Change is hard. It means you have to learn a new way to do something, which then involves having to find time to sit down and study, practice, and make something foreign feel second nature.
Sound fun? (Intimidating is what it sounded like to me.)
There’s no doubt that this business is changing. The old designer business model just isn't working very well anymore.
Nowadays, with the click of a button, everything you've ever wanted can be shopped for and bought in an instant. This means our Internet-savvy prospects are now able to more easily say "thanks, but no thanks" to our service-offerings, because, with each passing year, technology gifts them with new online resources that help them replace the value we could be offering. I bet there's probably a hundred designers born each minute who will now give away design services for a fraction of the cost professional designers should command.
So, with competition being as fierce as it is, how does one compete?
Personally, I've recognized that I need to be changing how I operate if I want to remain competitive, achieve my goals, or just simply stay in business, because I really want to be here tomorrow, doing what I love, and designing things for other people to love.
“Clear your cache.”
“Send me a screencast.”
“Those messages are trapped at the old domain.”
“It's a v6 hiccup that's being worked on.”
“That’s a responsive web layout.”
Does any of that sound familiar to you? Yeah, I didn't understand any of it either.
Just six months ago I thought all of the above sounded like a foreign language.
I didn’t know what a screencast was, and I certainly had no idea a web browser had a “cache." I was so busy doing design that I didn’t have time to learn about any of that stuff, much less use it.
Well, now that I've recently experienced a lot of what online technology has to offer, I can confidently say that it will not only make your everyday work easier and more fluid, but there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that -- depending on whether you embrace it or not -- it can either make or break your design business.
Here in 2012, doing things the old fashioned way just won't cut it anymore, because the age of face-to-face customer relations is dying.
Travel agencies, newspapers, video stores, (insert industry name here) . . . Just about every business is moving their operations online. And now that I'm finally fully understanding and appreciating the infinite social strengths of the Web, I can't help but wonder why I waited so long to jump on the bandwagon.
It's true: Our world is becoming more and more of a virtual reality. Information and services provided online are winning the public's attention over offline offerings more than ever before. So, as DRIVEN DESIGNERS who are constantly searching for ways to make our work lives more efficient, and trying to carve out more free time to do what makes us happy and enjoy the people we love, we need to face the facts and realize . . .
We have to learn how to work virtually.
Oh, I know . . . You bemoan the death of the face-to-face business model.
After all . . . Where's the reality in that? Where's the human touch? Where's the personal attention? Who will clients have to hold their hand?
Don't fret. The face-to-face experience is still here. Even using technology, our craft's business model still has a human touch and is very much personal, because there absolutely has to be an emotional connection in a designer / client relationship. Otherwise, our work will ultimately feel . . . well . . . lifeless.
While so many businesses are reaching out to customers via the Web, success no longer comes as a result of how many times you've bombarded a large number of people with your message. That throw-it-against-the-wall- and-see-what-sticks method has already been worn out.
Online marketing is now all about delivering quality over quantity. I think you have to either share yourself with others in a way that's personal, relateable, meaningful, and provides value, or you shouldn't bother doing anything at all, because you'll ultimately end up wasting a lot of effort on approaches that will quickly be ignored.
So how is my business changing to adapt to interior design's new virtual reality? Well . . .
I still have my clients who I have a face-to-face relationship with. I love those experiences and can't imagine giving them up, no matter how advanced technology may become. However, I can't fall into the routine of depending solely on projects that allow me to work on-location, because the idea of having a successful virtual design service feels too exciting to ignore! And what's even more exciting is that the new technologies I'm now using with my virtual services have actually made my business' operations easier and -- get this -- more personable and efficient!
- My legal agreements are now delivered and signed, digitally.
- Using Google Drive's infinite number of features, I not only transfer more information digitally, but I'm also able to creatively collaborate with clients, employees, and other professionals in real-time.
- And, of course, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. are able to strengthen the relationships I have with my clients and followers of my work.
There are just so many tools out there to make me more effective, more efficient, more productive. And, most importantly, they let me have more free time for myself, while still being able to produce good, quality work.
Sound pretty sweet? It sure does to me.
Nine months ago, did I think I'd be confident enough to run a virtual interior design business? ...No.
But, with help, I’ve been able to adapt. Sure, there's a learning curve, but virtual ways of doing business are becoming easier and easier with each passing day.
If I just remain open-minded, pliable, resilient, absorbent, etc., I think I'll be able to embrace all of it...
...And enjoy it too!