Working as a couple and the successes and failures as freelance interior designers

By The Design Cure

A brand new Podcast where Jess and I interview ourselves about successes and failures that we have had as freelance interior designers and as a couple working together on a day to day bases. We go in depth on what it was that allowed us to go from employees to freelancers.

Show Notes:

Design Board Bootcamp

Episode Transcript:

brian: [00:00:02] What's up guys. Welcome back to another design cure podcast here. Today we're going to be. Well we were supposed to be talking to a couple but didn't end up happening. We have a bunch of questions here and we were like well what should we do.


jess: [00:00:18] Hi guys yes. We're supposed to be really a couple from Australia. I totally screwed up with the time zone but that's going to be the next episode that you hear we're going to be speaking with Lauren and Mika of my little empire dot com. Really excited about that. But today we are going to go over some of the questions that we had for them and we're going to be answering them ourselves based on our experience and background.


brian: [00:00:47] All right so to start off I think what we should first do is define what it means to be successful in this world of online interior design. Just want to get to start off with what you think that is for you.


jess: [00:01:02] Well for me it's not just about online or not online. I think the problem with online interior design is that you kind of end up working for crumbs. You know you spend a lot of time working on these projects and you end up getting you know low payments from it because of all the competition out there.


brian: [00:01:34] So why do you think that is. Is it the type of client that you're working for.


jess: [00:01:39] I think generally all of these you know big e-design companies maybe they cater more to the lower end sort of group that has a smaller budget but I think you know both online and in person how you could be successful is kind of narrow down what kind of client that you want to work for. You know what's worth your time and you know from there he could start setting your own rate and not feel like you have to be limiting yourself to you know these companies


brian: [00:02:20] Right. So I think that's something that we did have do early on. I remember when you were working. But that was when you kind of generalized your service.


jess: [00:02:37] Yes so I mean it was a good starting point for me because I never worked online with clients before and I needed to sort of get a feel of what it was like to you know source things completely online and not ever meet with them in person. So you know if you're wanting to build your portfolio it's definitely a good place to start. For me you know even they recommend not to not to count on that income as as your full time income. It's you know just sort of freelance projects so from there I started going off on my own and started to kind of niche down my service to multifamily. And that's where I found my passion in working with those types of projects.


brian: [00:03:39] Right. And so they basically nitch down your whole thing instead of trying to do business to a mass audience. You did it to find her niche.


jess: [00:03:49] Yeah. And that was working for developers.


brian: [00:03:53] So guys if you guys are out there. And I think this goes true for a lot of successful interior designers. And just you know artists around the globe and no matter what industry are in really niching down and figure out who your target audience is who you're passionate about serving is really going to be a big step in the right direction for for kind of just not generalizing here service like they said if you if you're trying to talk to everyone you talk to no.


jess: [00:04:24] Yeah. And then from there once you figure out OK who. Who. My ideal client is Then start to kind of use a language you could start to produce content that specifically for them and it just it makes it that much easier and makes things more focused in terms of you know creating Blog Post story or Instagram post or you know putting ads out. It just makes that content more geared towards that specific client.


brian: [00:05:02] So bottom line being successful in the online design business and basically even if you're not online it's all about niching down to your strengths and really serving a particular audience that you can find and that you love. So let's keep going down the list here we've got a few questions that we're going to ask the couple we're supposed to interview today and the next question is can you give us a little glimpse of your professional background. So I think we kind of did that in the first episode or just give us a quick summary.


jess: [00:05:36] Yes so I got my bachelor's back in 2007 in interior design and from there I started working in corporate architecture firms in Los Angeles mainly and then we moved up to Canada and I went into more health care and corporate design still and from there I went off on my own. That's when I started working for Lauren Wolf and then I started taking on my own multifamily projects so my focus has really been more corporate and multifamily projects


brian: [00:06:24] Yeah. So that's all your professional background always talk about why you got interior design like when you're a kid. Did you know you were going to be an interior design.


