Business of Design best practices on capella Kincheloe Interior Design phoenix
Business of Design best practices on capella Kincheloe Interior Design phoenix

Back for another installment of the Business of Design, where I share with the interiors designers out there (and curious clients) about running an interior design business.I've been in interior design for about 10 years now.  In that time I've made mistakes, I've had great successes, I've seen others designers flounder and flail, and others have wonderful victories.  There are a few things that help things run smoothly.  It's incredibly important to have your systems in place for clients.  These are non-negotiable ways that you run your business.   They are your business decisions, you know that without them, your business could turn into a hot mess.


Always have the client pay you before you pay the vendor.  You could go a step further and require the proposal to be signed as well.  This is the approval of the item (sofa, lamp, tile, fabric) and it protects you from client indecision or changed minds.  If you order 120 yards of fabric and then your client changes his mind before he has paid you, there is no way to make him pay.  You're not a bank, don't give your clients loans.


This builds on the first practice, but for the same reasons you should get 100% deposit.  If your client changes his mind and doesn't want to pay the balance, or if the check doesn't arrive in a timely manner, then you could be stuck with the balance.  Again, you're not a bank and unlike a manufacturer you can't resell the item as easily.


This is such a hot topic in interior design and fellow members of the industry love to know how you price.  People ask me all the time about my structure.  It's what works for me right now and I tell them that it doesn't matter what pricing structure you decide on as long as your are completely transparent and honest with your clients.  Make it clear & easy.  I've done a breakdown of the different pricing structures in this post.  If you are confident in your services and what you charge for them, the client will also have confidence.  If they balk or try to negotiate a pricing structure that you are not familiar with or are uncomfortable with, they are not the right client for your business.


You are in business and depending on what pricing structure you have worked into your business, you should keep track of your hours.  This is especially important for those of us that run small design firms, you need to know whether your spending you time wisely, and if not, what you can trim out.  If you divide your yearly profit by your yearly hours, how much are you making an hour?  With the overhead and sales taken out of the equation, your $200 per hour charge may dwindle to $20 per hour.  This helps you figure if you are billing enough, if your design fees should increase, or if you are fine working for that hourly rate.  Knowledge is power.


This is the number one tool for keeping my business running smoothly, looking professional, and keeping me organized.  It is an accounting & project management platform for interior designers.  It keeps orders tidy, you can track hours, pay sales tax, send proposals, purchase orders, requests for quotes, specifications.  Its wonderful.  You're business is at a disadvantage without this program.

Now it's your turn, share your best practices in the comments below.

Looking for more interior design business advice?  Check out my online course, The Golden Blueprint!


The business of design working for someone else by capella kincheloe interior design phoenix I regularly receive calls and emails from other professionals wanting to know more about my straight-forward approach and thanking me for demystifying what so many others do not want to talk about.  The Business of Design is a monthly series particularly for my fellow interior design professionals.  It'll also give those of you that are enthusiasts a glimpse inside the trade.

Today, I want to tell you why it is so so so important to work for another designer before making the jump into going it alone.

The reality is that when you have your own design firm, your primary job is running a business, it is being a CEO not being a designer.  When you work for yourself you are a CEO that is in the design business, not a designer.  While you are working for another designer, you can remain solely a designer.

Design school does not provide you with a business degree and that is why no matter who you are, how old you are, how long design has been your hobby, or how many degrees you have you must get experience working with someone else.

Design is notoriously diversified - every designer does things differently and therefore the more people you work for the more you can learn about how to do things and how not to do things.

Not everyone has aspirations of starting their own business and being the boss.  Many of the best designers I know are happier working for someone else.  Its less stressful to work for someone else, you can expect a regular paycheck and consistent work, and your schedule is pretty standard.  In most businesses you are not responsible for obtaining and courting new clients and projects are handed to you.  It is someone else's job to do the accounting and bookkeeping, someone else to file the monthly sales tax, and income tax is taken directly from your paycheck.

While working for someone else you can watch how the Principal and other staff handle problems or issues that arise and know that the company and not you will have to eat the mistake.  If your end goal is to own your own business, keep an eye on the other designers that you work with, watch your boss, watch the accounting staff and even the receptionist.  Learn how the business runs, learn how problems are addressed, watch your clients and notice what the like and what they don't like.  Learn how business records are kept, how billing happens, what programs are used, what systems are efficient (or not).  The more you can absorb working for someone else, the smoother the transition from employee to employer will be.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

title image: my former office,

PS: Interested in more business of design?  Check out my online course, The Golden Blueprint