Times are tough out there for everyone, so I am going to give you a few tips on how you can weather the storm and come out the other side with your business stronger.
Below are some tips or ideas on getting the most out of your business and staying a float in the current economic market. You can choose to do some or none, it depends how well your business is currently faring.
- Take out your financial accounts and review them, find out where most of your outgoings are are see where you can trim them.
- Streamline your office supplies, do you really need that cute little embossed leather bound folder to take to meetings or would a clipboard do? Get your real necessities delivered so you don't impulse buy.
- Streamline your travel commitments. Think ahead, could you call in at suppliers on your way to work or way home, could you make your appointments to coordinate so you don't have to go to and from the office in between, saving you time and money.
- Use the Internet and the telephone to source your products and suppliers. I know you love to "window shop" and get the feel good factor, but try and do as much as you can from the office.
- Get sales representatives to come to you with their product for a project. If they want you to specify it, then they can spare the time to come and show you what they have and why you should use it. Let them work hard to sell it. It saves you time and money driving around the town visiting all the showrooms.
- Visit the library for your design magazine browsing. Magazines are a cost that you could for go for a while until the economy picks up again. You will be surprised by the titles you find and international magazines available.
- Use any down time wisely, go through your old magazines and make up scrap books for your clients, group together styles of bathrooms or kitchens etc to save you time with your clients at a later date when you are brain storming to find their particular taste, likes and dislikes.
- Get your clients to sell their old things they no longer need in the room you intend on redesigning or decorating, this will make them feel better about going ahead and doing something new now as it will reduce the costs and hopefully encourage them to go ahead with the project instead of waiting till financial times get better. You will be surprised how many people will out bid each other for your clients old curtains at online auctions!
- Think reupholster instead of buy new, this can also make a project more feasible for a client. Reuse items they already have, repaint or refinish joinery, furniture and picture frames, new cushion or pillow covers, new tiebacks for existing curtains, check the garage for hidden treasures.
- Use this time to set up a website and start getting yourself listed in local design directories. Ring all your past clients and update their details and start a database so you can keep in touch with them, it's much easier to work on existing relationships than find new ones. A simple newsletter or blog will do, hey just like me!
- Focus on building relationships with current clients and offer incentives for positive word of mouth referrals.
- Have a look at how you market your business. Is it working? Can you measure how much each new client costs you to get? If not, try something new.
- Network! Network hard to get more clients, join community clubs, offer a free service in a high profile area, your local school perhaps, provide them with a free color scheme and then promote it like crazy! Nothing over the top like design a new building but something that will make an impact and get people talking about you.
- If you need to employ extra staff but don't want to commit in uncertain times, then hold and get help from an eager student or two and give them work experience. You never know, you may find the person that you want to hire at a later date this way, and it is helping out the design community by giving students a chance to get experience in a design business.
- This is the biggest and most important tip I can give you. DO NOT DROP YOUR FEES! You need to keep your professionalism. By dropping fees you actually make it harder for yourself to survive. You need to work longer hours to make the same money you did before. Then it only takes one client not to pay and you are in trouble.
- So a way to keep your fees the same and make sure you keep your clients paying you is to offer them a payment plan. This way you all get a good deal. They pay in small amounts as you work, and you know if they miss payments then you stop working on their project. You don't lose a huge fee, and you don't give them free work, allowing you to work on projects where the client is paying you!
- If your clients dry up a little, use the time to study in an area that you feel you have a weakness, we all have one! Perhaps CAD, or something for the future to do with sustainability. This will increase your repertoire for when you get busier again.
If you want to find out more ways to streamline your design business and get it working for you, Chris Brown has written an ebook encompassing all areas of a design practice. You can read more about it here.
If you want to get studying for free you can always sign up for the interior decorating or curtain design ecourse we provide. Yes I know you are all waiting for the color ecourse and the kitchen design ecourse, I have no excuses, they are still underway, the website redesign has taken a lot longer than we expected, so stay subscribed and I will keep you in touch.
If you didn't get the latest newsletter, then you won't know about the free toolbar you can download from the website. This gives you quick and easy access to our website when you need it. A great way to keep up your learning in your downtime! You can find the free toolbar here.
Bye for now and best wishes for surviving the global recession.
Oh and feel free to add any ideas that you have for getting through this difficult financial times in the comments, the more ideas the better, if we all do our best to make positive changes, the economy will pick up so much faster.