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Just when you think the Houzz bullshit is over, it's not. 

I got an email from Laurie Laizure about the newest Terms changes on the Houzz website schedule to take effect on May 25th, 2018. 

Among the changes are this beauty...

License and Permission to Use Your Content. You hereby grant to us and our affiliates, licensees and sublicensees, without compensation to you or others, a non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid-up, worldwide license (including the right to sublicense through multiple tiers) to use, reproduce, process, adapt, publicly perform, publicly display, modify, prepare derivative works, publish, transmit and distribute Your Content, or any portion thereof, throughout the world in any format, media or distribution method (whether now known or hereafter created) for the duration of any copyright or other rights in Your Content. Such permission will be perpetual and may not be revoked for any reason, to the maximum extent permitted by law. Further, to the extent permitted under applicable law, you waive and release and covenant not to assert any moral rights that you may have in Your Content. If you identify yourself by name or provide a picture or audio or video recording of yourself, you further authorize us and our affiliates, licensees and sublicensees, without compensation to you or others, to reproduce, print, publish and disseminate in any format or media (whether now known or hereafter created) your name, voice and likeness throughout the world, and such permission will be perpetual and cannot be revoked for any reason, except as required by the applicable law. You further agree that we may use Your Content in any manner that we deem appropriate or necessary.

Oh, and if you give them your phone number they want you to know that they will contact you with their annoying phone calls. I'm not sure why they needed to update this, because we all know that they call incessantly trying to get every designer to sign up for their service.

These Terms provide important information to you, including your agreement to grant rights to your content, our limitation of liability to you, your agreement to resolve any disputes by individual arbitration and to waive the right to participate in a class action (described in Section 8 below) and, if you choose to provide us with your phone number, your agreement to receive calls and text messages from us in accordance with applicable law. By agreeing to these Terms, you agree to resolve all disputes through binding individual arbitration, which means that you waive any right to have those disputes decided by a judge or jury, and that you waive your right to participate in class actions, class arbitrations, or any type of representative actions.

If you want to band together as a community you had better do it now and delete your Houzz account if you care about how your content is used. If you want to cancel your account, you have to email them (I know! So 2000-late) at privacy@houzz.com and wait for a response. 

Oh, and Laurie has an image that you can use on your social media until May 25th. 

You might feel like you'll be losing out on attracting potential clients, but as I've been saying for like ever... YOU MUST BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN TRAFFIC. Optimize your website and share on social media only when you're comfortable with their terms. If you're not cool with their rules, know that you control your own destiny by bringing clients to your website first!

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Holistic interior design is the future. For years, the majority of folks have been obsessed with how a space looks and functions. Or if it looks better than Mrs. Jones space.

We are pivoting to a time where we want to live in spaces that support us not just from a functional and visually appealing way but to a space that can also support our spiritual journey.


Our spiritual journey is so much more than just faith. It's about the connection to our community, our friends, our creativity, our purpose and how we take care of ourselves. 

The interior design and decorating industry is transitioning to a more holistic approach. I'd say it started with the sustainability and green design movements. However, they didn't seem to gain as much traction as hoped for because when we come back to it, humans are selfish little fucks. 

Knowing that human nature is all about number one, it makes sense why the holistic interior design revolution is the future

If you take a minute and look around, you'll see that things that once seemed witchy and woo-woo are now commonplace. Essential oils, massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation, feng shui, color therapy, and crystal healing (my favorite) are everywhere you look. Even Kim Kardashian has capitalized on crystals when it comes to her perfume line. 

How To Incorporate Holistic Interior Design Into Your Business

Think about the way in which your design work helps people to rejuvenate, recharge and support their deepest desires. Whether that's the mom-cave or the sanctuary. The intention behind the space will guide the design for the healing. 

Healing in terms of holistic practices doesn't have to be a bid old deal. Healing can be to having a space in which to read and get your mind off of the day you've had or healing to creating spaces where a family can truly connect to one another without distractions. 

Holistic interior design today takes into account what your client wants to feel when they are in the room. It also takes into account how they want to express themselves and feel in harmony.

To discover the deeper needs of your client you'll need to dig in deeper to what goals, dreams and spiritual thoughts your client wants to explore and how you can help them accomplish it with your creative genius.

Holistic interior design is simply translating what your client needs to express on a soul level to feel at peace in their home.

How amazing is it to think that you can help people heal? Whether it is to heal them from a long day of work by boosting their mood or making relaxation easier or finally creating a space to help them make the time for that hobby they've been interested in. 

Wanna go down the rabbit hole?

Everything is an expression of God. You, me and what we create. Finding the sweet spot where what you do naturally is in service to helping another live their best life is the shift that is happening now. 

