oh, to be 21 again…. Fresh out of Design school, and ready to conquer the world.
The thing is my career was wide open. There were as many options within the Interior Design field as you could imagine. Since commercial design did not appeal to me, residential was the way I was going to go.
I started out working for a builder designing model homes. This was so much fun! When a model home needed staging I would go to the warehouse and pick out what I needed and then spend the week putting it together. If I needed anything additional, I would go shopping. It was a hard life!
It was great! I even worked in the office occastionally drawing floor plans, making renderings of the models, and preparing samples for the model home.
It was a dream job…
Until that builder merged with another company. A much bigger company that did not need a local designer. They brought everything in from Atlanta. They brought a truck full of furniture and accessories and I don’t know, maybe the designers were on the truck too. Ha!
I could have stayed in the office and done the drawings. But I knew I needed more than that. My ADHD side would not be stuck in an office.
There are some things I wish I knew when I graduate Design College.
#1 I wish I knew that I did not have to be everything to everyone.
When you first start out, you want to take any and every job you can. You want to try everything to see what you love best. But, I did that for way too long. There is no room to be picky when you need to pay bills. I have done everything from paint murals, sew drapery, and do full construction projects. When you are a perfectionist, your craft can take forever cause you never want to stop “fixing it”. I would tell a client that her kid’s mural would take 4 hours and it would be 8! What I have learned is that just because I can do it, that doesn’t mean I need to do it for hire. Now I stick to the things I can fit in my schedule, that I can complete efficiently, and do well. In order to enjoy what I do, I need to make sure that I have time for my family. This balance has given me a renewed joy.
That leads me to my next thing I wish I knew when I first started.
#2 I wish I knew how to estimate my time.
Most projects people need to know what it will cost and estimating each project was difficult at first. Of course, this would come with experience. But you have no idea how many hours I would pour into each project. Each new client got the complete experience even if it killed me to deliver it. That is just who I am.
#3 I wish I knew the value of networking with other designers.
I had a couple brushes with some designer snobs that pushed me away from the Interior Design community for a long time. I let a few bad apples ruin a lot of years of potential growth from others. Now I am apart of National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) I’m even a local chapter officer. I look forward to meeting with other designers and learning from and with them. Nashville has lots of designers, but that is not intimidating anymore. It feels great to be with others that share the same passion and talent. Not only locally, but I have tuned into an awesome on-line community as well. Reaching out of my island has opened up so many amazing changes and in my business and personal growth. I am learning everyday and am able to bring those things back to my clients.
#4 I wish I knew how to sell myself.
What is funny is that right after designing model homes, I went into selling furniture. I became great at selling furniture. But I was a designer first. I would sketch out each client’s room, I would make sure everything coordinated and then when it was all put together, the design would sell itself. Well, it may seem like a free service, but for what you paid for our furniture, you definitely paid for my time. I had to do a mind shift when I went on my own. I had to be confident in the gifts and talents God gave me. And anyone who wanted only free advice didn’t really value me. And we have to move on from those people no matter what we do for a living. We have to know what we bring to the table and own it.
Now I know...
I am good at what I do. I provide an amazing service with a lot of value. For the client that is just starting out with me, I have design packages that spell out exactly what you get. For my return clients, I still walk them through their individual design plan. At every stage, my clients know where we are at and what our timeline and goal is. I am a designer that has invested in professional training and continues education and learning industry standards. I am constantly looking at what is new with each vendor, and attend industry trade shows. I meet with other designers to brainstorm and streamline my processes. I am organized, thorough, and want to create a space that will reflect my client –not me. My clients are happy. PERIOD. I have great relationships with all of them. Relationships that have meant a lot to me. I am blessed and love serving those I work for to make beautiful spaces they will enjoy.
My college experience was great. But I learned a lot after Design College. Every experience has taught me something that school could not. Even now I work part time for a Kitchen and Bath firm and am learning so much from them. I never want to stop learning. This is an ever changing and exciting field. I love what I do and will continue to work hard at being the best I can be.