10 Steps to a Successful Year for Your Interior Design Business

10 Steps to a Successful Business Year

A new year causes most of us to stop and reflect on past successes and failures and what we want to accomplish in the next 12 months. You may have New Year's resolutions or on-going goals. Honestly assessing your position in your field and thinking strategically about your where you want your business or career to be at year's end will move you towards the goals you have for this year and beyond. The following ten steps will assist you in creating a written guide to follow throughout the year.

1. Review your goals from last year.
Which did you meet and which ones did you miss? Decide goals that should be carried over into this year, and the ones that can be put aside for later or disregarded altogether.
2. What challenges or obstacles did you encounter last year?
List how you dealt with them and the outcomes - whether you were successful or not - and how you will avoid them in the future.
3. Define your passion.
What do you really want to be doing? Are you doing it, or is your current career or business taking you in the direction of your dream? If not, how can you reconcile what you are doing now with what you want to do?
4. Define your ideal client:
What do they look like? Where do they live or work? How much money do they have to spend? What type of project will they present you with? What will your working relationship be like?
5. Research your competition - their clients, service offerings, and pricing - especially your number one competitor.
6. Define where your business will be in the next year.
This, along with Step 7, will probably be the longest part of the process. Take some time to visualize how your company or career will look. Walk through a typical day. Outline the financials. Determine how you want to feel on December 31st.

7. Outline the steps to make your goals for the next year a reality based on your plans from Step 6.
Begin with a general outline, and then get more detailed, developing a monthly worksheet or guide.

8. Make sure all of your marketing and public relations materials are consistent with the message you want to promote over the next year.
Your business cards, brochures, website, and social networking sites should communicate your brand.
9. Identify three ways to meet and engage the clients described in Step 4.
Define the meeting location. Work on an appealing opening line and your elevator pitch, and describe how you can meet their needs.
10. Find an accountability partner - someone who you know will hold you responsible and will question you throughout the year to make sure you follow through with your goals and objectives.
By Karen A. Davis
Image by Jose Antonio Sánchez Reyes
Karen A. Davis has over 20 years experience in the architecture, construction and facilities management fields. She is founder and president of Building Industry Resources (http://www.buildingsource.net), a company that provides marketing, business development and technical support services, and managing partner with KARMIS, LLC, a construction and facilities consulting firm. Ms. Davis is also a college instructor and author.


Streamline Your Office Management Systems in 3 Quick Steps!

Running an efficient and streamlined business is all about continuously improving and 'tweaking' your office management systems so that they grow with your business and not hinder your business.
But why do you need efficient office systems in place? Here are some answers!
-  To quickly and easily find important contact information.
-  To be able to respond to client's requests straightaway.
-  So that you can immediately submit a proposal. To keep track of your business.
-  To be able to follow-up with clients and contacts.
-  So that you can stay on track with your projects.
-  To monitor your latest marketing campaign.
Sometimes though problems don't become apparent with your office management systems until you actually start using them -- and then you may find out that they're not working in the way that you'd hoped.
So what can you do about it?
Step 1:  Look at where the problems are.
Are you constantly searching around looking for an email address? Or cannot tell at a glance if your project is on track? Or you don't know your cashflow situation?
Make a list of where you feel the problems are, and then follow step two - you may be surprised at what you discover!
Step 2: Analyze what percentage of your time is being spent on administrative tasks.
Keep a diary for a week of how you are spending your time. At the end of the week look it over and see what percentage of your time is being spent on these jobs. Could this time be better spent on income-generating activities? Or market research?
Step 3:  Compile a list of all non-income generating tasks that you currently do.
Could some of these be delegated? Would it help if you took on an assistant?
Once you have followed these three steps you should have a good idea of where your time is being spent, what your biggest time drains are, and where you can make improvements. You will be well on your way to deciding if you need to partner with a Virtual Assistant and will be able to see exactly where you need the support.
By Tracey Lawton
Image by 
About the author: Tracey Lawton is a certified Master Virtual Assistant with many years of experience, helping professional speakers, coaches, and authors operate an efficient, organized, and profitable business. Visit http://www.traceylawton.com/tips.htm to subscribe to her newsletter, Virtual Solutions, full of tips for operating a more productive business and receive Tracey’s ‘The 7 Key Steps to an Organized and Efficient Office’ special report absolutely free.