We're becoming very aware of our purpose and it's inspiring a spiritual awakening within many of us. We're starting to not care about others opinions as they relate to us. We realize that time is short and knowing that experiencing joy isn't just a pipe dream because we know that we're ready to experience it.

Just look at the recent news where Kanye is starting to make it known that his blinders are off in terms of living a life on his terms. And your terms as well, where we cared so much about what others believe about us. Whether this is a marketing ploy or not, it is reinforcing in those who are ready to change that it is okay to think freely.

Everyone comes from a different space of spiritual awareness where what I feel and what you feel may not be the same, but they are both correct. When we recognize that we must hear each other and break free from the things we were told about ourselves things are going to change big time.

That is an important point because I've worked with quite a few designers who felt that their expertise and eye for design superseded what the client's needs or dreams for their own space. What if all designers and decorators came from a place of not needing to cling to the "rules" of design, but instead translated what your client is trying to express on a deeper level?

Knowing that our conscious awareness is growing, it is so important to realize that the places where we live support our spiritual growth. Because we can't physically feel or see the things that affect our vibration, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. When we let go of the notion that we can't document or prove those things that are related to supporting our spiritual awakening doesn't mean that it doesn't exist or isn't an important aspect of design to offer.

You may be one who is finding a constant disatisfaction with the way your design business is heading and this is resonating with you. If you've been living in a state of conflict where you're stuck in the duality of what you thought decorating/ interior design had to be with what you know deep down and how it can change lives on a deeper level, this should alert you that it is no coincidence that you are reading this. 

To add on to that, knowing that the reason you've been feeling out of sync with your purpose and building your design business has become terribly difficult means that now is the time that you can choose to fully, and truly create the authentic vision of how you want your design business to be of service to others. 

You can shed the persona of who they told you that you had to be. You can shed the false constrictions and beliefs that imparted to you about how you were to conduct yourself. You can allow yourself to be.

If you’re ready to stop playing small, serve the world authentically without fear and finally take your business to the next level then I'd invite you to delve deeper and see if a holistic approach to interior design and decorating resonates with you. Knowing that if it resonates with you, it will resonate with your dream client. 

Holistic interior design is not only about design the spaces for your clients, but finding a holistic design solution for yourself and business that support your life's purpose. 

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The design industry has changed. It didn't change in the last couple of weeks. It has been changing radically for the past decade. 

So let's go with the theory that Houzz is diabolical and has had this sick plan to use designers all along. 

And that Ivy came in to pilfer data to resell for millions. 

And that Laurel & Wolf and the rest of the "just add water" design services are taking advantage of new designers and decorators who thought that was a way to get in their foot in the door.

This is why you need to listen to me now.

If you want to get clients in what you perceive to be an "easier way", then, by all means, go partner with those companies. And also bend over and kiss your ass goodbye when you realize that they have THEIR best interests at heart, not yours.

If you want to blaze your own path, then you need to be your own best advocate. And you need to put on your CEO cap.

Charge Appropriately

You must charge appropriately for your creativity. You cannot be pissed when you sell your design services for cheap because you have a false belief that no one will pay you what you deserve. 

And no, I don't mean you charging a bazillion dollars when you're still learning the ropes. I mean when you hone your craft, nail your process and have crafted your signature design process you have to charge whatever that costs and then some for the creativity you bring to the table. 

You're not a Costco designer where you discount when someone buys multiple designs/hours from you. Please don't do this.

Making more money off of selling products may or may not be an option for you. If you want to, then definitely check out this To The Trade resource.

You need to sell your signature design service

Craft a signature design service that can't be found anywhere else. 

Stop cruising other designer's websites and using their services to inspire your service. For one, you don't know that they are making any money selling those services. Second, what you have to offer is different than anything you could copy from them. 

You don't know what is in your client's wallet

Buyers are liars. People will tell you anything to get the best deal. We live in a time where practically everything is disposable. And you know you do the same thing. Whether you're looking for the best price on a pair of jeans or makeup. 

They will also claim they are in the poor house when it comes down to hiring you. It is imperative that you start rejecting clients from the get-go. You should not be the designer for everyone. 

You need to make it abundantly clear who you work with and who you don't work with which also means including what your starting fee is (if not your flat fee). Let your prospects figure out for themselves if they can afford you or if they need to go down the budget-decorating design route.

It's your responsibility to educate the client

For years, I've heard designers beg for ASID and other design societies to teach homeowners about the value of a designer. 

They haven't and they won't. They could give two shits about teaching consumers about your value. They've been in business for over 40 years and still haven't found a way to educate consumers about an industry they claim to care about so much?

Very few homeowners know about these societies. These groups are more focused on growing their membership and endorsing more legislation than educating your clients. 

Your best opportunity to educate the clientele is through your website. You can teach them all sorts of things and be their advocate. And when you do that, they'll be your fan for life.

