WHAT SETS YOU APART?
We are in a very competitive occupation- not that others aren’t… But, when a client hires us, one of the first things they want to know – and may not even ask – is what sets us apart from any other designer.
Many of us are hesitant to laud our own praises. Early on in life, we may have been directed not to brag. Or, (hopefully not) we may have been bullied and been put down when we spoke up. Some of us seek out the attention of being on center stage, but the majority of us don’t.
One might say our world was birthed in color, saturated with it, embellished by it. It’s part of the DNA of the planet arriving to us by frequencies. Color excites, or it calms. It stimulates our appetite and warms our mood. We have sought just the right color by crushing insects and mollusks to produce crimson and purple. Green plants have revealed their secret of the perfect blue after being fermented through stages of yellow, then green, then blue into deep sensuous indigo. Precious lapis lazuli stones carried thousands of miles have arrived at their destination to be crushed into pigment and painted onto canvas.
Egyptian mummies of dead people and cats came under the alchemists crushing tools to formulate a perfect brown. On and on the quest for the perfect color was been pursued to simulate what was already seen around us. Humans apparently were not disposed to simply enjoy looking at their environments and enjoying the sights. No, they wanted to be the creators and capture the beauty with their own hands.
“Flow” “Workflow”…Words that summon up ease and elegance in our daily routine of running an interior design business. But more often than not looks like someone walking six various size dogs down a narrow busy sidewalk. We’re human. We get out of sync. Were busy. We have clients who haven’t been trained to not call after 8:00 pm. We’re tired…
Enter Interior Design project management software. Let’s face it, by the time we sit down to the computer to enter various charges at the end of the day, who can blame us for forgetting to add taxes or shipping. Those 10 little dohickies that were listed as only one on the invoice – how did that happen? You included a gorgeous picture of the couch that was just purchased with the close-up photo of the fabric and the dimensions – all the specifications. It looked so professional. But…you forgot your hours… (maybe it was that second glass of wine). Don’t you need those prompts at the end of the day? Even if you have an assistant that takes care of things, there can be so many details lost in translation. It’s embarrassing to have to re-invoice with corrections or send multiple invoices. Clients get confused, put off or just plain scared as to what might be next.
Project management software should put the flow into your work, cut down or cut out multiple copies of paperwork or at the least multiple post-it notes stuck all over. Look for software that can do the following:
It should track deposits on proposals and the resulting deductions for purchases, as well as charging for items beyond the deposit.
Larger items in a project should be able to be broken down into components and tracked then billed as one easy to understand charge to the client.
It should guarantee nothing will slip through the cracks, especially the peripheral expenses like shipping or taxes or the cost of samples.
Providing a set formula for charging with your markups, discounts and fees can save you time and confusion for you and your clients.
The software should supply an accrual method of accounting in order to give an accurate overall financial picture of your business. It will allow you to see the progress of a job and when you invoice, when you were invoiced by a vendor, what work is in process and in general when the money comes in and goes out and above all, what your profits will be.
Having a “quick quote” set up especially for projects with many components like window treatments is a value added bonus. It will have features pre-loaded with charges so you can create a quote in a client’s home during a consultation or a measuring appointment.
Other bonuses include being able to attach pictures of actual pieces of chose furniture and/or color coding to view your projects in progress.
The ability to write up different descriptions or information to clients, vendors and office copy is an added plus so that only the information needed is sent to each.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular software:
Design Manager is a straightforward, detail-oriented program with an easy to understand method of organizing and keeping track of all the details of your business. From the color and fabric to whether a vendor was paid and how much, it’s all there. Design Manager includes a built-in accrual accounting system to keep you on top of your business finances. The software allows for a quick quote, attaching photos to quotes and inventorying with barcodes. The straightforward pricing is either $39.99 a month for their DMCloud or $49.99 per month for the Pro Cloud. https://designmanager.com/
Studio Designer (once known as Studio Webware) has been around for decades and in its present version has enabled a collaborated effort through portals to connect designers, clients, vendors, and showrooms. This creates a greater degree of efficiency allowing clients to quickly approve selections and designers to place orders. Their integrated accounting system is highly detailed and functional. The project management component features budget and project analysis. Enhanced features include an iPhone app, free training lessons and the ability to accept credit card payments. Their pricing is based on 2 variations of the software: basic and professional. They are priced at either $35 per month per user or $45 per month per user and the site details what is included in each package. http://www.studiodesigner.com
