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Are you on the Roller Coaster? Oh… the Highs and Lows of the Interior Design Business

Filed under Clients, Return on Interiors

Sometimes owning your own interior design business feels like you’re on a never-ending roller coaster of highs and lows, doesn’t it?

On the good days, you feel like you’re the star of a movie.

  • You ONLY have clients with unlimited budgets
  • Your clients adore you and all your suggestions
  • Everyone frolics around with huge smiles on their faces!
  • Furniture, fabric and samples arrive on time- and undamaged!
  • Oh, and you’re making a LOT of money!

Screech! Back to reality!

Yes, you know ups and downs are just part of the territory of owning your own business, BUT knowing that doesn’t make the lows any less difficult.

What does help? Knowing you’re not alone!

The lows you’re feeling are shared with other professionals with their own interior design businesses. We can all share the pain of the following:

  • Unpaid invoices or clients who don’t want to pay you what you’re worth
  • Vendor problems—they don’t deliver the product when they agreed to, and your clients think you’re to blame! UGH!
  • Items you ordered (forever ago) arrived. Yeah! But wait, they’re damaged! Ohhhhh, noooooo!
  • Clients trust the counsel of their friends over your professional design expertise- and can’t make decisions.
  • Everything is not buttoned up after install; there are a few items left over, but you can’t resolve them for reasons out of your control. You look like a flake!
  • Your client is unhappy or doesn’t like something.
  • ANYTHING that is negative that’s outside of your control to fix! Yikes! That’s a lot!

Isn’t it crazy that no matter how many years you’ve been in the business and how many highs you experience, that those low points can make you second guess yourself? At best it’s just a bad day, but when it escalates and rears its ugly head, your mind chatter tells you you’re a loser or says you have no business being in the interior design business.

I still feel the pain after years of feedback (don’t you love how I put a nice spin on it and call it feedback?)

But, don’t despair!! Here are some tips so you can quickly remember the fulfilling things about interior design- like a great install picture for your website:)  

Pause for a Minute—or 5

When I’m hit with a low, my first reaction is SHOCK! Then, I want to cry and then get mad. But. . .then I walk away.

Those first emotions hit hard, but they last only about 30 seconds. I promise! Remember, ruminating does NOTHING! What does help? Putting yourself in a different environment. This change in perspective can give you time to understand the perspective of those causing you the low!

Understand the Person’s Perspective

Try to understand and respect the other person’s perspective. Pretend you are the client to understand their point of view.

Let’s take a look at one example that happens way more frequently than we would like. You have your install—all is great except for the big hole in the room that’s left because the dining table that is central to the room’s design hasn’t arrived yet. Yep. The client blames you because you were the one in charge of this project. Not to mention, it’s taken forever.

YOU know you’ve bent over backward on this very issue to try to resolve it before install. But, take a minute to see things from their perspective.

Hmmm. Yep, I would be angry as well!

There are other situations where the reason for your clients’ anger isn’t so easily understood. When you’re unclear what’s driving your clients’ emotion, think about:

  • Have they reacted this way to anything else during the process?
  • Have you done your best, so they have confidence in you?
  • Are there other issues that are lurking under the surface?

Is Their Feedback True?

Sometimes it’s impossible for us to see the situation objectively because we are literally a tree in the forest of the design world. I find that when I solicit an outside point of view—usually from someone who doesn’t operate in the design world, or people on the Return on Interiors private Facebook forum—it helps me process the feedback.

Both people in and out of the industry have had similar experiences and can often help you solve your issue. Or, at least help you gain some perspective. This is not an excuse to gossip or get feedback from a hundred people! Just reach out to a few trusted resources to get their take on your situation.

Respond from a Place of Kindness

Fight the urge to offload all your frustrations and scream at your dissatisfied clients. When I respond to situation from a place of kindness, my heart is open to hearing their concerns. Here’s how I do it (it’s very similar to how you have any healthy relationship):

  • Let them know you have heard their concerns by paraphrasing their issues.
  • Go ahead. Be honest. Let them know how you feel and if you don’t agree, let them know why you do or don’t agree. Be humble and apologetic.
  • Figure out what the next steps will be to resolve the issue—or at least get a temporary resolution.
  • Thank them for bringing it to your attention. I always say those that bring issues to your attention rather than keeping them hidden are true treasures. Once you are aware of the situation, you can improve it.

We’re Human: Grow and Learn from Mistakes

Success to me is all about using my mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. I am really, really thankful when a client is honest with me because that gives me the opportunity to make it right. And, it’s something I can avoid or alter in the future.

Gosh, I know! Growth is hard and sometimes painful. I can’t tell you the number of mistakes I have made in my interior design business. But, with each mistake, I have grown and made my business better and better. Bonus: I don’t feel the depth of pain like I used to!

That’s because I channel the learning to create new processes or refine my current processes. As you can tell, (Hello, Return on Interiors!) I like to immediately implement what I have learned, so I don’t repeat a bad thing or forget to do a good thing!

Even if you’re not in a low spot right now with your interior design business, we all know one is around the corner. So, please download this Guide to Handling the Ups and Downs of the Design Business! Save it for a rainy day! Sharing is caring, so better yet, please forward this to a colleague who might be having a bad day. You will be their super-hero!

Click Here to Download the Guide
Handling the Highs and Lows of the Interior Design Business!

Xoxo,

Kathleen

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