There is enough profitable work out there

One of the biggest issues that many of my clients share with me is that they are struggling to make ends meet. They feel like they have no choice but to be the budget designer and they hate it. Who wouldn't? No one deserves to wonder if they are going to make ends meet next month but at the same time, you need to put in the effort to show up and share the value you bring to the world. 

Let me be clear... I am in no way saying that there isn't a place for "affordable" design. There is a place for that and high-end design. But when we talk about "affordable design" it must have its roots in realistic budgets. You must be compensated for your time and your clients must have money to implement your design work. This is going to cost thousands of dollars, not just a couple of hundred total. 

The difference has to come from the VALUE you offer. How can you differentiate yourself from the budget designers? 

You need to create an experience. That is what people value. 

People don't buy Starbucks because they like paying for an expensive cup of coffee that they could have brewed at home. They are buying into the experience whether it's the way that they think people look at them when they've got the Starbucks cup in hand or it's about the going into the store and having that relationship with the people who work there.

Position yourself on what you uniquely provide. 

Think about that unique triggering event in their life where you can tell their story on your website.

Triggering events are the times in a person's life that they realize that they need your help. Whether it's that they moved into a new home, or their family is coming for visit or their elderly parent is coming to live with them. These are some of the reasons someone comes looking for you. And this is imperative for you to communicate to them. 

When you can address WHY they are looking for help and tell their story, you can dominate the market in that niche. 

Profitability needs to be your middle name

You must start to document your time. If you don't know how much time you're spending (you spend time just like you do money) doing the tasks in your business then you're going to have a hard time finding profitability. 

You also need to study where your money goes in your business. You have to spend money to operate your business and that must be a part of the equation when figuring out your profitability. 

Get your online space together

You do not have the option to ignore your website. You need to bring people to your website and work on a marketing plan that you can execute. There's simply no way around it. Maybe you can hire someone to help you with this, but if you're a one-man band you will need to learn how to do this yourself. 

Technology changes are a constant

It's 2018 and things are changing quickly. Sure, there are some people out there that think the interior design industry is dying, but I don't hold that opinion. As technology changes and VR, AR, and smart technology become then norm what doesn't change is that people want beautiful spaces. 

Dare I also say that I think that there is a major shift in that there will be a market for designers that speak to helping people express their self through their home in a more meaningful way as another holistic modality. I'll have that post for you next week.

As we move forward, and the world changes it reinforces how important it is to step up and take control of your business. You are in control of your destiny and no matter what changes come down the pike you need to be able to adapt when changes come. 

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There are so many interior design platforms now to take a look at and one that I'm loving is Designfiles. There isn't an interior design platform that does everything, but I'm not sure if there was that it would be such a good idea. You know the saying, jack of all trades, master of none.

With that being said, I like how you can get a lot of things done on Designfiles in one interior design platform. 

Back in the old days, which was almost a decade ago when I started my own design business, I didn't have these types of tools that we have now.

I was piecing together all sorts of different pieces of software to pull a project together. I'd use Minutes Matters to create my floorplans, Evernote to file all my sources aways, use Excel to create my shopping list then take a screenshot of it to use in CorelDraw to then create a design package to send off to clients. Talk about a headache!

Today I want to share another tool with you to help you with your design process. 

Introducing DesignFiles

DesignFiles is an online interior design platform where you can create almost everything thing that you need to present a complete design package to your clients minus the floorplan.

You can create the floorplan with another software program like Minutes Matters (which I think is super cute) and upload it to DesignFiles.

With DesignFiles you can:
  • Set up packages and collect payments through your own branded platform
  • Create 2D and 3D mood board designs to show clients how their room is coming together
  • Create a shopping list, while at the same time curating your own product library of your own trusted vendors
  • Have conversations with your clients and contractors about the project






I had created a masterclass for Society members on DesignFiles 6 months ago and it has improved since then so I'm ready to share it with you today. I've created a video demo of me using it. 

I'm not a genius DesignFiles user but you can see how you'll easily be able to master it in no time!

Check out my video on DesignFiles...

I'm a referral partner for DesignFiles and if you'd like to get 50% off the Professional Plan when you sign up you can use the code: alycia50

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Dear Alycia,

I started my business 20 years ago and let me tell you the times have changed! It's so hard for me to find clients. Back in the day, I got clients via referrals.

Today? Ugh, I can't find them anywhere. I love working with bachelors, who are also executives, with big budgets.

How do I find these dream clients? Help!!

Signed,

Barbara*

*Name and wording of the email has been changed, but the gist of the message is the same. 

Dear Barbara,

Yeah, the times have changed. When I started my design business the iPad wasn't even invented and Jon and Kate Gosselin's marriage was falling apart. Ahhhhh, the good ol' days. 