jess: [00:06:35] I don't know. I don't think I knew what it really was until I was in high school. When someone I think a recruiter came in to our school and you know kind of gave a gave us a little tour of what they offered at their program. But I mean I was always the kid that could set up doll houses for hours and I. No one else was ever allowed to play with me. I was always someone you know just I could just sit there for hours setting up houses you know made out of cassette tapes or pizza boxes and so I knew I wanted to do something creative I just didn't know what it was.


brian: [00:07:21] I bet you're not the only. I bet there's a lot of interior designers right there right now sitting who used to play the classics. If you were an interior designing and you said plated with dollhouses now is your drive to become an interior designer. Send us an e-mail. Give us a heads up so we just nominate you're out there if not tell us something else. Why was it into your design for you. All right so let's see what's next on the list here. We got.


brian: [00:07:47] OK. So what was the aha moment for you to take the leap and start your own business.


jess: [00:07:54] For me it was what initially it was wanting to have the freedom I didn't want to be an office anymore. I wasn't making all that great of an income. And I just I wanted to be able to travel more I wanted to spend more time with my family. And the only way that I saw that I could do that is if I had my own projects my own business.


brian: [00:08:24] A little background on us. I'm from Ohio jess is from California. And you know our families are big and they're into different parts of the country so we had to figure out a way to be able to spend more time with them we are big family people. But we're kind of the black sheep of our family so we all. We both went off to design school and got our degrees and now we have to work in big cities mainly in order to keep that going. So that was at the point where we were just like we got to figure something out. And luckily this big online boom happen.


jess: [00:09:02] Yeah and then I started to see you know other people having their businesses online with shops or with you know just different different industries and I felt like well they could do it why can I do it. So that was kind of what you know was a lightning bolt for me.


brian: [00:09:24] Right. What's it like once you start really studying the online Game It's amazing how many different streams and flows of income you make for yourself. Yeah. And that's kind of some we're trying to bring to you guys in this show is we want to start presenting all these different little nooks and crannies that you can start bringing money into and really give yourself a sense of security and protection for a long term design business.


jess: [00:09:55] Yeah I think it was the first. I mean the the first person that kind of inspired me was listening to Pat Flynn's podcast and you know just hearing how he got started selling courses for his lead exam. And I'm I'm familiar with because I am in that industry. It just goes to show that you don't have to have a big studio or a lot of clients or be working for a studio to be successful could be up on your own and make it work.


brian: [00:10:26] All right so let's move on to the next question. When did you launch The Design Cure.


jess: [00:10:32] So that was back in 2015 that's when you know I was working for these online companies and also for you know doing some drafting work on the side. And they just I wanted to take on my own projects and not go to this third party just you know have more control over that. So I felt like the way to do that was to start my own interior design company The Design Cure and that kind of slowly progressed to helping other designers with their design presentations. Which is what The Design Cure primarily is about now.


brian: [00:11:17] Yeah I mean we used to have clients that we have. And we keep it we keep it fresh only keep learning new we keep learning ourselves. We are right now learning some expert SketchUp stuff that we have a trainer that came in and he's teaching us like all the bells and whistles and he's also going to be teaching you guys too because we have a course coming out in June I think to start really showing interior designers the exact workflow they need to cover instead of having to waste so much time. So that's a big thing of what we've become is trying to figure out the fastest way to get great results. And that's why we teach what we teach but at the same time are also interior designers ourselves. And we're you know trying to get bigger and bigger clients.


jess: [00:12:10] Right. Yeah I mean for me it's kind of I've been working with mostly multifamily these past couple of years and I really want to grow that you know this coming year. So that's kind of my goal for the interior design part of the business for the coursees teaching side of the business. We have a photoshop course that's been really successful we got a lot of great feedback. A lot of designers are getting jobs. You know after finishing our course or you know they're going out on their own and offering e-design as a part of their services. It's not just residential design that we see coming through we see a lot of those show that designers and commercial designers.


