Interior Design Business Strategy: Why You Should Have One & How to Get Started

Why the Owner Of a Service Business Should Care About Strategy
Get Started With Strategic Planning

Strategy - the planned marshaling of resources to have specific effect and accomplish specific objectives, is the keystone of every financially successful business.

If you aren't using strategies for your service business, you're likely to be simply taking random and unfocused actions that leave your business floundering. It's even more likely that your efforts and energies will be spent "fighting fires" and desperately attempting to maintain equilibrium rather than growing the business.

Without a strategy guiding you, you've got no strategic objectives, no plan to achieve them, and you're not clear what actions to take. Without strategic plans, there's no possibility to ever achieve the momentum you need to attain your objectives. Your only "chance" of success is accidental at best.

Let's say you're new to the idea of using strategies for your service business, and you want to understand how to get started. Here's a few ideas about that.

1) Put aside a few hours when you can plan.

Most owners of service businesses find their days consumed with delivering service. It is a challenge to carve out time to work out a strategy. It is critical though that you make this a priority. You may fret that it's a "waste of time", but the truth is that you likely waste much of your time now, because you do not have a strategy in place. Without a strategy, your business cannot approach its true potential. You aren't taking regular action to achieve something specific. Your time and efforts are wasted on non-productive activities. Taking time to plan will save you time in the end and ensure that your time is spent on those activities that will achieve your strategic objectives.

2) Have a clear and quantifiable strategic objective.

Put your objective down in numerical specifics. Make it quantifiable, "I aim to have X number of new clients." or "I intend to have X amount of new revenue.". You must be explicit, so that you recognize when you've reached your objective. This is where the quiet planning time can be so productive. With quiet, it's easier to think big and go for what you really want. Your goal must motivate you and be reason enough to have you taking consistent, focused, targeted action.

3) Once the objective is clear, create the strategy to get it.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you devise a strategy.

* What revenue-generating actions will become priority activities for you?

* What new products or services could increase revenue?

* How does your business need to change to meet the current market?

* What activities must you eliminate or de-emphasize?

* What have you been failing to do that is critical to success in this objective?

* What have you been avoiding that could bring you results?

* What tactics (series of actions that comprise one part of a strategy) will you pursue to achieve your strategy?

4) Generate all the tactics you can think of.

For example, if your strategic goal is, "to increase revenue by X", your tactics might be:

* "Add new services."

* "Execute marketing plan."

* "Start joint ventures."

* "Eliminate low-profit services."

Be complete. A strategy is a "living document" and you can pare this down to practical size later. Look over your tactics, and ensure that they all contribute to the achieving your strategic objective. Focus and target precisely.

5) For each tactic, list all the action steps required to execute that tactic.

Break each of these down into the smallest steps possible such as, "Call X.". The smaller the steps, the easier they are to execute, and the more you will have a feeling of progress and momentum. What you want is to have these action steps broken down into their smallest possible units so that you can squeeze one in between calls or when you have a few minutes free. This makes it possible for you to take action daily and feel consistent forward motion on your strategy.

6) As you progress, keep updating and revising the details of your strategy.

Cross off completed items and add new tactics and action steps as needed. Add new tactics. Revisit your objectives and add to them as you see the necessity. Use your strategy as a living document and consistently consult it.

Every owner of a service business needs to get into the habit of strategic planning and working from a strategy to ensure the financial success of the business. If you haven't been doing this - give it a try. You'll wonder why you haven't been doing this all along.

By Suzi Elton
Photography by Suhendri Utet

Suzi Elton provides business writing that attracts targeted prospects to your service business and converts them into clients for you. She is a Robert Middleton Certified Action Plan Marketing Coach, as well as a professional writer. Her website offers a free series of 8 assessments you can use to analyze your own site. To learn about her Robert Middleton style Web Site Tool Kit Writing Package, go to


How to Publicize Your Publicity

"What you do with your media coverage is nearly as important as getting coverage to begin with."

I know some pretty smart business women.

Christy is one such smart cookie. A newspaper was featuring her in an upcoming article and she asked me for advice on how to make the most of it.

Mary contacted me when she had a blog talk radio show coming up and wanted to know how to maximize her media coverage.

Jaclyn had many photos of her experience at the TV station and wanted to know how to use them to promote her business.

These ladies all have a goldmine on their hands, even with just one media win. And they are all spot-on in terms of planning what to do to use these experiences to their maximum potential. I am an advocate of publicizing your publicity because what you do with your media coverage is nearly as important as getting coverage to begin with.