Before that, I worked for companies and didn't have to look for my own clients, so learning how to get clients was brand new to me when I started my business. 

I was always focused on primarily getting clients online and that is still my focus today. I used to go to the shitty ASID meetings or the local Chamber meetings and that wasn't my scene. It was far easier to get clients online, so that is why I share these strategies with designers. 

You can always go the local marketing route, but I don't think the ROI is measurable or as effective as marketing online where you can see what's working for you in real time. That ad in the back of a Golf magazine? Good luck measuring that ROI.

So, I took a quick peek at your website Barbara and there's some work to be done there. (I have seen way too many websites like this so know that this advice applies to a LOT of designers).

 I'm now going to assume the personality of 'Bachelor Brad The Baller Executive' as he discovers Barbara's website for the first time:

Brad: I go to your website and I have no idea that you work with people like me. I see a picture of a living room that looks like something my mom would love and there is no text to tell me that I am in the right place.

I'm a bachelor and I need to know you get me. That is something I'm not sure of at the moment. So I'll dig in a little more....

After I scroll past the living room photo, the only button I see on your homepage is for me to read reviews. I'm just starting my search for a designer, I don't really give a crap what your clients love about you. It's still all about me. Tell me more about myself. Seriously.

I click on your About page and you talk about what you do. How you create beautiful spaces in Dallas. But you don't say you do it for Bachelors nor do you address my concerns about decorating my pad. I feel like you say you decorate for everyone and I'm not like everyone. I'm Bachelor Brad the Baller Executive.

I'm a business executive and I'm also looking to bring some chicks back to my place. Tell me that you get me. 

And get rid of that picture of the kid's pink bedroom. I don't want a kid's bedroom, much less a pink one. 

I click on your portfolio and again, I see that you're not focused on only working with bachelors... you show lots of pictures that look great. If I was a mom. Where are the spaces that I want to look at? Pictures of craft rooms don't really appeal to me. 

The blog? There are 900 categories on the sidebar of your blog and none of them appeal to me. It's like your blog has become your press room. Sharing that time you were at some store speaking about eco-friendly design (which again, I don't care about). 

I'm sorry Barbara, you're not speaking to me. I don't think you even know who I am. And for that reason, I'm out.

 

Sorry, I was channeling a little "Shark Tank" there at the end, but that's the type of guy I picture when I'm thinking a bachelor, executive type. They don't have time to get out the Ouija board to figure out what the hell is going on with your website. 

If you want to really reach this type of client, start to think like them and make sure your website speaks to only them.

Yes, that may mean that the mom with 6 kids and a baller budget may not want to hire you, but I think it's very important to be a specialist and not a generalist. That's where the money is. So go all in and work on making your website for this guy. 

After you complete the work on your website, then go to work on how to market to this guy. Where can you show up online that he will also be? Or maybe where will his assistant be? He may very well assign this task of finding a designer to his assistant and you need to make it easy to find you. 

What questions can you answer that a man like Brad will have? That is where you can provide immense value and prove that you are the only one he needs to hire. 

Take some time to go into research mode, learn about your dream client and make a plan to reach him. With that in place, this becomes easier to attract clients that are perfect!

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When a business fails it isn't because the designer sucks but rather because there's a problem with the business, not the talent.

I've made all of these mistakes at one time at or another. Sometimes I've made multiple mistakes at the same time. At the beginning when I couldn't figure out exactly what was not quite working in my business, I would change a bunch of things at once. 

That was the totally wrong thing to do. You know why? Because you won't know which of the many changes you made was the one that made the difference when you get the results you want. 

So before you make any changes to your business, make sure you track where you are now and what you make whatever changes you do. Okay? Good. Let's go.

You don't have a niche or it's too broad

It's super hard to market your design business when you're a jack of all trades. And what's more, when you try to convey the list of the bazillion things you can do on your website, your prospects will be so confused. And you'll be off their list in a New York minute.

How to fix it?

Figure out what you want to do and who you do it for. You can't sell your design services to anyone and everyone. A) Nobody will know you're talking to them and B) you won't be able to create content because your focus is all over. C) Marketing to Jennifer, a busy mother of 3 is way different than marketing to Bachelor Ben and totally different than marketing to someone who is between 35-50 and like modern design.

Your website is confusing

Your website is CRUCIAL to your success. Your website has a purpose to help you make money in your business. You'll use it to grow your email list, to connect with your prospects, to sell your services and to market your business. It has to be the hub of all of your online efforts. 

How to fix it?

Pretend you are your client (or have a friend), visit your website and forget everything you know about your business. How would they use your website? Do you make it clear who you work with? Do you answer their questions? Do you make it clear how to work with you? Do you make it clear what they will get when they hire you? 

