Starting in 2007, the market for interior designers turned into quicksand. The credit markets tightened, and projects that typically went to designers were brought in-house both residentially and commercially.
HGTV and the Internet created more competitors in the middle of the market from the consumers themselves, and frankly, for most designers, those weren’t and aren’t your best clients anyway.
High-end projects stayed fairly steady until the economic debacle of October 2008, and then many of the projects slowed, stopped or didn’t start at all. Especially in markets tied to the financial markets like New York, the wealthiest clients lost their jobs and their sense of security if they were in jobs associated with money and wealth.
The commercial market was devastated by the credit crisis, and according to economists, the concerns aren’t behind us yet.
Even with this perfect storm, some designers were very busy. Why? They adapted to the market shifts, changed their pricing strategies, developed an online presence, spent as much as 10% on marketing, focused on a niche, learned how to differentiate themselves better, and didn’t wait for the phone to ring. They took these conditions as a challenge and they worked even harder than before.
If commercial and hospitality is your preferred area of business, you’ll want to focus on renovations. If you can show companies that an investment in renovation can lead to more dollars at the bottom line especially if they depend on consumer spending, then you have an opportunity to build a logical reason why a company should invest. The commercial designers that become a marketing partner with their clients differentiate themselves and become a valuable solution-oriented team member instead of an expense.
If your specialty is residential design, bathroom and kitchen renovation is still steady. The budgets might be smaller, but there is work in this specialty area.
Some designers created packages of services they offered on their websites. Why did that work for them? The consumers wanted (and demanded) to know the investment required .
Other designers offered Value Based Fees because consumers resisted hourly fees. ASID surveyed consumers a few years ago and approximately 70% said they wanted fixed fees. Designers who offered this option found that it completely shifted their role from an hourly wage slave to a trusted advisor, and that helped many designers kick-start their businesses even during the last several months.
You could be the greatest designer, but if people don’t hear about you consistently, then your business will struggle. These days, you need great photography, a great head shot, articles about you in magazines, online and in newspapers (third party endorsements), a web presence including a website, blog and social media and search engine optimization of your website and blog.
And, if you don’t have a written business plan, marketing plan, vision and strategy for your business, it’s time to get busy and take action. Referrals and networking may have worked in the past, but they are less effective than ever, so that means it’s time to rethink and reposition your business.