How to launch an Online Interior Design business with Chaney Widmer

By The Design Cure

In this episode, we speak with Chaney Widmer of Mix and Match   She shares with us how she got started and why she to chose to focus on e-design rather than traditional interior design services. She also shares with us her new course “How to Launch An E Design Business.”

Show Notes:

Mix and Match Design 

How to launch and E-Design Business

Design Files


Episode Transcript

Jess: [00:00:17] All right. So in this episode I speak with Chaney Widmer of Mix and Match She went from premed to following her passion in home design. she shares with us how she got started in the industry and why she chose to run and e-design company as opposed to a traditional design business. She also shows us how she finds her clients and what's been working for her and her business. Also we talk about her new course how to launch an e-design business. So if you're just starting out in the industry and you don't know exactly how to get started. Listen up because she has a ton of great advice. All right. Let's get started.


Jess: [00:01:12] Thanks so much for being on the show today. I'm excited.


Chaney: [00:01:16] Yeah I'm glad to be a part of that.


Jess: [00:01:19] Yeah I've been I've been following your work I know we're part some part of the same Facebook groups.


Chaney: [00:01:26] Yeah definitely. It's fun to kind of like watch that journey happen. I feel like we've both been a part of this for quite a while now. Yeah. Yeah that's true. I know I have. I have.


Jess: [00:01:37] I saw that you launched your e-design course and I follow you on Instagram too. And I just wanted to talk to you today because I think a lot of designers starting out can can learn a ton from you. So you are in Virginia is that right.


Chaney: [00:01:57] So I was I grew up in Virginia and that's my phone number still is OK. But I live in Philadelphia now actually. So we'll see. Ok yeah moved up here about three and a half years ago. My husband went to business school up here. So that's what brought us to this area. We really like it it's been great.


Jess: [00:02:20] How's cold is it called out there.


Chaney: [00:02:23] It is actually flying to Florida today I think for about a week. I'm excited about.


Jess: [00:02:32] Nice.


Jess: [00:02:58] So can you tell us how you got started in the design industry. I read about your blog. I know you were premed before is that right.


Chaney: [00:03:09] That's right yeah. So I actually started out in biomedical sciences that was my major in college and went to grad school for a genetic counseling which is like a tiny little subspecialty in medicine and practice for about four years. But on the side I had always been pursuing creative things.


Chaney: [00:03:29] So it kind of varied over the years what I was doing exactly. But it was mostly geared towards kind of home design DIY projects crafts those kinds of things. And so over time I had started another blog that had some good traction and good following and people started asking me for help for their own homes. And so over time I kind of figured out like I want to be more in the interior design niche but I need to figure out how to make that work with my lifestyle and my goals and all those kinds of things. And so eventually I launched mix and match design company which is where I am today. And that took some time to develop. I didn't go to school for design but I knew I had a good eye. And that was just a matter of figuring out how to make that work for me.


Jess: [00:04:21] Great. So the DIY blog. Was that just your own personal projects that you were working on.


Chaney: [00:04:28] It was. Yeah exactly. So we moved into an apartment we were and we at the time looked into a tiny little apartment but I just knew I wanted to kind of make it my own. So I spent a lot of time working on that and that was really what the blog grew into was focusing on those kinds of projects in my own home and then started to help friends and family out on the side.


Chaney: [00:04:52] As a result of that was kind of gaining a following and stuff like that and how long did you have that blog before you started to see people come through and ask for you know for your advice or you know or to hire you for certain projects. Sure. So I had been writing the blog for about probably two and a half or three years okay for that started happening. And it was mostly just you know personal blog to try and track my journey if you will and then keep records of what I had done in our house and stuff like that. And then I ended up shutting that blog down and it's still it still exists but not actively writing it anymore. In order to start the interior design an exclusive focus Mix and Match Design company so that has its own blog of course. And then I started formally offering my services back in 2015 through


Jess: [00:05:50] I saw that you offer edesign as well. Is that's something that you started doing right away with Mix and Match.


Chaney: [00:05:57] It was. Yeah I actually started my business to focus on e-design exclusively.


Jess: [00:06:03] Why e-design if you don't mind me asking.


Chaney: [00:06:06] Yeah sure. So I did a little bit of testing prior to really launching my services. I did one full design project. I did all the install and ordering the products everything a full service firm would do. And I really didn't like it to be perfectly honest I didn't enjoy that part of the process and e-design or online interior design had started kind of coming around. It was still pretty new in 2015.


Chaney: [00:06:36] Like some of the larger matchmaker services were starting to kind of get their names out there and right start to hear it started they hear about e-design through those and then realized that you know I enjoy working from home. I like working with people online for different in general and my last job was actually completely online healthcare and so using all of those things together I decided to focus on the e-design part of design.