Beyond that, do you have a way to get them into your sales funnel? Your sales funnel is the beginning of your relationship with them where you can nurture them into working with you. It's so important that you get this system into place as well. 

And lastly, make sure your website looks professional. That means skipping the free website and crafting your brand so that it is client attractive. 

You don't work on growing your email list

I'll say it until the day I die... you need an email list. Facebook owns its audience and it's not yours. Your email is the only way to connect with your prospects. It's the way to keep your income rolling in. That should be enough motivation.

How to fix it?

Optimize your website to get people to sign up for your email list. Add your sign up form all over your website and start creating multiple content upgrades that appeal to the different buying stages your clients are in. 

You don't market your business until it's too late

You are a marketer before you're a designer. Marketing is about getting people interested in your business and if the only time you reach out to people is when you need money, you'll be really disappointed when the sales don't roll in. 

How to fix it?

Come up with a plan to market your business. I get it, you don't have the time to be online all day but you can automate your marketing efforts. 

One of the best places to market your business today is Pinterest. It will become one of your biggest sources of traffic which leads to more clients. Win!

You're blogging about the wrong things

You may have interests in photography, Punky Brewster dolls and interior decorating but the content of your website needs to be what your client wants. Your content needs to be super valuable to your prospects. Which means the odds that your client is interested in your Punky Brewster dolls are slim to none. Unless you're also specializing in Punky Brewster interiors. 

How to fix it?

Skip creating content about things that your client's aren't that interested in. Create content that is directly related to your services. Think of each blog post of video is a mini-advertisement leading to what you're selling. 

You don't have have a buyer's path in place.

A lot of people come to your website from many different places and land on all sorts of places. So that's why it's important to make it easy for people to find your free content that leads to your paid content. AND make it easy to hire you.

How to fix it?

Check out your analytics and see what your most popular pages are. Optimize those pages to lead people to your services. 

You don't have a plan in place to grow your business

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. You can't wish about your business success you need to come up with an action plan to achieve your goals. Showing up every day is the key to a successful business. 

How to fix it?

Make a list of your goals and then the steps you need to take hit them. This will keep the overwhelm away because you'll know what you need to work on every day.

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Every great empire comes to its end and I think in the digital landscape that demise is on the horizon for Facebook. Maybe it won't be tomorrow, but news right now about the platform is far from bueno. 

But I don't give two shits about Facebook. Frankly, it always rubbed me the wrong way to have to use Facebook the way THEY wanted me to. The way I am socially is much different in the way that it dictates I should be. 

"Post three times a day at these times, post this, not that and stand on your head."

Whatever the current algorithm changes would dictate many a soul would play along with their ideas of perfecting a social media utopia that does not and will never exist. 

Anyway, after paying those fuckers lots of money to see a big chunk of change go down the digital toilet, I'm kinda done with it. A lot of others are, too and that is why you must hear me when I tell you that right now, the smart money is on Pinterest. 

Take a look at this... this is from my Google Analytics for my website:

   

Then if we click on to get some more details... 

   

You can see that #1 is organic search (AKA Mr. Google) and that is the main reason why you need to get your website in tip-top shape. In the #2 spot is "Social" so let's dig into which of those Social days are working...

   

Uh, huh. Pinterest is bringing me the wonderful peeps like you! Facebook is a far behind #2.... haha number two. Anyway, they do bring me traffic but I'm certainly not posting anything epic over there. I think that traffic comes from people who check out my website and want to see that my business isn't dead.

Next is Instagram, owned by Facebook, and I think by this time next year, I'm gonna vote them off of my island, too.

All this is to show the proof is in the pudding. I'm not just regurgitating some shit I heard from some dummy online that likes to pretend they know what they're talking about. 

But before you can even get on Pinterest you MUST make sure that your website is complete. Enough. Yessss, girlfriend. You want your efforts on Pinterest to help you to grow your business and you need to make sure your website is serving your bottom line.

That is the point of all of this - anything that you are putting effort into must deliver you an ROI.

Before you get started on Pinterest you must do this stuff first:

  1. Complete the most important pages of your website
  2. Make sure you've got your email list sign-up form on your website, in multiple spots
  3. Have at least 10 juicy blog posts on your website answering FAQs

Otherwise, if you get people from Pinterest to your website and you've got nothing for them, they are going to leave. We don't want that. 

When you get on Pinterest, then you need to create a Business account that is a wonderful resource for your dream clients. And then do this:

  • Do your keyword research. Don't go all cutesy with the names of the boards but make sure it is something that someone would search for to find you.
  • Create 10-15 boards named with your keywords that relate to your niche. That means you need to get rid of or make the boards that don't relate to your niche, secret. 
  • Create images with Canva templates for your blog posts. It's super easy to do this with their templates.
  • Pin lots, daily. This is the easiest thing to do when you've got a Tailwind or BoardBooster account. 
  • Create images to grow your list that direct Pinterest users to your landing page.

