This Is How You Double Your Design Business Revenue in a Year

What is the one area of expertise that you can own? Is it modern design? Fabric design? Furniture design? Answer these questions, and you’ll be on the right track to doubling your design business revenue. “Never underestimate the power of niche,” says Sean Low, founder and president of the Business of Being Creative, an advisory catered to those in creative fields. “Make that your strongest asset, in fact. An essential way to increase your revenue is not to make an outrageous promise to reach X target or have an I-can-do-it-all kind of attitude, but to hone what got you a head start to begin with. Only then can you really go all out in your ask.”

And expect high gains in return. “Clients have no qualms in paying for design or products they think are extraordinary,” Low says. Specializing in one area or set of skills will lead clients to see your business as distinctive and more valuable, he explains. “Don’t go for, ‘I am the best designer in the world,’ but for ‘I am the best designer in this particular field.’”

It’s one of the many shifts that Low and industry creatives recommended to get set on a path to increased profits. While taking an audit of your firm and its processes is never a low lift, these changes can make a big difference on your bottom line. Read on for actionable advice from industry pros that will get your firm in tip-top shape.

Take an Internal Audit

As is often the case, change starts from the inside. For Lisa Frantz of New York–based Lisa Frantz Interiors, scaling her business revenue began with refining her organizational chart. “I’m a big believer that you have to spend on your staff to be able to handle different jobs,” she says. “I try to keep the size of my firm between four to seven high-paid, highly skilled people at all times.” She hires freelancers when workloads require it, but that sweet spot has allowed the firm to stay lean, work succinctly, and maintain morale. “Developing a really strong core staff that will stay with you for a long time is so important,” she says.

Not every role on that core staff may be billable—and that’s okay, says Frantz. A director of operations can be just as pivotal a figure to have on one’s roster. “A good operations manager puts tight systems and processes in place, essentially creating a blueprint for how you do a design project,” she says. “That’s how you can do multiple high-profile jobs and meet your targets.”

Attracting those high-profile projects brings to question another area of review: How is your firm’s brand marketing holding up? In the digital age, making a first impression may happen before you even meet a potential client so it’s important to consider the brand identity and experience your firm is projecting. “Branding, corporate identity, social media posting, the way you do your presentations—everything works towards raising your position in the market and the reach you have,” says Kevin Isbell of Los Angeles–based Kevin Isbell Interiors.

Review Your Rates

Understanding your value, as Low previously described, is just one part of determining your interior design fee. How you charge could be obstructing your business revenue potential. “Let’s say you have a project and make 45%, but [you] don’t sell anything into it—no custom work or built-ins—because you’ve used external partners. Your margins will stay at 45%,” says Low. “If, on the other hand, you make or source the products yourself and then sell them within the project, you’ll make extra on your original 45%. That’s where growth really happens: Expanding what you can offer within your niche allows you to charge more for your services.”

Optimizing your time is also essential to raising your profit. “If a designer can ensure that he or she can finish a project within the timeframe they set and charge 25%, they’ll make more money than peers who might charge 40% for a similar project but take double the time to complete it,” Low says. “Don’t extend work past due dates, and you’ll be able to create sustainable business processes in the long-term.”

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