Let’s talk about the business of designing your perfect home. Whenever I interview a prospective client I have specific goals in mind for my business. Will the client and I find that special rapport needed to achieve all the hopes and dreams they have in mind for their home? Will my vision, based on their needs and expectations blend and become a place of design, serenity and excitement?

What do you want to achieve in your home is always my first question? If the customer doesn’t know what they want or like, it will take far more time to work out a plan than if they are seasoned veterans.

When I was lecturing on design in my early career, I always said the difference between a decorator and a designer was the amount of education the person invested in themselves. Some decorators are very brilliant at what they do, but the designer puts in the extra hours of education to understand the engineering of a space. That may sound irrational, but as an designer who has a degree in interior design/engineering, I have the knowledge that tells me what walls I can take down and where I will need extra support built in for those ten foot doors and windows I may want to add to let the light shine in.

That amount of education does not make me superior to others in my field, but it helps when the project calls for the expertise. It does help me in estimating the cost of a job, so it helps my bottom line in my business.

Do I like the business end better than the creative end? Absolutely not, if I may put it bluntly. I love the actual work of creating far more but if I want my business to succeed I need to be a good business owner. The science of color, texture, fabrics and hard surfaces intrigues me even after many years in this field of work. I enjoy looking at each new season as if it is the first time I’ve entered it, enjoying the tactile differences of them.

The customers goals are extremely important to me. I have often given them “homework” to define their actual vision of their project. If I end up doing it right, everyone wins. I am not only rewarded with a paycheck and lovely photos of the completed job, but the satisfied customer sending me referrals is the extra bonus I enjoy. For every satisfied customer my business grows by a customer of three. If I disappoint the client I can, in this day of instant media, lose more than a quarter’s worth of work. If you had to live without an income for three months, how would your business survive?

This might seem like I approach my design work from a cold prospective, but it isn’t so. How could I when my life is all about color and new and the excitement of change?
I have some clients I have done business with for decades. I could never have those kinds of long-standing friendships if I merely looked at the profit and loss sheets all day long.

If you are embarking on a project, large or small, consider your many options. Don’t let the project overwhelm you. A professional can make the project easier, freeing up your time and helping you make your decision-making process fun rather than stressful. If you are worried about cost, that becomes part of the business plan.

I believe in a good plan for both the client and me. I do not like financial surprises arising mid-stream that puts the project in jeopardy. If we have both done the business of putting the correct project costs into their final plan, we both work under better conditions. I watch the HDTV programs with interest, but when the professionals who have been doing the same work for years do not take all of the contingencies into effect, I hurt along with the client when they start asking for additional funds.

I hope this article is helpful, it should explain why we in this business of design always ask detailed questions before we begin our working relationship. It is a wise person who looks at all sides of the coin before determining the cost to the client. That should be the only stressful time of the entire project.
Happy designing everyone!

Carol S Townsend A.S.I.D
[email protected]

Look for my latest books, Glitz, Galmour & Murder and the sequel
Follow the Money available on Kindle


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