You know me, I'm not about spending tons of time on social or Pinterest, but for now it is one of the easier ways to get eyeballs on your business. That is really the most important thing to growing your income... getting more eyes on your business. And when you're an introvert like me, this is an easy way for me to get eyeballs on my business and keep myself cool, calm and anxiety free.

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At some point in your business, you will need help. That person shouldn't be a dummy that eats Tide Pods. 

From experience, let me tell you that the search to find good, reliable help is a job for Jesus. You'll often find yourself going through resumes and cover letters that really do look like they've come from people who live on a diet of Tide Pods.

Some of their "qualifications" are ridiculous like their ability to:
  • Use a laptop
  • Use the internet
  • Type 7 words per minute, and
  • Use those complex keystrokes like Ctrl+F

As busy business people, wading through these resumes from peeps who couldn't pour piss out of a boot with instructions on the heel wastes our time. 

Before you ever get a single resume in your inbox, I've got some tips for you and where you can find legitimate help.

Before you hire a virtual assistant
  1. Make a list of duties you will expect your new assistant to take care of.
  2. Document how the work is to be completed. If you can create walk-through screencast videos or write out the steps, you'll be able to have those in place should you need to hire another assistant later.
  3. Pick the tools you'll use to coordinate.
Create A Job Description
  • Make a list of the duties you want the assistant to take care of. 
  • What apps/software will they be using?
  • What skills and experience do they need to have?
  • How many hours will you estimate that you will need them to work?
  • Language requirements.
  • What references do you need about their work?
  • Decide on how much you'll be paying them.

You'll also want to get your systems in place for tracking the tasks your assistant will be working on. Definitely check out Asana, DropBox, and Hiver.

Where to find a virtual assistant

You could do a search on Mr. Google, but you will likely end up with 96% Tide Pod applicants in your inbox. Instead, you should check out Worldwide 101. 

I had a great conversation with Audrey at Worldwide 101. What is different with their company is that they actually have assistants that have worked with interior designers. They can help you with:

  • Coordinating with your clients
  • Initiating and ordering products
  • Communicating with vendors
  • Scheduling shipping and deliveries
  • Liaising with photographers and design shows
  • Following through on damage claims
  • Managing your ordering
  • Bookkeeping software
  • Social media content creation + scheduling
  • Wordpress Admin
  • Email marketing
  • Newsletters

 

Their assistants are based in the US and you'll get personally matched with with an assistant that you vibe with. Best part? Their assistants have at least 7 years experience in administration and project management.  

Audrey was kind enough to share with me a discount code for you. You'll get 20% off the first month of the plan you choose when you use my code: AW20 at this link

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Being a business owner isn't easy. There are so many things that need to get done, but if you have no idea how that looks for your business you'll end up frustrated. So let's cut the frustration and get organized today without becoming a meth head. 

Define Your Dream Client

Before you do anything else you need to know what problem your business solves and for who. As a designer, you need to figure out who your ideal client is beyond the basic demographics. It's important to know who this person is and why they would want to hire you. 

When you know who you are selling to, it makes it easier to find them and attract them. That's why it's important to get beyond basic demographics.

If you think the answer is anyone with money and a pulse, you’re going to be kicking yourself. Hot George Michael from the 90s could have been throwing hundred dollar bills for me to sleep with him, but when we got in the sack and he realized I wasn’t his type — if you get my drift, we’d both end up unsatisfied.

Figure out who you really want to work with. We go over this A LOT in the eDecorating Business School. It’s kind of important for you figure out who you want to serve because if you say anyone you’ll attract more cheap a-holes than you know what to do with.

You need to define who you actually want to work with it first so you aren’t a desperate designer. You don’t need to have people taking advantage of you and believe me, they will. People will want you to reduce your fees. People will want you to give them a room design for the price of a one hour consult. Or even worse. For free. Don’t do it.

Figure out now who you want to work with and stick to it. Let’s start dreaming about our ideal client. Who they are, what they like, what they do? The best way to get into their head is for you to write a diary entry pretending to be your ideal client and write with their biggest problem in mind.

Here’s a diary entry from someone’s ideal client:

Dear Diary, We’ve been in this house for a few years now. We moved all our ugly shit into this brand new house. It just doesn’t make sense to buy new stuff, yet. I don’t know what to buy.And the hubby … well, he will be Pissed Pistofferson if I go off and buy another sofa that doesn’t fit like this dumb one we have now. And I can’t forget when I bought that armoire. Oh boy. He was so mad to have to move that thing around. And when it didn’t fit where I wanted it to go. Yikes. Talk about someone being mad

Then he wanted me to get our money back, but it was on sale. I know I should hire a designer, but I’m just so unsure about hiring a designer. How can they possibly know how my home is? They aren’t here. And how do I know that they aren't some fraud? I wish I could figure out how to decorate on my own. Like, I know what I want our home to look like; I just don’t know how to get it there.

