There are many qualities integral to being a successful interior designer, but ultimately you’re only as good as your network. Continuously growing and nurturing your network is key to long-term success, and is vital not only to meeting new clients, but also finding the perfect vendors, staying aware of the latest advancements in the field, and having the support of a community that welcomes you.
Your network can include anyone who you admire professionally, you want to work with in some capacity, or who simply like what you and who you are. Everyone in your network should be someone you would be happy to help as much as you want them to help you. Because networking takes time, effort, and money, target the best places to meet people who you can meaningfully connect with.
Before you begin networking, make sure your portfolio and website are flawless, your social media accurately expresses your brand, and your perfectly crafted business cards are ready to go.
Once that work is done, you’re ready to try these 5 great ways to grow and nurture your network:
- Key In-Person Industry Events: Major markets, showhouses, and conferences is one of the very best ways to meet new vendors, colleagues and potential clients, and to strengthen existing relationships, as well. Events such as High Point Market, for example, are places where the entire interior design community come together. In addition to major industry-wide events like these, events for complimentary industries such as building, commercial real estate, and art offer ways to connect with architects, contractors, real estate developers, and artists who you might want to work with — not to mention potential clients.
- Participate in Design Competitions: Showhouses are one type of design competition that can yield positive press coverage for your business. They are also a great way to form deeper connections with colleagues, as you work alongside other designers to design a room in the house. You will also surely meet potential clients who see your work when visiting the exhibition. Some prestigious design competitions that can give you a breadth of positive exposure include the Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards, NYCxDESIGN Awards, and the IIDA Interior Design Competition
- Community Involvement: Buying tables at charity events, donating your services for a good cause, and setting up an impressive display at local small-business events can get you the kind of local attention that quickly generates word of mouth referrals. Any chance to meet people in your community and talk about your business face to face is good. Joining your local chamber of commerce is also a great way to meet fellow local business owners who can be a wealth of wisdom for you to lean on when needed. More specific to interior design, local chapters of the major interior design associations provide ample networking opportunities and helpful resources.
- Partnerships, Alliances, and Collaboration: As you build your network, mentally bookmark people who you might want to work with down the line. These should be people who closely align with your brand and who have a skill set that complements yours, and vice versa. Once you solidify those relationships, you can use your social media presence to mention and applaud these people as a way of strengthening your bond with them and expanding your audience via theirs. You can form partnerships not just with individuals, but with brands as well.
- Master the Digital Space: Social media is paramount to marketing your interior design business and engaging with your network. See our most recent social media guide for everything you need to know. Make sure your business information is accurately listed in Google, particularly your location. Also, create a Houzz profile for your business. This is an easy way for people to find you and it brings the appearance of legitimacy to your business. Lastly, attach a blog to your website, and/or send a regular newsletter to your network. Doing so gives you a reason to communicate with your network with regular frequency (once a month is standard). To avoid your newsletter going straight to the junk folder, work hard to craft content that is fresh, helpful, and something your readers will look forward to. Lastly, master SEO to drive users to your website.
Growing your network is an important part of building a successful interior design business, and it can be a lot of fun, too. Remember to focus on connecting and nurturing relationships with people you like. The more authentic you are in your networking, the more fruitful your connections will be to your business in the long term.