8 Ways to Stay Marketing-Minded During a Recession

Okay, I admit it. Although I am typically quite optimistic, some days, this economy can really get me down. The building industry has taken a big hit in this recession we're in. But, we know with time, this season of crisis will pass.
So if projects in your office have slowed or if you've been laid-off, continue to work toward your goals, develop and review your personal and professional marketing objectives, and stay in top shape - physically, mentally and work-wise - so you're ready for those new projects and deals coming your way.
1. Stay on a regular work schedule.
Wake up as if you have a number of clients to keep happy at the office. It's easy to sleep in for a while and treat your first few days (or weeks) as a vacation, but you must remain on task: continuing to look for new projects or a new position.
2. Don't isolate yourself.
Make regular appointments to meet with colleagues to discuss job and project possibilities. If you're a designer, or if you specify products, make regular showroom visits to stay current.
3. Boost your ego.
Make a list of all of your skills and qualifications, even if they are not directly related to your profession or the services you currently offer. Next, develop a plan to articulate how these skill sets can benefit others. When you're going after that next job or project, you don't want to go in with the attitude, "How can you help me?" rather "How can I help you?"
4. Learn new skills.
Download free software such as Google SketchUp. Or locate live classes for other interests through Meetup.com or other social networking sites.
5. Write about the things you know on a blog, whether it's your profession or a hobby. Include a link to your site as part of your e-mail signature.
6. Take advantage of free education.
Many trade publication sites offer free webinars, training videos, and articles for continuing education units.
7. Explore all the possibilities.
What's your passion? If you were not in your current profession what would you do? Determine how you can relate what you really love to what you do for a living.
8. Volunteer.
Nothing can make you forget about your temporary troubles quicker than helping someone else. Teaching a student math or a construction skill, or building a house with Habitat for Humanity can benefit your community as well as your resume.
A recessive economy doesn't have to mean idle time. Create a job for yourself and become the building industry professional you aspire to be.
By Karen A. Davis
Image by Fotum
Karen A. Davis has over 20 years experience in the architecture, construction and facilities management fields. She is founder and president of Building Industry Resources - http://www.buildingsource.net - a company that provides business development and technical support services, and managing partner with KARMIS, LLC, a construction and facilities consulting firm. Ms. Davis is also a college instructor and author.


Using Competitions As an Interior Design Marketing Tool

Using Competitions As a Marketing Tool 
"...For someone who is young and who has no experience,
the only way to get big projects is through competitions."
Bernard Tschumi
There are hundreds of design and construction competitions sponsored by various trade magazines, professional organizations and industry groups. Maybe you have never entered a competition or it's been years since you have. Consider including competitions in the overall marketing strategy for your company. If you're short on client projects, or even if you have ample workflow, entering a competition is a low-cost way to promote your name, explore new ideas, and motivate you to try new project types.
Competitions can inspire and offer an opportunity to be more imaginative. Your current projects may have very tight budgets, or your creativity may be stifled by the requirements of your client. A competition can be a design exercise - or a charrette - for you and your employees. Think back to those "open-ended" projects you had in college - no funding restraints, loose client requirements, and a little time to dream.


Once you enter the competition, the design can be included in your portfolio to highlight your capability in that particular niche. Does your body of work have a high concentration of office projects, but you would like to work more in hospitality? A competition sponsored by a hospitality design magazine can allow you to sharpen and show your skills in that market segment.

Utilize competitions as cost-effective marketing tools. They typically have no or relatively low-cost entry fees, and are an excellent way to get your work in published. In most cases, even runners-up get their name listed as an honorable mention. Once published, reprints and press releases can be sent to clients and potential business partners.
Plan ahead to include competitions as part of your annual marketing efforts. Create a calendar of upcoming calls for entry, including registration dates, binder requirements, and submission deadlines.
Bernard Tschumi, quoted at the beginning of this article, won the 2001 competition and commission for the New Acropolis Museum in Athens Greece. Tschumi estimates that he wins one out of four competitions he enters. Learn a few of his strategies in the Architect magazine article "Playing to Win" (October 2007).


By Karen A. Davis
Image by Vladimir Surkov

Karen A. Davis has over 20 years experience in the architecture, construction and facilities management fields. She is founder and president of Building Industry Resources (http://www.buildingsource.net), a company that provides business development and technical support services, and managing partner with KARMIS, LLC, a construction and facilities consulting firm. Ms. Davis is also a college instructor and author.



3 Easy Tips For Keeping Your Client Information Organized

For many solopreneurs a large part of their business is working one-on-one with clients, and that means having a way of keeping all of their client information organized and easy to access.

In this article I'm going to share with you my top three tips for keeping everything together, so that you can easily access your client information and know exactly where your clients are in your programs.

1. Physical: Create a Client Contact Sheet

For most business owners there will be a physical client file that you'll need to create. One of the simplest ways of creating this file is by using a manila file folder in which you simply drop your paperwork into. This file will contain things like the agreement form from your client, assessment forms, or details of any projects that you'll be working on.

Creating a Client Contact Sheet which contains your client's name, address, email, phone, fax and any other contact information that you want to keep a record of is a useful template to have. You simply print it out and fill it in each time you take on new client.

Once you've printed out the Client Contact sheet, staple it to the inside left cover of your client folder. This way whenever you need to access your client's information you just flip open the file and the information is right there.

I've been keeping a track of my client's contact information in this way for several years, and find it very handy - more so than storing the data electronically (which I also do). It's so much easier to grab the file, flip it open and find the information I need straightaway than it is to open the software, locate the client record and find the information - that's assuming the PC is turned on and I don't have to wait for it to boot up!