Signed, Penny, Sonia’s Dream Client

Finding Clients

First I want to dispel the myth that there are two different client types you need to market to.  

Audience #1: Real Life Clients  vs.  Audience #2: Virtual Clients

I’m going to give you a really important piece of information that will help you focus your marketing results like a laser beam when you are trying to figure out how to get interior design clients.

You see, all of your “real life clients” and your “virtual clients” are going to look for you on the internet.

Meet Mabel, she lives in Eastvale, California (my current spot in the “Land of the Dirt People” until I can escape to a tiny cabin in the mountains to get away from stupid drivers here) and she’s hankering to hire a designer. She will ask her friends first, but her friends may reply with either a) they did and that wench was horrible or b) no they haven’t. Next, Mabel will be Googling, not using the doorstop formerly known as the phone book, to find an interior designer.

I know a lot of interior designers in the past relied on referrals, but even now, a good referral is great, but your clients are still gonna Google you/read your blog/virtually judge you and then decide if they want to call you. All of this based almost entirely on your online presence i.e. your website.

And Mabel is going to click, bookmark, stalk, ponder and repeat. For a while. It may seem like a lifetime, but unless you have an online presence that Mabel finds irresistible, she’s gonna wait on hiring you.

My point, whether you’re going for a real life or virtual interior design client, you must be online. And be doing it right. All the other marketing you’re gonna do in person, trade shows, chamber or networking meetings, of course, will help you spread your info into the world, but you must be online with a website that your clients find smokin’ hot that they are scrambling to find the “WORK WITH ME” button within minutes.

If you do your work on the front end to figure out who you want to work with and where they are, you can start to devote some time to get your dream client’s attention.

What Design Services Should I Offer?

First. Whatever you offer, make sure it is something you love to do. Do not ever do anything for the money. When I first started my design business I offered too many services which is not a good thing either. But I find it is always good to make a list of possible services then find a way to package them up in a way that solves your client's problem perfectly.

If you have a bunch of ideas for your design services pick three TOTAL services.  

Here is a list of interior design services ideas you could bundle up to offer your clients...

  • Paint Colors
  • Space Plan
  • Renderings
  • Mood Boards
  • Shopping Lists
  • Window Treatment Ideas
  • Shopping Lists
  • To Do Lists
  • Art Layouts
  • Accessories Mood Boards
  • Wall Art Ideas
  • Fabric Mood Boards
  • Be a Personal Shopper for Specific Items
  • Design On-Call Service
  • Finish Selections Service
  • Pre-Made Room Designs
  • Pre-Made Paint Color Palettes
  • Window Design Ideas
  • Private Message Board for Monthly Subscription
  • Room Reviews
Set Up Your Website

You need a website because it will become your virtual pad online to connect with your dream clients. This means you need to buy a domain and a place to host your website. 

  • Along with your website, set up your email address that belongs to your domain like susie@yourdomain.com
  • Add standard pages: Home, About, Contact, Portfolio, Services and Blog
  • Create a Home Page that tells what you do, who you do it for and why you are the bomb-diggity. 
  • Create an About Page that you write from your heart that is more about THEM than you.
  • Create a Contact Page that makes it easy to find you online and offline.
  • Create a Portfolio page to showcase your work (even if you haven't had a single client yet, you can also share the mood boards you've created)
  • Create a Service page that reads more like a Sales Page than a list of ingredients (Scroll up above to find some services to bundle together)
  • Create a Blog page (we'll go deeper on this later)
  • Install analytics and set up SEO on your website.
  • Add links to social media 
  • Add newsletter sign up (upper right-hand corner is the best) 
  • Integrate a payment process to receive payment for your services!

Once you have your website is set up, you won't need to update most of it unless you hire a copywriter to spiff up your words or change your design services. The only task you'll be continually doing for your website moving forward is updating is your blog. 

