10 Ways to Improve Your Design Business
Design professionals share ways they work efficiently, delegate tasks and make the most of smart business software
We asked three pros to reveal the strategies they use to make their businesses run smoothly and efficiently. Are there any you’d be willing to try? Tell us in the Comments.
Working smarter, not harder, allows you to focus on the things that matter to your business, says Kathy McKinnon, principal interior designer at Kathy McKinnon Interiors. “Being an interior designer/stylist requires you to be visually creative, good at listening to a brief, and good at presenting detailed drawings and product specifications. In order to develop these skills, you need to be resourceful with your time and work smarter,” she says.
Interior designer Allie Duval, director at Coastal Hamptons Design Studio, concurs. “Working smarter in my business has allowed me to move forward with my goals and prioritise where my energy goes,” she says. “Running your own business means wearing so many hats, which can make it easy to lose sight of what matters. For me, working smarter means working ahead and seeing exactly where my energy needs to go.”
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Kathy McKinnon says:
1. Surround yourself with a great team. I have a fabulous team of specialist freelance assistants who I call on when needed. Different projects require different resources; for example, when I’m doing a photo shoot, many hands make light work.
Documentation and visual presentation can be very time-consuming, too. If I’m juggling multiple projects, I’ll often use specialist freelancers to help me deliver projects on time.
2. Put processes in place and delegate. Now I have the right processes in place, I can pass on tasks to other staff members. I’m also able to follow the processes myself, so I know nothing is missed.
3. Use templates. Having certain documents templated, such as standard letters to clients to update them at certain parts of a project, can save time.
4. Use phone scripts. We use phone scripts so that when an inquiry comes through, anyone in the office can take the call and ask the right questions.
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6. Take advantage of calendars. Block out times in your diary for specific tasks that need to be completed. Also, set up reminders so everyone on your team knows what tasks are coming up and can plan for them.
7. Use a collaborative, list-making tool. This lets everyone on our team communicate, stay on schedule and tick off things as we go along. It also means we don’t miss any details and can delegate tasks on the list to others as necessary.
8. Work on your relationships with suppliers. It’s much easier to pick up the phone and call an established contact than someone you don’t know, particularly when you’re busy and under pressure. And I find it usually means a better outcome for my client.
9. Know stock availability before you present. This is all about the client relationship. Knowing exactly what’s available – and what isn’t – gives the client confidence that I can deliver the best outcome for their project.
Unfortunately, Covid has meant supply shortages across the board, but if we can show our clients that we try to deliver good outcomes, they feel well looked after.
10. Have a Houzz Pro account. My account helps me keep track of everything that’s going on with each project, which makes me feel in control.
“It helps me optimise my time by keeping track of leads, managing existing jobs and staying connected with clients. It’s an excellent marketing tool and so efficient in its software capabilities,” Allie says.
“It’s a fabulous and high-profile marketing tool that reaches a wide audience, and this audience offers a great potential of lovely projects,” Kathy says. “The client reviews work very well and give clients confidence in your business and an insight into how you work.”
“Because Houzz Pro is live, we can see instantly who’s updated projects and with what,” she adds. “Why didn’t I start using it years ago!”
“You can create fast and professional-looking documents in minutes, which helps create a positive client experience,” she continues. “All correspondence is available from a one-stop link for the homeowner.
“There’s transparency and professionalism in all communications, which can reduce stress for the client. This ultimately means you can charge more for your services,” she says, “as clients will feel confident you’ll deliver the best service and outcome.”