When you find yourself in the same boat, here is a list of some things you can do with your coverage:

1. Send an email with a link to your article or a recording of your interview to your clients and potential clients. Let them know that you thought they may be interested in seeing what you are currently involved in.

2. If you're more of a paper person, send a print copy of your article your clients, potential clients and partners, along with a short note, too. Let them know that you'd like to share a recent success and that you appreciate their business.

3. If you publish a newsletter or ezine, let your readers know that you were recently covered in the media and include links if appropriate.

4. Print off all articles and start a "media coverage" binder. Use this at tradeshows, events, in networking and to show to potential clients.

5. Send out a status update in your social media outlets saying something like, "I'm honored to be quoted in an article called (article title) in the newspaper today." Also include a link.

6. If you have a planned TV spot or radio interview, send out a status update letting people know where to go to see you or hear you.

7. Add a spot on your home page stating: "As Seen In" and add logos of places you've been covered. See my web site for an example.

8. Add your media coverage to your bio.

9. Send a notice to your membership organizations letting them know that you were featured in the media. Generally speaking, membership groups like to promote their members' successes.

10. If it's appropriate, you can include your media coverage in proposals.

11. Going to the radio station or TV station to do a live interview? Take along your camera and use it. Take photos of you by the news van outside, in the lobby or with the news anchor or radio personality. Use these images in your newsletter, on your web site and share them on social media.

12. Use your Flip camera to shoot video of you being nervous before your interview and also your post-interview "high." Share them in social media or place them on YouTube.

13. If you have even a few media wins, create a 1-minute video of your media coverage highlights and post it on YouTube. Add the link to your video to your online press kit. Some media outlets like to see where you've been covered before.

14. Send a short thank you note to the reporter or a congratulatory note to anyone else featured in the article that you'd like to pursue a relationship with.

15. Add a page to your online press kit about media outlets where you've been covered.

There are many ways to get the most out of your media coverage. The point is this: Once you are covered in the press, make the most of it.

By Meredith Liepelt

© 2011 Meredith Liepelt, Rich Life Marketing
Image  by Edyta Pawlowska

© 2011 Meredith Liepelt, Rich Life Marketing Meredith Liepelt, President of Rich Life Marketing, offers a free report called "101 Ways to Attract Ideal Clients, Build Your List and Raise Your Profile," which can be downloaded immediately at

3 Steps to Client-Retention for Interior Designers

Retaining Clients - Results Results Results - The Answer in All Stages of Client Retention

Once you've won a new client, it's important next to consider some concepts of client retention and the "stages" at which client retention is at risk. There are points in the client engagement where a client is likely to quit the coaching or consulting relationship. In order to retain clients, you need to understand these stages and give the client what they most need - results at every stage.

1. The most critical stage is in the earliest appointments of the engagement.

At this time, the client is still unsure and tenuous, and liable to bolt in fear of having made a bad choice to work with you. Some salesmanship type courses would tell you to reassure them about their choice. Such reassurances - based on nothing but words - can ring false, fail to settle the relationship, or deeply reassure the client.

What works is helping the client have quick and obvious results - especially results in response to the client's stated desires. Your best client retention tool is to know specifically what results a client seeks in each session and to deliver those results. Doing this, especially in the first few sessions, gives the client a feeling of security, and confidence that their choice to work with you was a sound one.

2. The next stage where client retention becomes an issue is when the client hits challenges (often including financial).

At that point, they will weigh the cost and benefits of working with you, and look for "reasons" to leave the working relationship. At this point, they have invested a substantial amount (to them) of time and money to work with you. Some of the areas they will examine will be

* What results have I gotten for my money?

* Has this person failed me in any way?

* Is this going to be too hard or too much work for me?

* Has this person been unlikable in any way (non-supportive, unpleasant, not understanding)?

Any one of these issues or areas can be the cause for a client to quit working with you - if you don't understand what is going on. They've hit a challenge, and need help moving through it. Often coaches and consultants respond by giving advice and recommendations.
You're better off going into extreme listening mode and questioning with great finesse. The questions must be few, highly targeted, and generously larded with true listening. This is what will assist the client to breakthrough and discovery. At this stage, this is what will deliver results to the client. Do not make the mistake of letting the interaction devolve into chatting, complaints, or a "pity party". You need an astute balance of directed questioning, along with profound listening and a firm guiding hand to move the client to their own discovery.

