Real Designer: Julie White

Interview with Arizona interior designer Julie White about running an interior design business

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.  

Headshot of Julie White from J White Designs Arizona

About Julie White After working for an award-winning design firm in Phoenix, Julie started J White Designs in 2012.  At this point, she has over 13 years of experience in residential and commercial design focusing on high-end residential design, which is apparent in her beautiful project photos.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from Arizona State University and is NCIDQ certified.  Julie has clients all over the state of Arizona and, full disclosure, is one of my local design friends.  You can read more about her business in Client Confessions.  

What traits or talents have made you successful?  Being a collaborative, team player and attention to detail have always been strong suits of mine that help make a project successful and in turn, increased satisfied clients and referrals.

How do you charge? For new construction homes, I charge a per square foot, flat design fee. For remodels, I charge an hourly fee that doesn't include client communication or local travel. For furnishings, I most often charge an hourly fee.

What is a typical project like for your business? Our typical projects are new construction, beginning with space planning with the architect and ending with furnishings installation.

Outdoor Living in Arizona with interior design firm J White Designs

What has been your biggest sacrifice in running your business? Honestly, I can't recall something that's a "sacrifice" per-se.  I've put my kids in preschool, spent late nights working and had traveling, occasional weeknight or weekend meetings which all results in time away from family and added stress on myself and those around me but that's nothing that wouldn't have happened with any other "job".  

What is the biggest lesson you've learned running your business? Relying on professionals to advise and assist in realms of business that aren't your expertise is paramount!  As trained and skilled designers, our efforts are better spent on design and client consultation rather than accounting, taxes, admin, social media, marketing and photography. Of course, we have to do all of this on our own at some point but there comes a point where it's more cost prohibitive to do it yourself and it's better to rely on a trained professional for their skills.

What does success mean to you? Nothing like fame or fortune, success to me is just an honest day's work for the ability to provide for my family, plan for an enjoyable retirement and have time to help others and give back to the community.

When you stumble how do you pick yourself up?  Organizing my life, listening to music and solitude always refresh me. Oh and a good massage, a nap and a glass of wine... those are always welcomed!

Arizona Great Room interior design by J White Designs

Do you have a favorite quote, motto, mantra, affirmation?  In my personal life, I'd say "enjoy the little things in life! For one day, you'll look back and realize they were the big things." Professionally, it'd have to be "do what you love and love what you do".

What drew you to interior design? My love of architecture and space planning has been strong since elementary school. After being advised the best architects started out as contractors with on-the-jobsite experience, I opted to turn towards interior design as a career.

How do you wish the design industry was different? Better distinguishing between the terms decorator and designer through licensing would be an amazing accomplishment for our industry!

Looking back, is there anything that you wish you could've done differently running your business?  I wish I would have focused early on in establishing a strong foundation, business plan, website and team of professionals while I had more time and focus. Doing it after I'm full of projects is so much tougher to carve out enough time.

What are you most proud of? I'm most proud of the strength and consistency of my business. With minimal marketing, I've been able to build a consistent stream of projects and reliable monthly income. Not having those were the biggest fear of starting my own business.

What is your biggest struggle in running your business? Carving out time to work ON my business has always been a struggle. I often find myself prioritizing client needs and family time to my business needs.

Arizona Living Room interior design by J White Designs

Any sage advice or words of wisdom to fellow designers?  Plan early and plan often. Plan for how you want to run your business, how you want it to evolve and how you want to gain clientele. And carve out at least a few hours every month to turn those thoughts into reality.

What is on the horizon for your business?  In the very near future, I will be hiring a full-time design associate and debuting a new website design and rebranding. Over the next year, I hope to balance my professional and personal life better.

How has your business changed since The Golden Blueprint?  Capella and The Golden Blueprint have taught me so many things about the business side of interior design and how important it is to prioritize being a CEO and working ON your business. Because of The Golden Blueprint, my business is becoming more organized, more professionally presented and more balanced between a group of professionals that "make it happen".  

You can contact Julie at julie@jwhitedesigns.comAll photos courtesy J White Designs.

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