MyDoma Studio This software is based on an interior designer’s need to have an industry-specific product to solve her design business dilemmas. In this case, she built one herself. It is unique in that the user can create her own product catalog with a client price which toggles to the designer’s cost. The designer can choose to show the brands or not and markup or discount prices or not. It keeps track of invoicing and provides details that can be accessed by a CPA or bookkeeper. Clients can also view their paid and unpaid invoices. It does not provide accounting software. The software does, however, allow clients to charge their products relieving the designer the responsibility of protecting their credit card numbers. The price of the software is presently $59 per month or $500 per year. http://www.mydomastudio.com
Ivy One of the newer design software companies that seemed to achieve instant approval is Ivy. Instead of their own accounting system, they use Quick Books integration. Built with up to the minute thinking their software’s mobile app is capable of running the business on the go. For a professional look without hours of designing for yourself, they provide customized templates for proposals, invoices etc. Included also is a product clipper to quickly add vendor products to a proposal or a catalog you create. In February of this year, Houzz acquired Ivy Mark which upset several designers after the revelation (in fine print) that Houzz owns all the photos from every designer once submitted to their site. Ivy offers three different plans with variable restrictions ranging in price from $29.00 per month for one user (3 projects per year) to $149 a month for up to seven users. https://www.ivy.co/
Designer Logic This software has been operational for about 10 years and has grown with the industry’s needs. It features a client, contractor and vendor portals to keep appropriate contacts up to date and flow throughout the project. You can use the tools with a computer, Ipad, Mac or PC. Vendors and contractors can list their services with Designer Logic’s Brand Book and become searchable to the software company’s design clients. The dashboard creates estimates, specs, billing details, purchase order timelines, all project details accompanied by a trackable comment thread for staff member participants on the project. It has a Catalogue that is easily updated to contain items used in projects for quick updates in future designs. Clients can log in and see their billing, give approval, make comments and always be in the loop. You can export to Excel or send your financial information to Quickbooks. At present, the company charges 37.95 per user per month with a 30 day free trial. There is no contract and a 20% discount for 3 or more users. http://designerlogic.com/
We have been inundated by a multitude of industries dumping chemical additives into our food, into our building products, into fabrics for clothing and into the furniture and fabrics used on them. At this point in history, we are so saturated with chemicals in our environment can we deny the connection to seeing more and more people with allergies, auto-immune disease, weight problems and fatigue. Can we do anything about it? Can we cut back and protect ourselves?
In the last post, how the toxins that threaten our health by way of our environments were discussed. Now it’s time to see some options that exist to create better, cleaner surroundings for our clients and ourselves.
Are you excited at the end of the day to climb in your car and head home to your safe comfortable happy place you call home? Of course, you should be. You’ve decorated it to reflect your color preferences, your style and your comfort levels. But did you design it for your health?
Summer interior jobs can slow down in this season of sea, sand and vacations. But it can also be the best time for many home improvements to get done. Homeowners typically don’t think about calling on their designer when windows need replacing, plumbing needs repair or appliances have become worn out. Allying yourself with contractors whom you have vetted for insurance, references and credentials will strengthen your client relationships in ways that will pay off for years. Knowing the sources of as many products as possible as well as quality and price could put you in a different league in their eyes. How is this done? Put your organizer’s hat on and follow these steps:
THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
One thing seen in creative fields such as interior design is a transitioning of roles and careers aligned with the need to create – yet different. A person may start out in one area of expertise, get the training and pursue the career with all the enthusiasm and vigor necessary. Then they see how another peer in a different yet similar field is going about their business and think, “Well, I could do that – perhaps even better.” And so begins the transition. It’s easy to have this happen in interior design and decorating. That innate creative spirit gets a little bored. Creativity urges trying on new pursuits. That’s the nature of the beast.
It’s the first of the year – yeah!? February rather slips in after January… after all the hoopla we get wrapped into. January… we deal with cleaning up from the holidays, feel guilty as we know we spent too much and gained too much weight and know resolutions don’t work. February we are trying valiantly to refocus and get our head in the game. But all that refocusing can dampen our core, our vibrancy – our creativity!
Our creativity sparks our life- lights it up, feeds our soul. It could be said it is an entity unto itself that lives within us. Creativity can’t be contained in a jar or in one direction. Most creatives need exposure to multiple outlets to hone their best work. They often have a varied career switching fields of endeavor. February is given to us as a month to slow down (not hunker down) and refresh our creative soul.
Beware -I feel a rant coming on…
My husband and I were having a discussion over morning coffee time today. We started discussing the economy and technology. He is the fourth generation in a line of engineers. Although he loves designing ways to make things work better, whether it be carpentry, electrical or managing a business, he can’t see technology for technology’s sake. I have to admit there is a fine line between technological innovations that better people’s lives and those that just give a false impression that because it’s new it must be a better way to go. The philosophy that if it is moving the economy toward new heights we must be growing and growing is essential – right? Which brings us back to the economy.