1. Create a unique webpage. It’s the number one destination for your portfolio, testimonials, contacts and ideas all rolled into one so it’s essential you get this right. Make you and your work stand out to everyone who browses your pages by using past work examples and of course a wide use of imagery. Like an architect or photographer, your work portfolio will be highly visual so it’s imperative you build a home that does your work justice.
1. Employ an industry mentor. A mentor will have experienced the same challenges as you will be facing and because of this, will be able to offer guidance, top tips, do’s and don’ts and point you in the right direction. They will act as an extra voice of reason as one of the hardest elements about being a freelance interior designer is not having team members to bounce ideas off. Be selective and listen to your gut instinct about who the right person might be for you.
2. Go into the cloud. Freelance interior designers are now able to access useful business software which allows for project management and accounting purposes that can track projects, images and communications. Take a look at Designer Logic (http://www.asid.org/content/business-software-interior-designers#.VEo_u0Z0zIU) where its project management software cares for your proposals, invoicing, ordering, images, accounting and tracking. Plus, it’s cheaper than buying your own hardware and keeping costs down is important at this birthing stage.
TOB should include fee re-negotiation to allow for work of greater scope.
3. Establish terms of business (TOB). Get off on the right foot. Confirm your company name, title, address and contact details and exactly the same details for your client too. Always assign each project with a number and keep all records of your proposal, schedule, terms and conditions, agreed brief and your services outlined. Your TOB should include fee re-negotiation to allow for work of greater scope or duration should changes or a cancellation take place mid-project. The later process should include addressing expenses incurred/loss of earnings.
4. Organize schedules of work. If you rely on client input by a certain date in order to fulfill deliveries, it’s worth devising a separate schedule if you need to build in progress sign off points. Show your client how you work since they can see how the project will be completed step-by-step (and how costs are allocated too). It also gives you a backup if the deadline alters. Use contact reports as a way of confirming in writing any client changes or requests that may impact the end delivery date as this also ensures everyone is on the same page.
Related Story: How did Lee Broom start out in interior design?
5. Don’t forget the power of a contract. Don’t be afraid to ask the client to sign the contract (while a signature is no guarantee they will pay, it does increase its chances.) Add a clause that says your client accepts your terms by signing the contract and also mention the contract relates to the proposal, including schedule, and terms and conditions. In signing, your client agrees to honour these terms, including an input required from them in the schedule to allow work to be delivered on time. Lastly, but not least by any means, ensure you leave nothing open to misinterpretation.
6. Follow industry bodies.Keeping in with industry bodies will get you everywhere, after all, knowledge is power. The Knowledge Transfer Network’s Creative Industries Community (https://connect.innovateuk.org/web/creativektn) is the perfect place for freelance interior designers to hook up online and swap ideas for creative business. Biid (http://biid.org.uk) is the place to be for interior designers. With events, ways to kick start your career plus a supplier directory open to peruse, you really do have it all, and in one place. Sbid (The Society of British and International Design (http://www.sbid.org/) is Britain’s organization hob point of the interior design profession. Here you can gain access to networking groups, win competitions and obtain VIP tickets to trade shows.
Chat on forums with other designers gaining industry knowledge.
7. Join industry forums. There’s nothing better than getting out there and talking to others in the same position as you. Freelance alliance UK offers interior designers a chance to chat on forums with other designers gaining industry knowledge as you go, exchange information and contacts and it’s free to join. You can also start building your business with the free business plan available. Simply register at freelanceuk (http://www.freelanceuk.com/resources/) and off you go. Create a profile and watch the freelance work flow in…
8. Get a good accountant. As tempting as it may sound, never cut corners when it comes to your finances and personal freelance business. A qualified and ideally, specialized one is preferable so again, ask other freelance interior designers who they might recommend. Obviously loving the work you do is one thing but there is the payment side that’s equally important too. In order to prevent a tax crisis or similar, keep a record of quotes and invoices and file accordingly. Also find out if you qualify for an IR35 by contacting Contractoruk (http://www.contractoruk.com/ir35/) for further details.
9. Understand your limits. From designing to client relationship management and keeping up with small-business trends, you may easily find yourself working long hours each day and into the night. Taking on projects that require long hours means it’s difficult to be creative and produce quality work when you’re up against it. Forbes recommends addressing your private time adding walks into your schedule, driving to meet clients and taking lunch – your brain needs fuel to produce. And finally, it’s ok to say no. Just inform your client you’d be happy to start the project the week after.
And finally, it’s ok to say no.
10. Join BIID. If you have six years or more combined education/work experience, you’re able to sign up for a BIID membership. The Institute of Interior Design is ‘the’ way to demonstrate to clients, employers and colleagues that you have met the national professional standard in this creative industry. You’re on to a winner with BIID as you will possess a recognized BIID logo for your website, gain access to exclusive discounted industry events, public speaking and networking opportunities plus a free client referral service and admission to professional lectures and other development seminars.
Image courtesy of Elle and littlewees.com