Jess: [00:07:05] Got it. Okay. And then with your clients we just communicating to them through video chat or how does that work.


Chaney: [00:07:15] So it's primarily through e-mail and then some other digital platforms. So it's you know through some different things like Ivy software and designfiles things like that do a little bit of streamlining of the communication and processes. But it's mostly through e-mails how I you know get in touch with people and pull them to work with me and stuff like that.


Jess: [00:07:41] Okay got it. Yeah and know these big companies started popping up one a couple of years ago. Like you said and then they started to e-design started to become really mainstream where everyone you know kind of knew about it but it was a new thing for me when I when I first heard about it through these bigger companies have you always worked on your own or did you ever partner with these these other big companies as well.


Chaney: [00:08:11] I did a little bit of partnering with them at the beginning of my business and I used it to kind of get some reps and get some more experience with working with different kinds of clients. But I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to be on my own.


Chaney: [00:08:26] I didn't want the restraint of someone else kind of controlling what kinds of services I could offer or deliver. And the payouts of course you can't dictate that either. I wanted to have more control over the processes. And what kind of clients I could attract based on packages and pricing and things like that.


Jess: [00:08:45] Right. Yeah that's definitely true I know. Like even communication is like a big thing to where you want to be able to communicate with the client directly and you know have them be able to easily ask your question without having to go through a third party. That was a big thing for me.


Chaney: [00:09:08] Yeah it feels like there's an extra step in between. Not as much of a personal connection right as it is working with someone directly I'm right there with you on that.


Jess: [00:09:17] So what was that moment for you when you decided to leave the health care industry and go into to Mix and Match Design full time.


Chaney: [00:09:25] Oh that was it was a big leap and it was a little scary. But it was actually my husband's encouragement that I decided to take the leap. I tend to be a little bit more conservative and in general on things like career path than entrepreneurship and things like that. And and he was the one who said you know you really love this stuff you want to do it. If you're going to grow a business into something that is you know bigger than just the side hustle you're going to have to take a little bit of a leap of faith. And I agreed.


Chaney: [00:09:57] You know I thought that that was absolutely true. And even if it was a little bit scary that it was probably going to be worthwhile long term. And I sort of had that you know I can always go back to health care if I want to later on. It's not that I really dislike it but I just knew that I wanted to pursue this other passion and see if it would work. You know and so you know we were in a good place for me to take a risk and so I've been spending I spent the first year kind of honing in the business model and figuring things out. And then the past two years I guess almost has been really just growing the business and figuring out if there are different ways that I can extend it. And you know the course is one of those ways the blog is one of those ways. Instagram social media all those kinds of things are extensions of Mix and Match and I've really enjoyed kind of dipping my toe into different areas and figuring out what I love to do


Jess: [00:10:56] Right, what have you found to work the most for you as far as you know getting new clients onto your onto your site.


Chaney: [00:11:07] So there's a few different ways. I would say that there's probably word of mouth is my best way. So like basically shouting it from the rooftops and letting everybody know that this is what I'm doing full time. For a while I was a little bit scared to put that out there.


Chaney: [00:11:26] But as the business has grown and people have started to trust my eye and my aesthetic and been willing to you know pass my name on to people that's been a huge source for me of people coming in the doors. And then the other social media and I would say that Instagram has been a great way for people to get to know me and my aesthetic. And you know whether they remember that that's the first way they came across me or not. Oftentimes it's like oh I found you know your your aesthetic and the way you talked about design to be very approachable and real life. And I felt like what you were doing was something that I could see come alive in my own house too. And so that was something that I felt like it was important for me to kind of establish out as a part of my brand and bring people in through social media as a way to reach beyond my kind of immediate network.


Jess: [00:12:24] And have you been. Have you been using Instagram. Like I've been posting mainly your projects or sharing like I know people use Instagram differently where they just share their portfolio or are they kind of you know mix and match with different companies and share you know other designers work as well. What have you found works for you. Is it posting daily you know projects that you've worked on personally or just you know mixing it with inspirational images as well. Y.


Chaney: [00:12:58] Yeah. So it's definitely both for me. I think that it's a combination of it's about I would say Two-Thirds my own work and then a third inspiration from other designers. Because the design blog is also a big part of my business.


Chaney: [00:13:15] You know pulling inspiration for people sharing my own projects all that kind of stuff gets mixed together. But I think that you can learn a lot from other designers not so Id like to use that as both a way to teach people and also as a way to encourage other designers. I think that we can create a great community out there social media and by sharing each other's work. You know it's not necessarily creating competition. Where people are coming to you for your aesthetic your brand your price point. You know let's be practical though. Like the person who can't work with Emily Henderson or Uber interiors or something might love their aesthetic but it's not in their price range or they're never going to be able to work with someone of that caliber. And so the rest of the design community is there for them. And so I think that if we can make sure that the right people are finding the right designers and then I see no reason why we shouldn't be sharing each other's work.


