All this month I’m interviewing real-life designers about what it is like to run a design business. As you’ll see these ladies have all different backgrounds and experiences, but one thing they all have in common is that they have taken my course, The Golden Blueprint.
About Claire Worth Parkinson
Claire grew up in Southern California and always loved interior design. Like so many of us in interior design, she was constantly rearranging the furniture in her childhood home and even painted some kitchen cabinets while her mom was out of town! She graduated from UC Berkley and received an MFA in Interior Architecture and Design. She's worked with several design firms in both residential and commercial design, including AirBNB's San Fran headquarters. As the Elite + Celebrity Design Manager for Decorist, she had plenty of experience with e-design. Claire lives in Los Angeles, has been running her own design firm, Design Worthy, for about a year.
What traits or talents have made you successful?
A tough one right out of the gate! I think success is something I will always feel like I am still striving for, but I can say that I have really high standards for myself and my work. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of a project researching and planning the details in order to minimize potential issues. I want my clients to feel confident that when I present a design to them, it means I have fully fleshed out all the details and have plans in place to bring that design to life.
What is a typical project like for your business?
I stick to a pretty defined process, at least initially. In short, this involves an initial consultation meeting, a detailed client questionnaire/Pinterest review, a design presentation (concepts, space plans, furniture/fixtures/material selections, and a budget). Once the design is settled, I send estimates for approval, collect funds and manage the purchasing/expediting process. I love installing projects all at once so will often keep items in a storage facility until install day! I work on projects that range from e-design projects to renovations - definitely varies.
How do you charge?
I charge an hourly rate for design time as well as a 25% mark-up on products I buy for clients (not to exceed retail).
What has been your biggest sacrifice in running your business?
Relinquishing a feeling of general security! When I dreamed about starting my own business, I knew that meant I’d no longer be collecting a regular paycheck, getting health insurance through work, or having design mistakes covered by my boss. It is a scary feeling to be out on my own with no safety net. However, I know that there is no reward without risk and for me, there is no greater reward than living out my dreams and driving my own creative projects.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned from running your business?
To follow my instincts and have confidence in myself. I’ve learned that “perfect is the enemy of good” - If I spend time second-guessing and being fearful of failure, I will never end up putting myself out there. Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and go for it!
What does success mean to you?
To be happy and creatively fulfilled, to feel like I’m positively impacting my client's lives after the project is installed - not just creating beautiful spaces, to be respected by my peers and to make a comfortable living. If I end every day feeling good about the work I did, I consider that a success.
When you stumble how do you pick yourself up?
I have always been really hard on myself - a true perfectionist and a notorious people-pleaser is a tough constitution to have in a creative industry! Running my own business has been a great lesson in learning how to better accept criticism and not take things personally. Whenever I make a mistake, I try to focus on how great it will feel to never make that same mistake on a future project. Mistakes are inherent in the design process - it’s my job to foresee and mitigate them whenever possible, and to creatively solve the mistakes that do arise.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Yes - one quote that has always resonated with me is: “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” I struggle with comparing myself to others, especially in the social media age. It can often feel like every single person around you is pumping out incredible designs for amazing clients, traveling all over the world, accepting awards and publishing books. I try to take comfort in knowing that my personal journey is mine and mine alone - no one else has the exact same path, and that is what makes the world an exciting and unique place. I truly believe there is room for everyone. It’s just a matter of putting yourself out there and doing positive work.
What drew you to interior design?
I have always believed that a well-designed space can have a huge impact on a person’s mood, productivity, health, and general well-being. I feel really lucky that my clients trust me to turn their interior environment into spaces that foster joy and a feeling of “home.”
How do you wish the design industry was different?
I would love to see the design industry as a less competitive, more collaborative space. I have found that designers can often be protective of their contacts, vendors, contractors, etc. I get it. Everyone wants to find that amazing piece, avoid design copy-cats, and never have a scheduling conflict with a sub. BUT imagine how the whole industry could be elevated if we were all more collaborative - sharing ideas and vibing off one another’s creativity?! I would also love to see more attention to sustainable, eco-friendly design.
Looking back, is there anything that you wish you could've done differently running your business?
I’d love to say I never look back, but let’s be real… I wish I had started an Instagram for my business the day the app came out. I wish I had gotten to the place I am now 5 years ago. I wish I was “further ahead”... These are real things that pop into my head on a daily basis. HOWEVER, I realistically know that I couldn’t possibly be doing what I am doing now without the experiences that led me to this point. I can honestly say that I am grateful for every step in this process and look forward to the next stages.
What are you most proud of?
I am so proud of myself for taking the leap of running my own business. It has always been my dream and ultimate goal - I feel proud of myself for pushing the fears and doubts out of my mind and just hitting the gas pedal.
What is your biggest struggle in running your business?
Procrastination! I am a major perfectionist, which means I often don’t even want to start a project or task for fear that it may not turn out perfectly. That’s probably a major reason I was drawn to a deadline-driven business. I always have a lot on my plate - operating a business, doing marketing and social, designing and managing projects, billing!! It can be a struggle to manage my time… I live by my Google Cal! I try to batch my tasks, outline my week and stick to it. Always a work in progress...
How has your business changed since The Golden Blueprint?
I learned a lot through The Golden Blueprint - the biggest help for me was to set aside “CEO time” where I slowed down and really took a strategic approach to operating my business. It made such a difference to take a break from the constant to-do list and take an academic approach to goal setting and “process”.
Any sage advice or words of wisdom to fellow designers?
Do great work, every day. Building something you’re proud of takes time. I also think it is imperative to hone your process - clients should be able to trust you and your expertise. When you project that you are in control of the project, your clients will be more confident in you and can better enjoy the fun parts of the design process (which is kind of the whole point, right?!).
What is on the horizon for your business?
I am so excited about the projects I am working on right now - a modern home in Berkeley, a vacation home in Geyserville, a beautiful home in Los Gatos and a totally FAB Palm Springs reno. In the next year, I want to focus on marketing and exploring every opportunity that comes my way. I love creating content and writing about design, so I would like to expand that part of my business while continuing to work on great projects for wonderful people.
Tired of other designer's not sharing what they know about running a design business? That stops now. This is the blueprint for you design and build your business in 7 weeks so you can do what you want to do: design.
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