One year down, dozens and dozens to go. Happy <business> birthday to me! I cannot believe all that has happened in the last 365 days and I can't wait for the next 365. As I reflected on my first full year in business (side note for all you hustlers...I technically started my business in 2012 but it was a side hustle with my full time corporate America job), I have so much to say. So many learnings. So much growth. And because so many designers and entrepreneurs taught me, I want to constantly be sharing what I have learned in my first hear of being an interior designer.
1. I made an agreement with myself that I would say yes to every project, no matter the size or budget. And in year one, I can say that was very advantageous for me. I gained experience, made mistakes, tried new vendors, and was constantly busy designing which, ahem, is what I prayed and dreamed for for decades. Perhaps this is unpopular (to say yes to every project) but, it worked for me and I learned A TON. I also gained referrals this way and was able to work with a variety of clients with different visions which helped me figure out my niche a bit more.
2. I should have hired an accountant out of the gate...and didn't. I took advice from the wrong people and didn't prioritize my accounting as much as I should have. Needless to say I am set up well now but I wish I had done that much sooner. A good accountant will ensure you have the right business type based on your expected revenues, he/she will be able to advise on tax law, help you understand how to maximize all tax benefits based on your state and the list goes on. It's worth the investment.
3. I created a client/finance/accounting tracker that is super simple but it helped me track my income and expenses in a very easy way. I was able to quickly see my monthly and quarterly revenues, how much I needed to save for taxes and tithing and where I was vs. my annual revenue goals. It also guided me on where my clients were coming from thus helping me with business development (spoiler alert - I got more clients from Instagram that I thought which then pushed me to be more strategic and spend more time marketing on Instagram). Send me an email at email@example.com if you want a copy of it.
4. I invested in attending The Haven List Workshop which literally was the best money I could have ever spent for my business, especially in year one. I learned about process, revenue streams, how to run a business, marketing for interior designers and so much more. I STRONGLY recommend this conference for any new-ish interior designers (in business 6 months - 2 years I think would be the sweet spot!). And if you are in a different field, the point is to find at least 1 conference and GO. Invest in yourself and back into your business. I'm going to Rise Business this year - let's go together! :)
5. I learned that I don't have a job without clients so, like many fields, clients are critical whether you enjoy working with them or not. It's business. It's subjective and creative, but it's business nonetheless. Don't have an identity crisis. If the client doesn't like your designs, don't be offended. Get feedback, listen, and work hard to get it right for them. Interior design is ultimately a service-based business and thus, relational skills and high EQ is just as important as your technical design skills.