brian: [00:13:08] Even stage design like set designers. Basically from all over the place but I think at the end of the day it's just it's just really rewarding for us and to see that we're helping a lot and we're helping to kind of take the e-design movement a little further. So go to the next question how do you manage responsibilities and business in the business and who is responsible for what as a couple.


jess: [00:13:35] So for me I'm responsible for the design part of the business so I work with the clients directly. I'm you know I'm out there specifying finishes picking out different materials and that I also manage the partnerships and content because you know my background is heavily in design so I'm constantly doing research on that and putting out there for our audience.


brian: [00:14:07] Yup and I'm there to help present your designs to the world. And basically where we work together to make really awesome images. Because my background is mainly in graphic design and matte painting for feature films. So I've come from a ton of software training that I'm that I'm bringing in a table here and yeah presentation is everything I think like I mean without each other we wouldn't be able to do very well I think because there's just if you could be an amazing interior designer and you could you know really be able to do better than anybody else in the market. But if you can't share that vision with the world then that's nobody's going to see it.


jess: [00:14:55] Or if your stuff looks kind of amateurish too you know what you want. It's especially now like you could learn this. There's no reason why you can't pick up this software knowledge you know and keep up with the digital age these days is there are so many resources out there now and you know you want to be able to stand out and not get lost in the crowd.


brian: [00:15:29] It's constant like more and more competition is coming. So we have to stay ahead of the game to make sure that we keep getting clients which means better looking presentations than anybody else. But it's now more more posts to social media just coming up with ways that even if we don't have clients at the time we're still submitting images to the world and attracting new clients. So let's go to another question. What was the worst entrepreneurial moment in your entire design business. This is a juicy one I think.


jess: [00:16:04] I think it was probably the beginning stages for me is when I was working you know not setting my own sort of rate I was making so little that I just felt like no it wasn't really worth my time and I didn't realize you know that I didn't have the confidence that I could go off on my own. And then you know all it really took was getting my first client and having you know a great experience with that that really gave me the confidence to you know take on more and more clients


brian: [00:16:44] So the worst time in your entrepreneurial moment as an interior designer was when you didn't have confidence.


jess: [00:16:55] Yeah.Because because then you start kind of working for pennies. You become a slave yeah you become slave.


brian: [00:17:11] And yeah I remember like how disappointed you were like just you paid all this money to go to interior designs. You come out and you basically get taken advantage of by these like super sleazy


jess: [00:17:32] And I think I mean and that's all part of the sort of learning process to as an entrepreneur.


brian: [00:17:40] You've got to learn to protect yourself. Right. You had to be. Could you talk more about maybe protecting yourself against clients.


jess: [00:17:47] Yes. So I think you know for me having a you know very clear fee proposal contract has been very important. You know setting those terms from the geico call what else.


brian: [00:18:10] So like a really strong contract right. That that says if this than this.


jess: [00:18:16] right and you kind of get you know those initial instincts when you first meet clients till like if they're going to sort of nickel and dime you for everything or if they're going to be more you know professional and an easy to work with. So I think it's just kind of follow your instinct too.


brian: [00:18:41] And at the end of the day you need to know how valuable your time is right. Right. So like if you're spending hours and hours on something and there's no money on the table yet and even if there is a promise of money is there enough to to to value your time to each hour. And there's definitely ways of kind of coming up with how valuable your time is.


jess: [00:19:07] Yeah. And for me it's kind of figuring out OK how long does something like this say a set a drawings or render you know how long is it going to take me. And what would my rate be for those hours. So that's kind of how I see if it's worth my time or not. And then you want to see you know if the client is willing to work with if he has you know good budget to work with.


brian: [00:19:40] I think a lot of people say OK so let's let's do this. We don't know each other very well in a client designer relationship. So why don't we say in the contract that you're going to spend the half in the middle of delivery I'm going to deliver you A &B B And then you're going to pay me half and then I'm going to deliver you C & D.


