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Mastering the Interior Design Business Model: How to Manage Your Business So You Can Focus on Design

Interior designer managing business

Interior design is one of the rare professions that demands both big-picture genius 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 visions come to life seamlessly in the eyes of your clients. The sheer number of physical objects, logistical processes, and calendar events that you must manage per project makes the typical interior design business model far more complex than the business model of most other industries. Compare it to a marketing company, for example, which is focused on just one thing: selling ideas. An interior design company not only sells ideas, but then turns them into tangible environments. Every interior design project has multiple phases, each with its own set of project management and bookkeeping needs.

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 businesses 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. It is far too common for designers to cobble together makeshift systems from a myriad of spreadsheets and manually generate client documents on an ad-hoc basis, wasting precious hours and making countless human errors. However, the right software solution can put these struggles firmly behind you. Design Manager is a project management and accounting tool built specifically for interior designers that will allow you to finally put your makeshift systems out to pasture.


Why Interior Designers Need an Integrated Project Management and Accounting Solution

In the business of interior design, project management and accounting procedures are closely intertwined with an important sequential dynamic that is ongoing throughout a project. Once a project begins, so does a continuous process 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. Design Manager organizes your project data into a graphic tree so that you can facilitate complicated sequential processes with clarity. QuickBooks is not capable of organizing your data for you, so all of the project management falls on you.

Additionally, interior designers have a much more complicated billing structure than most other businesses. Compare the billing structure to that of the earlier mentioned marketing company, which typically charges clients by a singular metric, such as time. The interior design business model, by contrast, includes several streams of revenue 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. This process involves applying a complicated system of markups, discounts, and fee calculations. Design Manager can save these calculations and automatically apply them where specified, while QuickBooks, built for a simpler business model, requires you to manually enter the calculations for each individual item. This feature alone can save countless hours of manual data entry and stem the potential opportunity for costly human errors.


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 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. 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 portal 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 to the vendor and then an invoice for your client.

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. Also, the documents presented to clients often include multiple images, which must be manually inserted into spreadsheets or 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 generate limitless branded proposals, invoices, and purchase orders with a function to attach images to an item, saving you the trouble of re-inserting the same image into every new document created for that item.  

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.


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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