Jess: [00:14:19] Yeah totally agree with that. Yeah like like you said it shouldn't be you know competition we should be kind of rooting each other on and. And at the end of the day it's kind of your aesthetic that you're showing in your your Instagram handle. It's like you trying to give people you know a look and feel of what you what you what your taste is to so


Chaney: [00:14:42] Right. Yeah and your personality is behind it a lot of things that someone you know doesn't like the way that you talk on Instagram quote unquote in the captions. They're probably not going to work with you. And that's OK. They're not your ideal client and its about you know finding your voice finding your brands and sticking to that is maintaining the lane as I think very important. Doesn't mean you can't do other things and certainly no build on what you have. But it's it's important to find that voice and really share that with people and people will rally around that. I think to


Jess: [00:15:16] So you use Instagram as your number one social media platform. Do you blog still blog weekly how you were doing before.


Chaney: [00:15:28] Yeah I blog twice a week. Tuesdays and Fridays you can expect new posts. And so the Tuesday post is focused mostly on a couple different topics. It kind of rotates depending on what I had kind of in the in the hopper but it's usually something either inspirational. It's some sort of educational content or it's something that I'm sharing like one of my projects. Then on Friday's It's more of a kind of called them shopping post that's not exactly what it is but what it is is it's a rotation of kind of different series. Right now doing something called Get the look where I pull a photo from you know Pinterest or somewhere in another blog and find some pieces that people can purchase to get that look in their own homes so they can recreate it. So that's targeted towards you know people who are could be my e-design clients and kind of getting the word out there about what I can do and creating either e-design boards. Stuff like that.


Chaney: [00:16:31] But it's not just a resource you know people love to see the look of of another space come to life in their own home. So if I can sort of help bridge that gap from inspiration to reality then that's kind of the purpose of those hopes.


Jess: [00:16:44] Yeah I know you're part of a thread. I think it was last week when someone asked is blogging still working for people and I saw you answered on that you still have your blog. But I know for some designers it's like you could get so lost in you know there's so many different avenues that you could go. I like how a certain particular topic for each day. And I think that's kind of narrows it down because


Chaney: [00:17:18] Yeah. And I've been blogging for five and a half years now and so it's it feels very natural to me. But when I got first got started it was intimidating and hard. And like you know what am I going to talk about. What am I an expert in what can I say. And I think it just takes practice. So there's anybody out there who's thinking about blogging. And one thing you can do is just try it you know go out for a month not go out but you know what I mean for a month of no blogging and plan to blog once twice three times a week try out you don't even have to tell anyone that you're blogging.


Chaney: [00:17:57] You know it's not going to pop up on a lot of searches. It's a brand new blog anyway. So if you can just try it and see how you like it and if it's something that you can commit to and then I think it's worth a shot. There are a lot of benefits to blogging. I think you know not just education but there's a lot of benefits like SEO and ways to get Google excited about your content pull it up on search results and stuff like that. But I think it's beneficial in a lot of different ways but you do have to commit to it. I would say consistency is still very important in the blog world.


Jess: [00:18:30] Absolutely. And and you just released a course a new course on How to launch an e-design business.


Chaney: [00:18:40] I did. It's been really fun for me to put together. And the reason I wanted to do this was because about I would say six or eight months ago I started getting pretty regular inquiries from other designers who were interested in e-design as being a part of their business or are kind of aspiring designers trying to find their place in that world. And I would get these e-mails saying you how do you do this. How did you launch an- e-design business. How do you grow on this. I have all these questions. Can we chat. And so I would be hopping on the phone.


Chaney: [00:19:16] You know once or twice a week with people kind of talking them through how I did certain things or answering their questions and I realized that pretty quickly there was a need for something more comprehensive and that there wasn't a whole lot of straightforward targeted education about e-design and not even just e-design. But the business model itself though you know how do you actually price your services how do you market them to people. All these things that I kind of spent you know my first year in business figuring out and toiling through and trying really hard to do. But you know some things are successful some things are not. And so it just took some time for me to figure out like what is it that people want how can I be helpful and how can I enable people to start these businesses off on the right foot. And so that's where this course came in. And you're right. It's called How to launch an e-design business. And it's open for enrollment now and it will be open through the end of the month in February. So there will be kind of a cohort if you will of people who enroll this month. And then you know over time I'll be opening it for different sessions for people to join too.


Jess: [00:20:29] So this is something that they could do online is live or via video modules that they could watch at their own pace.