jess: [00:20:04] Yeah. Well I'm I mean it's tricky because everyone there's so many different ways to go about it. I normally do a retainer of you know a certain percent and then I do phases. So all I'll request a deposit a retainer is essentially a deposit of say you know 5 percent of the total project and then I'll have deadlines set for each phase of the project so say it's schematic phase. Okay so when I deliver that that's when the first payment is due. So I mean everyone's different. I know you know some designers collect the total fee at the end. It's really what gives you peace of mind. I just found that that works best for me is kind of splitting everything into phases and then that way you know the client isn't hit with the lump sum in the end too and we're kind of on the same page. Or you could do. You could work off their budget and do an hour to a budget sort of fee. And if you're going over your hours then you could sort of raise talk about talk about it with them about raising the budget. So it's just different ways to go about it.


brian: [00:21:37] I think people are going to get a lot of value from that so let's go onto the next question. What is a typical week like for you too.


jess: [00:21:47] Well you start


brian: [00:21:49] Well I think date night is my favorite part of the week some on Sundays. So we have two date nights. So that's definitely my favorite part of the week. The rest of the week we are slaving away a lot of times we're working on blog posts content. We're hiring teachers


jess: [00:22:18] we run our Photoshop bootcamp course three weeks out of every month.


brian: [00:22:24] We have a group finishing up right now who are doing really well.


jess: [00:22:29] We're very active within each group you know making sure that the designers are progressing within the course. So yeah we have a lot going on


brian: [00:22:41] Right now we're about to be transitioning them into the alumni mastermind group which is just an ongoing group that we provide our students where we kind of all just you know keep in touch when we talk about jobs we talk about problems that we're having. We talk about you know even partnerships within the alumni community where we're we can all work together.


jess: [00:23:05] Yeah and it's it's been really cool to see when you know when designers share their projects that they're currently working on or they get a certain job. It's it's been really rewarding to see you know how far they could take their photoshop skills to get them more projects.


brian: [00:23:25] We just had a big kind of social media party for somebody who just got a job in Havenly. That was fun. OK so what else do during the week. We got a concert coming up.


brian: [00:23:40] Yeah we're seeing pink martini this weekend. Heading down in Washington. Again that was a date a date night.


jess: [00:23:50] And we are also pregnant. We are five months pregnant. So we have baby stuff too. Like I have ultrasound meetings and stuff like that. So we also have a lot that we have to kind of work within our schedule.


brian: [00:24:08] Yeah bringing her life into the world for the first time. A little nervous a little scared. But I think it's all going to work out great.


jess: [00:24:17] Yeah and I think that's one of the other reasons why we find you know having your own business so important is because we are going to be able to spend that much more time at home with our child. And you know not be you know stuck to an office somewhere.


brian: [00:24:38] Yeah I can't I can't I can't even think about like having to leave you two every day. Yeah. And go off and work and then only see you during the worst times of my day. When I'm tired in the morning and tired and cranky so hard I can't I can't fathom it which just gives me more passion to really work hard on in and our business and make sure it happens. It all comes together and at the end of the day I think what the most important thing for your business is is figuring out how well you can serve somebody how much can you possibly help somebody and if you can do that right you are going to do well. Like that's what I think we're focused on again is how much value can we give to people. There's there's nothing more important than that. And a lot of that is just getting feedback from what people need. So make sure you reach out to your audience. Talk to your clientele Get out there boots on the ground if you need to. And it doesn't just have to be social media but to get out there ask them what their problems are even if they're with an interior design service that maybe they're not enjoying it. What problems are they having. Check out blogs and forums and just try to solve more problems. Anything on that.


jess: [00:26:06] No I think you hit all the key points.


brian: [00:26:08] I'm getting fired up right now. All right. See was the biggest business failure you had. And what did you learn from it.


jess: [00:26:21] Well I think not being focused I think on what we were trying to what we were what we were trying to do with that with our business. I feel like in the beginning you know which I think a lot of businesses go through. You get so scattered you get so lost and you know in different ways you could go so .


