“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/
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.
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.
As professional designers and decorators, no one is impervious to the client you have taken on shopping on their own, checking the validity of your prices, coming up with new products etc. etc. Here are some guidelines you may consider when this dilemma arises.
1 – First really zeroing in on the clients you are about to deal with is crucial. Using confidence and discernment, ask the right questions in the first appointment. This goes a long way in seeing whether they are your ideal client.
Many creative types that pursue a career in designing or art manage to keep the mathematical area of the world at arms length – until it inserts itself into their lives in order to calculate pretty much anything or run a business without making all the mistakes first.
In the last post we described the limitations of what a gross profit, gross profit margin and net sales are. But we also explained our businesses have more “bags” that hold more figures that need to be factored into a financial report.
In business, we are all about not just doing a great job for our clients and building our reputation, but at the end of the day, we want to see profit also.
There are so many ways to justify a personal expenditure of a new suit, new bag or briefcase when you are in the design field. After all appearances mean so much don’t they? Our work is judged by how we look and come across, isn’t it?? Especially when we “know” we made profits on our last couple of jobs we should be able to allow for a splurge, right? Don’t we need to celebrate a new contract with a delicious lunch after an appointment?? Isn’t that what return on investment is? Or was that petty cash or owner’s capital – a tax deduction? Whatever!!