2. Digital: Create Client Folders

As the majority of your communication is probably done via email with documents going back and forth, you'll also want to create an individual client folder on your PC. It may not be necessary to print out everything your clients send you, but you do need to store the information so that's it easy for you to find.

A couple of places where you'll want to create individual clients folders are:

In your email program.

For each of my clients I have created their own email folder so that any emails that are sent to/from my client goes into their individual email folder. This allows me to keep track of our communications easily, rather than having to sift through hundreds of emails that come into my Inbox each day.

Tip: In Outlook you can also set up rules so that email is automatically filtered into the appropriate client email folder - saving heaps of time!

In your main client folder.

I'm a big believer in creating main/sub folders for managing my filing system - both for paper-based and PC files. (If you've been a member of my Easy Office Organization program you know that I tell you step-by-step how to do this.) So if I have a main Clients folder then within the main folder I will create individual client folders. I then use this folder for storing all the documents that I send and receive from my clients. Again having everything in one place makes for quick and easy access.

Tip: In Windows you can change the icon of individual folders so if you're more of a visual person you can have different icons for different clients.

3. All Clients: Client Tracking Spreadsheet

Once you have your physical and digital individual client files created, you'll want to think about utilizing a client tracking spreadsheet. If you are a coach or other service professional chances are your core programs are working one-on-one with clients during sessions (phone or in-person) so it makes sense for you have a system for tracking where your clients are in their programs.

In the beginning stages of your business it may be easy for you to keep tabs on just a few clients, but as your business grows and you're working with more and more clients, you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed if you don't have some kind of tracking system in place.

If your clients book a certain number of sessions with you creating a simple spreadsheet that has your client's names in the left-hand column, and a column along the top for each session will allow you to easily see how many sessions they have already booked and how many sessions they have left.

By setting up a client tracking spreadsheet that shows you at a glance exactly where your clients are in your programs will give you a 'big picture' view of your business.

By Tracey Lawton
Image by Rick Becklerone

(c) 2010 Tracey Lawton


5 Tips to Land a Good Interior Design Internship

5 Tips to Land a Good Interior Design Internship

Your internship is that critical part that bridges your educational training and actual job experiences. Landing a good one, or any spot at least, can be challenging especially with the limited spots and many competing graduates. To help you, here are a few tips that will put you a step above the rest.
Practice and More Practice

For every project that you do in design school, you need to think that it will soon become a reference to land an internship position. With that in mind, you need to heighten creativity and push yourself to do exceptionally and learn as much as you can especially around the guidance of good and experienced staff. Practice starts in your own home or you can also put your best forward in every design assignment given. Familiarize and learn more about color and texture combinations, proportions and designs.
Impressive Portfolio

Being in a field that is distinguished by creativity, your portfolio should display exactly that to your employers. Ensure that it is well arranged, complete and thorough. It should also be streamlined to any specific field you are interested in. For instance if your focus is on commercial interior designing then your projects and designs should be for that field. Make it relevant and unique, something that will surely grab an employer's attention. Remember, interior design employers prefer an 11"x17" size in a portrait layout, and try to keep it uniformed all throughout.

Another way to help you land a good internship is good connections. It pays to know the right people, or those who know the big fishes in your industry. Landing a project or an internship is all about connections, good ones at least. You may join associations who are connected to firms that help graduates land a job, or you could start to in searching for schools that trains and prepares you resulting to a more extensive portfolio that will impress your internship employers.
Good Resume

A good resume is a prelude to what you are able to give an employer. To make a good impression, make it clear, concise, easily readable, and extensive. Be creative and make it sound promising without sounding too commercial.
Market Yourself

Employers would usually look for a candidate who is outgoing, has good communication skills, and can well convey ideas through explanation. Aside from your excellent design ideas, a good percent of convincing a client is on how you say and market your interior design ideas. Enhance that skill for the gab to convince employers that you do have a potential to sell your craft in an impressive light.

Landing a good internship starts with the training and quality of education that you have. They must prepare you to have a good compilation of works that best prepares you for competitive markets. At Raffles Education Corporation, we provide you a current design curriculum, extensive training and veteran teachers, preparing you to be globally competitive. You can visit our site today at http://www.raffles-iao.com for a free consultation.

By Donald Pang
Image By Serge


Client Attraction Assignment #91

Client Attraction Assignment:
Do you know what networking events are in your area? Check out the business section of your local paper and search the web as well. Make a list of everything that is available and seems like a good fit for you. Then pick the ones you want to attend first and mark them in your calendar. Be sure to practice your elevator pitch before attending and you will be on your way to attracting clients!

By Fabienne Frederickson                                                                                                 Image By Andrey Yakovlev
Fabienne Fredrickson, The Client Attraction Mentor, is founder of the Client Attraction System, the proven step-by-step program that shows you exactly how to attract more clients, in record time... guaranteed. To get your F.R.E.E. Audio CD by mail and receive her weekly marketing & success mindset articles on attracting more high-paying clients and dramatically increasing your income, visit http://www.attractclients.com