jess: [00:26:56] I think it was really listening to what ours like seeing what our strengths were and listening to what people were asking from us and kind of working with that


brian: [00:27:10] Kind of goes into our next question of what's a personal habit that contributes to your success. Maybe it's listening.


jess: [00:27:17] Yeah that and I feel like when you're working on your own you have to really learn how to manage your time because no one is going to tell you. You know this is what you need to do today like they do when you work in an office so you have to you know set priorities and figure out what's important and you know manage manage all that. Get it done.


brian: [00:27:44] Yeah. And I've had we've had several coaches in our lives that we've turned to like . Millionaire Hustler Program. And the point is that like it really helps to have a coach sometimes like just to have somebody in your ear even reading books like Gary Vaynerchuk he puts out a ton of content about marketing and sales and just always having somebody in your ear which is something I hope we're doing for you guys just being here to give you valuable information to give you maybe even a push that you need to keep going and keep striving for for more. If you're stuck in a pit you know like we were and you're just not making much and you're working your butt off. Just keep going and keep looking and asking yourself questions about how you can serve your audience and you'll get there. So yeah listening I think is one of our biggest habits. Do you ask that question.


jess: [00:29:00] What's the biggest challenge you found working as a couple.


brian: [00:29:07] Well we bicker like crazy sometimes


jess: [00:29:11] And think we don't like normal couple bickers we bicker over business stuff. Mainly


brian: [00:29:17] Yeah. Like it's always about the business is always about where we should be spending our time in business or it's or when you want to talk about it I'm over it and I just want to watch TV and go to sleep or just set my brain off.


brian: [00:29:33] Yeah I think it's just working together. You're constantly going to have to work on getting better at it and I think we have like where we are now compared to where we were a couple of years ago when it came to taking the leap from our businesses and dealing with each other and dealing with the hardships that came because of us being entrepreneurs on our own has really improved. And it just comes down to to to working it out working each scenario out and coming out on top or at least improving on it on communication listening.


jess: [00:30:26] Yeah. And sometimes having a separate work zone is really helps because sometimes we don't even realize we're distracting each other


brian: [00:30:39] Because we we're in different separate different areas than we're we're not like I'm not hearing her music or something. And it's like triggering me to want to go get food.


jess: [00:30:51] Or He can't stand my mouth clicking


brian: [00:30:54] Or if she's sight chewing on something


jess: [00:30:58] And you are such an angel.


brian: [00:31:01] Yeah.


brian: [00:31:03] So next question. Let's see. OK last question. What advice would you have for designers that are wanting to do what you guys do.


jess: [00:31:22] One is sort of niching down who your ideal client is. I feel like another thing would be you know what your what are your strengths.


brian: [00:31:41] Figure out what your strengths is what's your what's your competitive advantage what are you naturally good at the other people struggle with them. {.


brian: [00:31:52] Once you figure out what that is you just make sure that you mentioned down to your specific passion. And then from there it's just a matter of systematically creating plant


jess: [00:32:11] Right and sticking to it being consistent. It's a big thing we have. It took us a long time to learn that I think the consistency is key.


brian: [00:32:24] Now we're still working on again like it's really hard to get up a few blog posts all week this podcast, courses and classes and sticking to our designers. But it's important are passionate about which makes us be able to stick with it. So you got to love with what you do. If you don't love it then you guys might as well just quit now and try something else that you do love because it's going to be a long road but you can definitely get there can definitely get there. So I think that brings us to the end of this podcast. Anything else in closing comments.


jess: [00:33:03] Let's see well I'm excited to see the final design boards from our current class this Friday. Every one is going to submit their final designs. I'm going to share that with you guys on Instagram so if you guys want to check that out. Also we're starting a new class and me. And you know we're really excited about that. We are doing something different with each new class so you know the designs are fresh so I'm pretty excited to see where designers come up with


brian: [00:33:44] And yet we have we got more stuff coming up to. And more on that later. Thank you guys so much remember to subscribe to the podcast if you haven't already so you get the next one when its ready to go.


jess: [00:34:01] Joining us we appreciate your time. See you next time.