By Gladys Mae
Gladys is the Associate Director of Admissions & Student Services with over 10 years of experience at the International Career Institute.
When planning to study interior design, it’s important to look ahead into what life might be like as an interior designer. Let’s say you become a freelancer – how will you market yourself to ensure you have a steady stream of clients?
There are many advantages to being a freelance interior designer – you can satisfy your artistic desires, set your own hours, be rewarded with job satisfaction – however, it does take work. Especially when you’re starting out and looking to build your client base.
We’ve put together some self-marketing strategies for emerging freelance interior designers.
Word of mouth recommendations spread through social media faster than wildfire. If a recommendation comes from someone high profile or with a large social network (an influencer) the spread is even faster. People trust someone they admire more than they trust a brand itself.
When you align yourself with an influencer, not only do they bring their audience, they bring their audience’s network as well. This drives traffic to your website, increases your social media following, and can flat out sell your service. Think of the audience you want to reach and find someone who speaks to that audience. Offer your service for free or be prepared to pay out for the privilege of making over an influencer’s home. Find a YouTube influencer and make over their usual backdrop. You might not like the idea of spending, but with the right person selling your message, it could be a very sound investment.
Starting an interior design blog exposes your skills and increases your career prospects. But more than that, having your own blog helps you learn new skills and improve your self esteem. Create a unique angle on a popular interior topic and you can carve your way into the industry as someone bringing fresh new ideas. Again you’ll need to spend money on the design of your site, but blogging is another great return on investment. Be smart in your search engine optimisation (SEO) and it will improve your Google search rating too – very important for becoming ‘findable’.
Houzz is the place where more than 20 million people go to find interior advice and inspiration. Any person offering home and property design or improvements should be sharing their work and actively commenting.
Decision making has moved online these days and people want to read reviews to help them in the decision-making process. Houzz allows you to showcase your projects for people to make comments on and share. Ask people you know to jump on Houzz and write how much they love your work and when people see the positive comments, they’ll be itching to use your service.
Interior designers with successful businesses can be a great ally, being in the position to help you get started. Business mentors can help you think about what the market really wants and the importance of business philosophy. Ask to train under someone you respect to shadow how they work. Work hard and it might lead into some ‘real work’ for you. Don’t just stop with one mentor either – the more mentors you work alongside, the more knowledge you can bring to your designs.
Gently encouraging your clients to refer you to their friends is made easier with an incentive. Consider running a referral program such as:
1 referral = stylish cushion
2 referrals = 10% off your next room
3 referrals = $100 to spend at X store
Try to keep in touch with your clients after the job is done too, as this will keep you fresh in their minds.
Visit your favourite interior stores and ask if you can put your business cards on their counters if you promise to bring your clients in or show them products from their website. Get cheekier and ask your favourite stores for a discount too. Also look at partner programs run by brands such as Cresta, who give their clients direct access to design consultants when integrating systems into residential and commercial spaces.
Speaking of commercial, be sure to focus some of your time on commercial design and not just residential. A good commercial design will be seen by hundreds every week, whereas a person’s home is seen by only a handful. If your specialty is kitchen design, talk to your favourite restaurant about working with them to redesign the space in exchange for some free food. If you work part time in an office, ask your boss about upgrading the lounge area.
Social media is a marketing tool you’d be crazy not to utilise. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to engage your audience, you can use pictures and video to show the quality of your work, style and flavour without saying a word. Pinterest is great for offering decorating tips and tricks, Instagram is perfect for sharing beautiful photos, and Facebook is good for spreading your services widely or for creating a visual ad. YouTube is another great platform that lets you show off a completed project in real time. You can also use it to post home decorating tips or ways to use colours in a room.
People love contests. Give away something for free and you can quickly gain attention. Work with your preferred supplier and suggest that you’ll take care of the contest promotion if they provide you with a product to give away. It’s exposure for them too, so they’d be silly not to offer you something greata.
When creating your marketing plan, it’s recommended that you plan for the entire year. Pull in every person you work with – carpenters, floor layers, painters and fabric makers, to workshop your marketing ideas. Different people have different ideas of what speaks to people, so ask questions, listen intently, and workshop regularly. Put your annual marketing plan in a binder and refer and update it every month.
Don’t let marketing yourself be an afterthought – start planning now! If you really want to succeed at marketing yourself, you could even consider a Diploma in Marketing, which will provide you with all the skills and tools you need to ensure you market yourself well.