Is there a 'best time of year' to start a business?
To put yourself in a stronger financial position, wait until you have gotten out there and secured enough work to sustain a regular income to cover daily living costs, but also to help establish, promote and maintain your business. This means having the money to cover fees like necessary industry programmes, a company website, lawyers, accountants and photoshoots. Most importantly, however, you must be physically and mentally ready. Running a business is hard work, especially the first three years. You will find design takes a back seat as you run around trying to secure clients, manage company accounts and admin needs, as well as marketing. You need strong resolve to make it work. If you are determined and persist, however, running your own business comes with satisfaction, pride and, eventually, success.
How do I ensure I stay inspired, and don't burn out?
Inspiration can come from everywhere: holiday stays, art, suppliers you like, exhibitions, magazines, and from your own clients – they will have new ideas too. If you are born a designer, you will also likely get regular inspiration in the mundane. For my architectural and furniture design, I draw on successful and renowned designers such as Eileen Gray and Frank Lloyd Wright. Their work is not only inspiring, it provides me with a platform against which I hedge my designs as well as a vision for future success. Burnout can happen to all creatives. I regularly hit a wall when in the midst of designing. I find the best solution is to walk away and take time off or focus on a task unrelated to design. With time, the ideas start flowing again.
How do I get my first client?
The most difficult question of all. You have just started your business and if you are lucky, will have a portfolio of previous work. Interior designers mostly rely on word of mouth. Therefore, start networking and pushing yourself and your ideas forward: schedule meetings, go to events, promote yourself and keep working and maintaining these relations. You need to have a library of work you have done in the past or images that inspire you and translate your taste to potential clients. When you build a profile for yourself or your company, ask yourself: what do potential clients want to see in me and my company before committing? Always have a contract signed and all the details made clear from the outset. Most importantly, do not accept a job unless you are 100% happy, no matter how much you need it. If your gut feeling is telling you not to do it, don’t. The repercussions are not worth it and will delay your company’s growth.
Are there any particular pieces of technology I need before launching my design startup?
- A CAD programme: Vectorworks or AutoCAD depending on preference.
- EstiMac or EstiPC makes any project a breeze to manage from orders to suppliers to deliveries.
- Adobe Photoshop helps bring your client presentations to life.
- A mobile phone with a good camera – learn how to line up your shots to get the best image to share on social media or your website.
I would also recommend:
- SketchUp for 3D modelling; it also helps to understand a space better.
- Adobe’s InDesign for preparing presentations is fantastic. Otherwise, Apple’s Keynote or Microsoft PowerPoint.
- Use Wix or a similar platform to create your personal website; it helps cut down on initial company set-up costs.
- Use Schedgram to help schedule and manage your Instagram feed.
- Apple’s iMovie – if you wish to create and edit marketing videos of your brand or work to share on social media.
I taught myself how to use the above programmes on YouTube – an infinite resource.
Is there a right and wrong way to source suppliers?
I go with what I have seen and liked, but then assess collaboration potential through dealing with the supplier or their representative. Remember that, at the end of the day, suppliers need to make a profit. Personally, I prefer smaller suppliers to big ones. Big names have huge budgets for marketing, showrooms and staff. Therefore, their product is priced inclusive of these secondary costs and falls short, in my opinion, of what you pay for. Suppliers, and 'programmed’ sales assistants are proud of their products, so compliment and compliment again to get a good deal. However, they are also looking to sell. Therefore, work your magic and let them know you want to work with them, not just on this project, but on future projects. Always keep in mind that your most important goal on a job is delivering on your promise to your client. Therefore, if a supplier is slow to answer your queries or not clear from the start – steer clear. You do not want that sofa delivered a month after the project is completed or with the wrong fabric.
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