Chaney: [00:20:40] Yeah it's the latter. So it's all prerecorded content and there's four main modules that are about four hours total video content. And then there is additional kind of resources there's a workbook there's a couple of other little tutorial and different one and by calling them different templates.


Chaney: [00:21:08] There we go and templates for you to download and try and fill out and use in your business. So it's a pretty comprehensive course that covers a lot of different ground. It doesn't teach you how to design. I would say so it's for people who already kind of know that they want to be e-designers. They're just trying to figure out how to do this business itself.


Jess: [00:21:32] Yeah cause I know. I mean when one of the biggest problems is finding clients. There's so many different avenues that you can go like with mainstream companies or of or being on your own and trying to get you know your own clients to come in and come on your site. So yeah it's great that you have this program because it's it's kind of like a step by step guide that they could follow.


Chaney: [00:22:01] Yeah exactly. And I wanted to make it easy for people who know I didn't want people to have to struggle like I did at the beginning of a business. And certainly once you complete the course there's more work to do. You know you don't just turn a key and then the door opens and all the clients come in. Right. But I'm giving you a lot of tools a lot of kind of getting started tools and resources that will really help you get off the ground. And then from there it's about you putting in the work and the time to actually implement all those things. And it does take time.


Chaney: [00:22:36] You know this is not an instant solution just like any business you know it doesn't just magically happen but if you are willing to put in the work and kind of take these tools and information and resources with you then you'll get off on the right foot for sure.


Jess: [00:22:52] And how long did you stay the course was. Like how many weeks would it take for a designer to finish the course.


Chaney: [00:23:03] Oh I see. And so it depends on your pace. OK I know there is. There's four hours almost five hours of video content that you need to watch. OK. And then there's a 20 page workbook to go through. So you know however long it takes you to kind of do the exercises. It's kind of up to you how much effort you want to put into it. You're going to get more out of it wherever you put into it. But I would say probably over the course of a couple of weeks you'd be able to get through the material. I had one person who signed up last week towards that. It just opened February 5th and she already completed all the video modules by this past weekend. So you can definitely do it quickly it just depends on how much disposable time you have and you well if you're working full time it makes take a little bit longer. If you're a student or something then you may have some more flexibility to do these on a faster timeframe. Right.


Jess: [00:24:03] Yeah and then the Web site for your teaching course where could designers find that?


Jess: [00:24:12] They can find that at Launch and E-Design business at teachable. Dot com a little bit of a long one.


Jess: [00:24:18] I'll include it in the show notes as well.


Jess: [00:24:46] Before I let you go do you have any advice for other designers that I wanted to do what you do well besides taking your course.


Chaney: [00:24:56] If I'm going to be selfish I'll say take the course. No but I think that it really is about just getting out there. I think so much of the hurdle is just getting started. So if you can take a few steps that point you in the right direction. I think that that is just one of the best things you can do for yourself and for a business. And you know sign up for a course maybe mine maybe somebody else's maybe it's one of yours Jessica. But you know do those things those little things to help propel yourself forward. I think sometimes an anticipation is more scary than reality. So if you can actually move forward and take a couple of steps it'll you'll start to breathe a little bit you know and realize that it's not quite as scared as you might have thought and you have to work hard. I think that's the other thing.


Chaney: [00:25:48] Be willing to put in the work in the hours and you know that effort will pay off. Definitely. And tell all your friends and family and everybody in your Facebook feed and everybody that you're doing this and that'll help you get your name out there. R.


Jess: [00:26:04] Right. Because now you're accountable you have to.


Chaney: [00:26:07] Exactly if you have a lot on the Internet and you are accountable for sure.


Jess: [00:26:11] Well thank you so much appreciate your time and I know a lot of designers will get a lot of valuable information off of it. So thank you.


Chaney: [00:26:19] You're so welcome. Glad to talk to you. This is fun for me too.


Jess: [00:26:23] Yeah enjoy sunny Florida.


Chaney: [00:26:27] Thank you. I will be glad to escape the 23 degree weather.


Chaney: [00:26:37] I really hope you enjoyed that episode with Chaney Widmer of Mix and She's a perfect example. You know you don't need formal training if you haven't an eye. And you have a passion you believe in your talent and your services you can be really successful. You know what's great about having your own e-design business. What I love about having my own business is that you know it's your business you set your own hours your rates your payouts and you know if you don't feel comfortable doing it on your own right away you could start off by doing what Chaney and I did by partnering with some of these bigger e-design companies just so you could get the feel of what it's like to work online with clients.


Jess: [00:27:24] So if you're serious about starting your business and you don't know how to get started and you're you know you're willing to put in the hard work. Check out Mix and Matches course how to launch an E-design business. It's open enrollment now so people can join. And she teaches you how to get started. All right. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.