In my interview with Ajia Monet, the story was revealed of how someone could make it in the interior design world without a lot of formal certification.
Of course, there are a lot of interior design institutes and courses out there that do award certification and many aspiring designers undertake these courses.
How should one proceed from there? What other skills are necessary to succeed?
How long have you been in the industry and how did you get your start?
24 years, I went to Paier College of Art and I interned with a New Haven firm. That helped my resume when I started replying to interior designer positions at Architectural offices.
What would you say have been your biggest successes and biggest struggles working in the interior design industry?
I have worked on a number of progressive schools who focus on the arts and being creative. When a student or principal sees you years later and mentions how the design and the building are a learning tool it is a good feeling.
Struggles, it takes time to learn what you need to know and be respected by the architectural community. I believe you just have to put your time in. It seemed like it took forever but it really was a blink.
Millennial may not like this aspect.
In the course of your daily work, what do you find to be the biggest sources of pain & aggravation (i.e. what are your biggest daily hurdles)?
In a small business, ever changing technology is the hardest thing for me. When I began working some small Architectural firms were still hand drawing, then there was a series of programs, DataCad, Aris, AutoCAD, Revit etc..many firms use a combination and use each program in their own way. As a consultant now it is an adjustment…but a manageable one.
What do you do to keep up with the latest trends in the industry?
I think product knowledge via seminars, shows, tours and rep visits are my best way to keep up with an ever changing and growing industry. I have always felt firms should give their designers education days to keep updated. Some firms believe in this like mine.
How would you say that you are able to differentiate yourself from the competition?
Well it may seem strange but I use the skills my parents, grandmother and teachers taught me.
- Return Phone Calls
- Say Good Morning
- Go the extra mile for someone
- Treat all people with respect
- Be honest
- Do good work
- Know your client/audience
Being a talented designer is only part of the job. The people skills and basic good work manners are required. It is amazing how many stories I hear about professionals not doing these simple things.
Is there anything that you know that you wish someone had told you when you were getting started in the business?
Two things, intern at a variety of places. Not all the same. Get to know what type of designer you want to be.
Take your tests to get professional status as soon as you are qualified. Once you start changing your personal life it gets hard to study for those much needed exams. Get them over with.
How did you find clients in your first year?
A friend and established Interior Designer was retiring. She had a few clients that needed a designer that she could no longer assist. She referred me and I was interviewed by her clients (end users and Architects).
I also started my own business 20 years after being in the industry so my work and reputation were known. People began to know I was on my own and reached out.
What do you do differently now?
My projects now that I have my own business are more diversified vs. a focus in Education. The more diverse the more opportunities one may have. Planning a Science or Art Classroom is similar to a Maker’s Space so it works well to work in a variety of markets. It only increases your skill and you meet more people /clients.
I also have changed my hours of operation from 8-5 to 10-6:30 and I will do some appointments by request out of these hours. This flexibility has been successful.
Do you have a referral program?
I do not have an official referral program as each project’s scope is different.
But I do believe in giving clients repeat business special rates and honoring a referral bonus when it applies.
I also refer many product representatives, engineers and even Architects therefor the “favor” of a referral is often returned.
Remember referrals are opportunities not projects. In our world you earn a project through your skills, talents, availability and fee structure.
How do you collect your testimonials?
When I have a client and the relationship is more than good and the job is also going well (as all projects are not perfect). I just ask them if at the end of the project if they would mind writing me a referral letter or a line or two I can put on social media.
I also then seek permission to publish or professionally take photographs and show them publicly. Most times in commercial work clients will respond with a “yes”.
Once in a while a clients asks me if I would like a letter. My guess in this case they value them. I always say, “yes”.
To summarize, my talk with Deanna S. Dewey dwelt on 2 aspects of interior design.
One, learning never stops, even if you’ve got a degree in the subject.
You need to keep up to date with the latest trends and technologies which Deanna accomplishes via seminars, shows, tours and rep visits.
She believes that design and decorating firms should give their designers time to overhaul their learning and skill sets.
Two, it takes time to gain acceptance and recognition in the design world. And it’s not only your technical skills that matter; but also your people skills and etiquette.