3. The next client retention stage comes anytime that the relationship veers toward "same old, same old".
The client questions whether or not they've gotten all from you that is to be gotten. What needs to happen is a constant and consistent expansion of the client's vision of possibility. Anytime you see they may be reaching a plateau, ask challenging questions about what is next for them. Don't be "pushy" about it. That will create resistance and feel like your agenda rather than theirs. Instead these challenges are gentle (of course this depends on client personality and needs) and open-ended to elicit deep thought from the client.
There's no rush or intensity to begin something new but rather an expansion of potentialities to be considered. It's an invitation for the client to look at alternative futures. Rather than allowing a client's ennui to cause them to terminate the working relationship, stay one step ahead of them at all times. That creates value for them and you retain the client.

Understand these stages of client retention, and keeping clients will no longer be a business problem. Give them what they need at every client retention stage and you will become expert at retaining clients.

By Suzi Elton
Photography by Yuri Acurs

Suzi Elton provides business writing that attracts targeted prospects to your service business and converts them into clients for you. She is a Robert Middleton Certified Action Plan Marketing Coach, as well as a professional writer. Her website offers a free series of 8 assessments you can use to analyze your own site. To learn about her Robert Middleton style Web Site Tool Kit Writing Package, go to


Interior Design Fees: Knowing Your Value

Do You Know Your Value?

"Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it."

~ M. Scott Peck 
The Road Less Travelled

It's easy to say that you know your value, but you could be sabotaging yourself and your business by not paying enough attention to this very important item.

When I first started working with a business coach, we talked about how I arrived at my rates. I had done some math when I first started my business, as maybe you have - based on what I had earned in my corporate job, and the fact that I now had overhead and so on. I didn't set my rates based on what I was bringing to the table at all - my VALUE - I only based them on what I thought people should pay me what I considered to be fair market' pricing. This is one of the surest ways to have your business stay small or even fail.

By setting the proper value on the services you provide, you will set your rates where you can charge what you deserve and also be successful. How do you know if you are charging enough? Consider these things:

Consider your training. How much education have you had to build the expertise that you offer in your services? What specialized training have you taken that sets you apart from your competitors or colleagues who offer the same services as you? Your clients will be paying you for your expertise, and they will only be paying you for what they need from you. Do not underestimate the value of that - your client doesn't have to pay for learning curves or training time with you - only time spent getting their top notch work done. You are the expert, after all!

Consider your experience. How much work experience do you have providing the services you offer to your clients? Your clients will be paying you for your years of experience as well. Again, this goes back to time spent on task. Your expertise has come about because you have the experience behind you. The thing you do with the least amount of effort is the thing you should be charging the most for and that only comes from experience!

Consider your confidence. One of the biggest parts of valuing yourself is your confidence level. How confident are you that your rates are high enough? By setting your rates to be the 'market' price or the best deal in town, you are potentially announcing your lack of confidence to the world. Confidence comes with experience, for sure, but it's important to feel good about what you are charging. I have signed more clients at my higher hourly rate than I ever did at my lower rate, because I was confident that it was the right price for me to do a good job.

Consider your research. When you research your ideal client and you know specifically what they need and what you can help them with, you are in a unique position to provide very specialized services to them - and charge accordingly. This is another reason why focusing on your ideal client is so important - more than just running your business, you want to specialize and really become the 'go to' person for your particular services. If they are a small business owner, sometimes giving up control of things to someone is difficult, and by researching their industry and their business, you can make them more confident as well.

Consider your own growth. Keep learning! I am a perpetual student... always learning something new. By being in perpetual learning mode, you will always be growing within your business and maintaining that expert status. Be aware of your own growth as a professional by working with a mentor. Study new areas of your business and keep on top of your ideal client industry trends. Being proactive will always keep you ahead of the curve. Keeping you ahead of the curve will also keep your pipeline of clients and potential clients full - I promise!

