsource. There is no substitute for high-quality images, and your portfolio depends on them. Find someone you like to work with and stick with them. Using the same photographer across projects gives your design work a cohesive look. Good, consistent photography is your #1 marketing tool as a designer.
Branding + Web Design
No other hire makes sense until you have your branding and website sorted. Having a professionally-designed space to showcase your work and provide a landing place for potential clients is essential. If you’re not quite ready to hire out a web designer, our bespoke website templates for interior designers are an affordable alternative to custom web design. Read more about each of our branding and web design service offerings here.
When you’re ready to invest in your business, this is the first step. A hand-crafted branding suite will give you parameters that will help guide future hires. It’s an imperative step to maintain consistency throughout all your client communications, on-boarding materials, social media and invoicing.
AutoCAD Drawings for Floor Plans + Elevations
These are the detailed space plans to ensure furniture fits and to provide exact installation locations to tradesmen and contractors. We recommend contacting your local university design department and asking for students looking for extra work experience. Having professional CAD drawings with specific measurements and call-outs separates “decorator” from “design firm.”
Photography: Madeline Harper
When you’re busy designing, it’s hard to find the time to consistently, appropriately market your portfolio and services. Whether you hire out for Instagram management, blog posts, email marketing or pitching projects to publications, the keeping your marketing on a steady, regular calendar will be key to elevating your brand while scaling your business.
If you’ve dealt with the logistics of ordering, tracking, and receiving, you know what a time-suck it can be. One of our clients has a dedicated part-time ordering specialist who manages all ordering—furnishings, decor, artwork, and materials. It gives your vendors one point of contact and opens up a ton of room in your schedule. It’s totally genius.
Pro tip: Create an email address specifically for orders (ex. firstname.lastname@example.org) so all your team members can access it for updates. This is also helpful for potential turnover and for maintaining processes.
Level 1 Designer
After all those time-saving hires (even if they’re only part-time), it’s time to consider a level 1 designer to help with measurements, photos, sourcing, and staging. Don’t feel pressured to make this a full-time position if you aren’t ready. Even having help for 40 hours a month can drastically affect your productivity and create an opportunity for a less experienced designer.
Photography: Madeline Harper
How to Afford a New Hire
Because hiring is the first step to scaling your business, it’s often the scariest. The number one problem is deciding “How can I afford to hire someone?” Here’s the secret: Outsourcing tasks is not an expense but a revenue stream. Investing in the right hires not only boosts your productivity but increases your profitability. Build the cost of your hires into your proposals going forward, and mark up their billed time by 20% for a management fee. If your ordering specialist charges $35/hour, you should be billing clients for their services at $42/hour. Most clients won’t mind paying a small amount more, because they’re getting more work from a larger team. Meanwhile, you’re working smarter and turning an additional profit.
We hope this guide was helpful as you navigate growth as an interior designer. What’s your biggest challenge running an interior design business? We’d love for our team to address it here on the blog.