Most designers don’t go to business school. As a matter of fact, most of us run from it.
All the practicality and rules associated with running a business are mostly foreign to interior designers who are starting their own business. We’ve all majored in the creative, artistic humanities -- art, design, the human sciences -- to fully develop the right side of our brains. But the left side...
We’ve leave it to do what it may.
I remember when my business first started to grow really fast.
It happened right as I was working my way up a steep learning curve on how to run this thing.
I had always thought business to be boring, staid, numbers-driven, predictable. However, much to my surprise, I’ve found it to be anything but that. It’s creative and intuitive and responsive and scary, and I’m learning or realizing something new about it every day.
And throughout these discoveries I’ve made regarding the creative side of the business, I’ve come around to learn that all I do revolves around one thing: Risk.
As you do business, as you provide a service or sell a product, you are assuming risk and taking responsibility for that which could result from it.
Because what if something goes wrong? Could you stand behind what you’ve done? Your product? Your service? Your creation?
Do you have enough money in the bank to handle a legitimate return or do-over? Can you handle your good name being tarnished, no matter whether the circumstances are fair or not?
If you’re drilling for oil out in the gulf, the risk is enormous. Billions of dollars are at stake. We all know what can happen there.
If you’re a doctor prescribing treatment for a life threatening illness, there’s an incredible amount of priceless risk.
Of course, that’s why we all have insurance. For the big things. The big missteps. The things your business can’t afford to absorb.
But insurance costs money. It’s part of doing business. It’s part of your overhead that has to be paid for.
Sure, as a designer your risks aren’t life-threatening, but they do involve lots of dollars. You might be designing custom pieces of furniture, selecting finishes that are perfect for a multi-million dollar home, or designing construction details that show how those materials will all be put together. And this is why we have to depend on other people / businesses to help us with what we’re doing, because there are just sooooo many varied, unpredictable factors that could come into play to present problems during a project.
Everything we do involves risk. EVERYTHING.
And risk -- I’m speaking to you, right-brained interior designers -- has value. And when you assume risk, you need to get paid for it. That value needs to be seen in your bottom line.
A younger designer friend once asked me: “What if people don’t like what you do? What happens then?”
Fortunately, I’ve only experienced a few instances when I’ve had to eat the costs of something a client wasn’t happy with. And both times it wasn’t 100% necessary for me to do so, but I wanted to create good will. And, because I effectively managed my risk, I received repeat business from those clients that wound up being more ambitious and profitable ;-)
As a professional, you have to realize the risk you take when you put your neck out there and tell someone they’re going to love their new space and how wonderful it will be.
You have to realize what you are responsible for, what you’re promising.
And the weight of that risk can always be felt in the back of your mind.
So you prepare. You use all your tools, your gifts, your education, your expertise, your experience to back yourself up, all to minimize that risk. Tools that have cost you both time and money to own, develop, and use. Tools that must be covered in the cost of what you bring to the table.
So why, again, do we go to such great lengths for our clients, ourselves? Because...
To do daring, bold, unique, special, custom, etc. requires risk.
So protect yourself and factor it into your bottom line.