The Nuts and Bolts of Starting a Design Business

Recently I had the great pleasure of taking part in the ASID California Peninsula Chapter's Emerging Professionals Series, which focuses on topics relevant to students and designers starting out on their path in the profession of interior design.

Held at the beautifully appointed Riggs showroom in Burlingame displaying the full range of SubZero and Wolf appliances, the event hosted more than 50 ASID members looking to find out more about how to develop their careers through NCID certification, business systems such as the Mydoma Studio project management tool and understand more about the nuts and bolts of getting an interior design business off the ground.

I remember clearly being a student at Canada College studying for my Certificate in Interior Design and asking my fellow students who were further along in the program, my lecturers and anyone I met at industry events so many questions! My goal as a student was to have my own firm and I was keen to build my industry knowledge and find out how to do it faster, better and more efficiently once I started Alina Halloran Design.

For me, this thirst for information was never about how to design beautiful and functional spaces. That was a given! I'm a designer and I always knew that part of my job inside out. Really, the questions were all about being an entrepreneur and building business systems and processes around the design to be a sustainable and successful firm for the long term.

Planning a cohesive presentation for those starting out in their career was a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect and take stock of what I have achieved since starting Alina Halloran Design in 2013. It made me realize that taking the time to think about business process and investing in management tools in the early days, has truly paid off.

So what are some of the key points that I talked about? I separated out all the aspects of the business into three main components; business basics, creativity, and mindfulness. So what does this mean?

Business basics is the straight forward part, and is simply a checklist of items such as business name, bank accounts, support team (accountants, vendors etc) and the like, but also includes strategy such as setting goals and reviewing your marketing and social media. Getting this established early on, creates a sense of identity and allows you to have a consistent approach to how you conduct your business. 

Creativity relates to having a clear focus on who you are and where you fit into the design world. Are you a kitchen and bath specialist? Purely residential, or even more niched into a lifestyle category or particular aesthetic? If you're clear about what market you're working within, then it makes it easier for clients to find you.

Mindfulness is actively learning for improvement, growth and change. Learn about the industry and keep up to date with new products and developments so that it is at your fingertips when it comes time to implement them into a project. There are a wealth of events hosted through organizations such as ASID, NKBA showrooms and product manufacturers that provide in depth information.

Being mindful also extends to setting aside time to review your processes and planning on a regular basis so that you evolve and grow.

It can all appear overwhelming at first trying to attack each of these components at once, but the key thing is to start somewhere, research and start doing it.  Like all businesses in any industry, your processes and systems will change as you refine them over time and new ways of doing things come about. Be a step ahead and it will pay off!

I know that the way I do things at Alina Halloran Design is very different from when I started out, but the key components remain the same as they were carefully thought out before execution to make sure that I got it right! It has helped me avoid costly mistakes and I know that clients are reassured that their project is going to be completed successfully knowing that there are systems in place.

This approach has surely been one of the reasons that I have been awarded a HOUZZ Customer Service award for three consecutive years as I have created a consistent approach that manages client expectations and seamless execution of the design projects. 

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