By really looking at all of these things, you will truly be in a better position to value yourself in your business and charge what you deserve. The math part is important too, but it's not the only thing that is required for you to set yourself up for success. When you really understand your own value, you will be able to convey that to your clients, and they will recognize your value as well.
by Tracey D'Aviero
Image by Nolte Lourens

Tracey D'Aviero is a successful Virtual Assistant as well as a VA coach and mentor. She helps new and aspiring Virtual Assistants build solid foundations for their businesses by teaching them how to put procedures and plans in place for success and growth. Pick up a copy of Tracey's free eBook "How to Get Started as a Virtual Assistant" at


When to Hire an Accountant

One of the most common questions that freelancers ask is “how big does my business have to be before I need to hire an accountant” Many freelancers start their business on a shoestring budget. For many, a simple spreadsheet is their only accounting tool because that is all that they can really afford at first. For the freelancer who understands basic accounting and bookkeeping principles, a spreadsheet may actually be sufficient — at least initially. For the freelancer who has no background in accounting and no interest in learning, however, handling the accounting side of the business with nothing more than a spreadsheet can be frustrating.

Hiring an Accountant

The question of when (or if) a freelance business should hire an accounting professional can vary depending on each individual freelancer’s needs and skills. Here are two quick answers that might help. It is generally time to hire an accountant if:

1.Your business is large enough that you can no longer keep up by yourself

2.You’re having trouble correctly handling all of your accounting

With the increasing number of excellent invoicing and project management solutions available on the web, it’s possible for some people to handle a lot of clients and still maintain their own accounting. That is, if you have enough tax knowledge to pull it off correctly. On the other hand, if your freelance business has a complicated structure or requires more than the basic accounting systems, then it’s possible that you could significantly benefit from the help of a professional Let’s look at some of the advantages (and disadvantages) of hiring an accounting professional for your freelancing business.

Advantages of Hiring an Accounting Professional

There are some definite advantages to hiring an accounting professional to take care of your freelance business accounting needs. Having an accountant handle your finances can: Ensure that your bookkeeping is set up the right way, legally and practically Make things easier for you when your taxes are due Help you discover potential problems Provide a second set of eyes to eliminate math mistakes Reduce your tax bill by making you aware of all the deductions and credits that may be available to you as a self-employed person Give you pertinent advice customized to your specific situation Free up your time so that you can focus on tasks that are more central to the core of your business With all of these benefits to be had from hiring accountant, you may wonder: why doesn’t every single freelancer already use an accounting professional?

Disadvantages of Hiring an Accounting Professional

The biggest disadvantage to hiring an accountant for many freelancers is cost. Depending on the complexity of your needs and your geographic location, hiring an accountant can range from costing hundreds of dollars to costing thousands of dollars. For that reason, many part-time freelancers and those who are just getting started may have trouble affording an accountant. If it appears that the accountant’s fee will cost more than your freelancing business earns in a month, hiring an accountant to help with your bookkeeping and taxes may be out of your financial reach. You will have to look for another method of meeting your accounting needs.

A Word About Automated Accounting Programs

For many freelancers, an automated accounting and/or tax software program provides the happy medium between hiring an accounting professional and doing your books yourself on a spreadsheet. A few popular accounting programs designed to meet the needs of the small business professional include:

  • Microsoft Office Accounting Professional
  • MYOB Premier Accounting
  • Peachtree by Sage Accounting
  • QuickBooks

If you decide to use an accounting software package, make sure to read and follow the instructions carefully. Many software packages offer a free trial period, which can be a good way of finding out how much use you will actually get from the package.

There are a few disadvantages to software accounting programs:

  • They generally cannot provide the unique analysis of your business that an accounting professional would. (Although some packages provide analytical tools that come close. You may also be able to turn to a software support forum or help desk for help with some specific questions.)
  • They may not provide someone to accompany you to court (or to an IRS hearing) if you have legal or tax problems relating to your freelance business.
  • Depending on the accounting software that you select, you may need to purchase a separate software package to do your taxes.

How Do You Handle Your Accounting Needs?

What have you found to be most effective for handling your accounting needs? Do you hire an accountant, do your books (and taxes) yourself, or do you use a software package? Share what you’ve found to be most effective in the comments.

By Laura Spencer
Image by Daniel Sroga

About the author: Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 19 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts

Creating a Press Kit for Your Interior Design Business

One of the best ways to market your interior design firm or interior decorating company is to get in touch with the media so that they can position you as an expert in the field. Most media professionals will request a press kit as the first step to getting an interview or being referred to a publication or television spot for some exposure, so you need to create a high-impact and professional kit to secure your spot.

