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Mastering the Interior Design Business Model So You Can Focus on Design

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Interior design is one of the rare professions that demands both big-picture vision and obsessive attention to detail. Not only do you continuously invent new ways of using and enjoying space, you also provide all the necessary pieces and direct every installation to ensure your designs come to life seamlessly for your clients. 

And because the interior design business model is so unique, it can be hard to find the right tools to manage it. Most of the popular business software on the market was designed for simpler business models with a singular focus. 

These options cannot capture the vast amount of data your business is built on, nor can they produce the visually compelling, image-laden proposals and invoices that your clients expect from an interior designer. Too often, designers cobble together makeshift patchworks of spreadsheets and manually generated client documents on an ad-hoc basis. 

The right software solution can put these interior designer struggles firmly behind you. Design Manager is an integrated project management and accounting solution built specifically for interior designers that will allow you to centralize all of your operations into one secure, intuitive dashboard where you can access thousands of tools to make your business more efficient. It’s key features are grouped into the five main categories of the interior design business:

  1. Project Management
  2. Purchasing/Order Tracking
  3. Accounting
  4. Reports
  5. Inventory


Why Interior Designers Need an Integrated Project Management and Accounting Tool

When it comes to interior design business management, project management and accounting processes are closely intertwined with an important sequential dynamic throughout a project. Once a project begins, so does a continuous exercise of ordering materials and furniture, tracking the production and shipment of such, and collecting payments — all of which occur in a prescribed sequence that must be properly managed to keep the project funded and operating on schedule. What’s more, every interior design business has its own proprietary spin on the interior design business model, so any support tools used to facilitate operations must be customizable. 

Design Manager allows you to:

  • Input steps of your processes so the system can automatically update items as your team completes the steps. 
  • It will also organize your project data so you can always see your project’s status as it relates to company status. For example, QuickBooks is not capable of organizing and reporting data by project, so all of the project management falls on you.

Additionally, interior designers have a much more complicated billing structure than most other businesses. Compared to, say, a marketing company, which typically charges clients by a singular metric, the interior design business model includes several streams of revenue and fee structures, as designers not only charge for their time, but also earn a portion of revenue from the materials and furniture they acquire for a client. 

Interior designers usually collect deposits from their clients, making billing a multi-step process and complicating cash flow. All of these processes involve applying a system of markups, discounts, and fee calculations, which are unique to each interior design business. 

Design Manager allows users to:

“Design Manager makes it really seamless to accept payments digitally. The best part of ACH payments is how easy it is for my clients to click and pay and I am immediately notified via email, Design Manager is automatically updated and the money hits my bank directly a few days later.”


Interior Design Business Models Demand Adaptability

Interior design businesses are also unique in that they rely on several external parties to create their finished products. While a marketing professional has complete control over her idea, an interior designer relies on a larger network of specialists to turn her idea into a built environment. One project might require working with architects, electrical engineers, construction contractors, and plumbing specialists in addition to furniture and fixture vendors, and it is your job to stay in step with everything they do that will affect your finished product. Julia Mastandrea, Chief Operating Officer of of W Design says

“Design Manager has helped us keep everything organized in one location. We are able to do all of our processes through the program, which saves us from using various different programs to accomplish this – Excel, Word, Quickbooks, etc. With Design Manager, we can keep track of our receiving status, updates, warehouse numbers, acknowledgements, delivery tickets, and inventory all in one place.”

The interior design business model demands flexibility, scalability, and adaptability to accommodate projects with a wide range of scope so that you are never compromised, no matter how many balls you have in the air. 


Design Manager provides: 

  • A common workspace for you and your employees to view and enter information, which makes it easy to stay on top of everything. 
  • Also, users and data are unlimited, so you can keep your entire team informed of each and every detail.

While most interior design businesses follow the same broader business model, not every business or project requires the same style of management. Unlike marketing, interior design is a primarily relationship driven business that requires handling each individual client with a tailored finesse. 

Design Manager is flexible enough to allow steps to be skipped when appropriate. For example, if you choose not to issue a proposal or collect a deposit from a trusted, long-time client, you can skip these steps in Design Manager and move right to creating a purchase order and then an invoice.


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Presentation is Key: Create Professional, Branded Documents for Clients

Lastly, as an interior designer, everything you present to clients must be visually pleasing, down to the paperwork. Consistent graphic design is essential to your branding, but can be tricky to incorporate into spreadsheets, purchase orders, and invoices without spending several hours in graphic design software customizing each document. Also, the documents presented to clients often include multiple images, which must be manually inserted into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or any documents generated by QuickBooks. Having a tool to automatically generate these documents using branded, easy-to-read templates not only saves time, but ensures a consistent and professional experience for clients. 

Design Manager allows users to:

Know Where Your Business Stands With On-Demand Reports

Operating an interior design firm requires excellence in both creativity and business management, which is no easy feat. One of Design Manager’s most beloved features is its vast reporting functionality: Detailed reporting on any part of your business operations is only ever a few clicks away. Sales tax reporting, for just one example of this, and shows how Design Manager is built for the niche needs of interior design businesses. Staci Davidson, operations manager at Leighanne Lamarre Interiors, has shared how hard it was for her to find the right platform to help with her company’s accounting needs:

“Not only were the number and types of reports that the competitor’s software offered limited, we found several instances of inaccuracies in the reports. The software was pulling data from QuickBooks in an inconsistent and indiscriminate manner. As a result, we went through a period of overpaying our sales tax, which was a costly mistake. We also spent a significant amount of employee resources on fixing the problems caused by this technical disaster.”

Migrating her company’s operations to Design Manager solved this problem for good:

“In Design Manager, I can log into a client’s portal, quickly navigate to the sales tax reporting function, and then customize any dates to pull up a sales tax report for the period needed. That report will show sales tax for every jurisdiction in addition to the total. It will also show, line by line, every single invoice to every single jurisdiction and the related project information. It will show dates, the gross amount received, the sales tax received and the taxable and non taxable items. Competitors’ reports only show a total for every jurisdiction.”


With such a complex business model of intersecting project management and accounting processes, it’s no wonder you need business tools that are designed to address your industry-specific needs.  After all, your passion is designing spaces, so the more you can count on software such as Design Manager to keep your business in check, the more time and energy you can devote to doing what you love. 

Design Manager has thousands of features to help make your interior design business more efficient.  From spec sheets to time sheets, Design Manager is constantly adding and updating features to offer interior designers the best operating system in the industry. 

To learn more about Design Manager and how it can help your business, sign up for a free trial today.

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Lindsay Paoli
Lindsay Paoli
Lindsay is in charge of the Sales and Marketing team at Design Manager and has enjoyed growing the DM company for the past 10 years. In her spare time though, you can find her taking care of her two adorably demanding little rugrats, traveling, enjoying new restaurants or cheering on her beloved Philadelphia sports teams with her friends and family.

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