Your Blogging Plan
  • Post often. If you want your blog to be a successful extension of your business, you must commit to updating on a regular basis. Once a week is a good start.
  • Create Categories (SEO keywords are better than cutesy)
  • Create an editorial schedule for blogging
  • Publish blog posts that answer your potential clients questions and how you can help them to solve their design dillemas. Your blog posts are little pieces of advertising in that they are valuable but you can end the post with a call to action for your reader to learn about working with you.
  • Allow comments and respond to them. A good blog invites readers into a conversation. You may want to moderate comments, but be sure that readers are allowed and encouraged to comment. A response to a comment shows the reader you care and value their opinion, increasing their chances of commenting again and spreading the word.
  • The 80/20 rule still applies: 80% of your posts should be valuable tips, ideas and insights; only 20% of your posts should be self-serving.
  • Write engaging headlines that capture your reader’s attention. A dull headline may make your reader think a dull post is ahead  
  • Try to link to other posts from your blog to keep the reader engaged and visiting your site more often. And it helps you with your SEO, too!
  • Include photos or images to grab attention and engage with your readers. 
  • Use the categories and keyword options to make searching your blog easier. This also helps search engines find your blog when someone is searching the Internet for a specific topic. 
  • Make your blogging style like you're writing an email to your best friend because you will be able to make a connection with your prospects.
  • Set aside one hour at the same time each week to post a new article. Scheduling your time will help you be disciplined about updating regularly. Keep a small notebook with you on which you can jot down topic ideas when you get inspired so you have ideas ready when you sit down to write. Or take cell phone pics when you’re out of things that inspire you to blog about later.
Your Newsletter

You could set up a page for your business on every social media site that you want, but as we have all seen with Facebook you can’t count on getting your fans eyeballs on your updates. If you relied entirely on a social media platform to reach your clients constantly for free you are smoking some special weed and I want a hit. This is why you need to get an email list started pronto. You can get started for free at Mailchimp

  • Sign up for e-mail service and set up your sign up form to embed on your website.
  • You can add email addresses to your list ONLY if you have that person's permission.
  • Customize your email newsletter template to match your brand.
  • Decide what day and time of the week that you will you send your newsletter.
  • Add email opt-in form to your website (place for reader to put name and email address).
  • Always have your design services you offer showing in a sidebar or at the bottom of every newsletter. It’s a way to keep your services in your client’s mind. Did you know it takes 16 times for a potential client to see your service before they considering buying?
  • Send an email newsletter weekly, the same time every week.  Your peeps will come to expect and want it from you.
Your Social Media

Start with a couple… that your dream clients would be on. If you’re sure they are on Facebook and Pinterest, start with those two. Whatever two you pick make sure to consistently update it, otherwise, it will look like you’re out of business and disengage. So no bueno. 

*My top pick for a platform to start on and master is Pinterest. It's not a social media platform as much as it is a visual search engine. You can automate much of the process (score!) and get in front of your dream clients who typically are six-figure earners! There's a Masterclass in the Society to show you how to do that!

Pinterest

  • Set up a Pinterest account for Business 
  • Verify your account
  • Upload logo or profile picture of your smiling face
  • Fill in basic bio information
  • Create boards in categories (Portfolio, Home Office, Color Inspirations, Bedrooms, Windows, Doors, Stairs, etc.) that your audience would search for. Hint: Keywords matter.
  • Follow Other Pinners & comment on their pins.
  • Pin to your boards from your website to a board just for your website (and maybe even create once for all of your blog posts, too!).
  • Pin items as the trusted resource for your potential clients.
  • Include descriptive keywords in the description of your individual pins, so people searching for specific items (like “#whitebedroom”) will be able to find your item if it applies. 
  • It’s very important if you’re pinning to your own content to make sure it links back to your website.
Facebook
  • Create a Facebook Page for your business (not a personal profile, but you must have a personal profile to create a Page).
  • Put your URL in the ‘About’ section on FB page
  • Upload Timeline Cover Image
  • Upload a profile picture of your smiling face
  • Invite your friends and colleagues to like your page 
  • In the About section be sure to include contact info like your company website
  • Like other Facebook pages as your business page and comment on them as your business page.
  • Be consistent. Aim to post on Facebook once a day.
  • Make sure you balance your business posts by posting much more about things of general interest. Follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts should be good, useful content; 20% or less should be self-serving. A self-serving post is anything that directly helps your business, such as a  something you’re selling.
The Daily Tasks Once You've Got Your Foundation In Place

Know that the above guide is the overall plan, but know that there is some other stuff you'll need to work out like how much to charge for your design services and what your signature design process looks like for you.

Once you have your foundation in place the best way to find your rhythm for your daily tasks is to set aside certain days of the week for certain tasks and chunks of time throughout your day for specific tasks. 

You also should think about how your energy is throughout the day. I'm the best in the morning and later in the day. In the middle of the day, I'm zapped and my brain doesn't like to work. 

When you know your best times of the day to get things done are for you, you can use that to structure your day.

  • Maybe it means that Tuesday thru Thursday mornings are when you work on client projects. 
  • Maybe it means you don't work on client projects, or take client meetings on Monday and Fridays. 
  • Maybe it means that in the afternoon you work on your marketing tasks like scheduling social media, interacting on social media, writing blog posts, creating images to share on social media or writing your newsletter. 

The key to coming up with a schedule that helps you to be more productive is to know your energy levels and know what you need to work on. 

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