Here are the essential components of creating a press kit for an interior design business:

The Cover Letter for Your Press Kit

The cover letter is one of the most important elements of your interior design business's press kit because it is the first item the media professional will see when you mail them the kit. The cover letter needs to include contact information and provide a brief introduction to your company. The letter should not be longer than a page and needs to be printed on company letterhead. It should include:

- The name and title of the owner

- A brief summary of your interior design-related education, and what specifically makes you an expert in the design field

- How you can be contacted (e-mail and direct phone number)

- A picture of the owner

The Company Overview of Your Press Kit

In order to be positioned as an expert in the field, media professionals need to know what makes your interior design firm or interior decorating company different from the rest. This is your chance to present the backbone of your business. The company overview needs to include:

- Your interior design firm's mission statement

- What the interior design firm's goals are

- Your unique services, products or affiliations (e.g. specific brands that you work with, furniture vendors and notable professionals from the industry who you may consult with for business)

Marketing Collateral of Your Interior Design Business

Media professionals also need to learn about your business through the client's eyes, so a portion of the press kit for your interior design business needs to contain brochures, flyers, postcards and other marketing materials that you may have used to promote your business recently. You can include a brief statement or introduction that explains when and how these items were used as part of your marketing plan.

Case Studies and Testimonials

You can establish credibility and authority as an expert in the interior design or interior decorating field by
including one or two case studies with before and after photos of the project, as well as testimonials from satisfied clients. Case studies and testimonials shouldn't be the focal point of your press kit, but can be included as support for your company and your work.

Samples of Your Work

If you have been in business for several years, you will probably have a large portfolio of photographs and samples from clients. Create a two to three page samples page that includes before and after photos of clients you have worked with (if they have granted permission to use their project for marketing purposes), and any website links to photos of rooms and living spaces that showcase your best work.

Creating and distributing a press kit for your interior design business or interior decorating company can be an effective marketing strategy, but you need to make sure it contains all of the necessary elements that media professionals are looking for. From the cover letter to the samples page, use these tips to create a compelling and unique press kit so that you can position your firm in the spotlight.

By Sabah Karimi

Sabah Karimi is AC's 2008 'Content Producer of the Year'. She's been featured in The Wall Street Journal, and on The Early Show on CBS News for her work with AC. She's also the author of "The AC Source Book", a blueprint for success with Associated Content.

The Do-It-Yourself Publicity Plan

Who says that you need to hire a publicist? If you know how to write, have time, creativity and contacts, then you are well on your way to being able to create your own do-it-yourself publicity plan. If none of those are your attributes, then you may want to consider hiring a firm to represent you, though this article is geared towards those who likely fit the above-mentioned criteria. Below are some things that you will need to execute your publicity plan.

1. Make sure that you have something newsworthy to publicize. Then begin formulating your press release using as many facts as possible. Your press release should be no more than one page and answer the who, what, where, when and whys that the reporter would likely need to know. Search online to see different examples of press releases. Keep in mind that reporters have very hectic schedules, so you have to make sure that you intrigue them from the door, and get straight to the point. Distribute your releases to press release distribution services if you do not have a media database.

2. Have an EPK (electronic press kit) or media kit that encompasses all of the essentials about you or your business - mission statement (biography if artist), photos, videos, past press clippings, testimonials and more. Make sure that everything is professionally presented to the person that you're looking to publicize you. The rule of thumb is that they should never have to ask for you to send material; it should all be readily available for their perusal.

3. Social networking and social media accounts: As a person, you may be private, but if you are a business person or an artist, then you simply cannot afford to be private - you have to be out there letting the world know that you exist. How better to do this than to announce it quickly and virally via social networking and social media mechanisms. Word travels fast on the internet and it is also an inexpensive way to get the word out.

4. Good ol' fashion guerilla marketing is about pounding the pavement to make things happen by spreading the word via postcards, literature, posters, bulletins or buttons. This also includes being present at events  related to your niche market.

Folloe these points outlined and you will be well on your way to creating your very own do-it-yourself publicity campaign.

By Kenyetta McKinney
Photography by Phil Date

Kenyetta McKinney, M.A. is a Senior Account Executive at Http:// (Grind Mode Press) - a "Do-it-Yourself Publicity Meets Per Diem PR" website that allows for businesses and artists to create Electronic Press Kits/EPKs, Press Releases & Distribute their music for feedback, in minutes. They also offer expanded publicity services for those that want to go beyond the DIY realm. McKinney, in addition to being a publicist, is a journalist and media relations specialist in the Philadelphia area, and is a graduate of Penn State University.