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How to Make Your Design Business Stand Out From the Crowd

Your potential clients have plenty of options when they start looking for an interior designer. What will make them choose you?

There are multiple factors, of course. It helps if they feel like they connect with you personally, for example, or were referred by a friend.

But by far, their final choice will be made based on which designer’s work most closely reflects their own tastes and priorities.

It’s impossible to create a portfolio that can adapt to the personal tastes of each potential client you pitch. But that’s OK. You don’t need to appeal to everyone. The key to standing out from the crowd is cultivating a distinctive design style that you love, and then sticking to that style.

By choosing the path that makes YOU stand out (as we discussed in our last post about getting the BEST design clients), you’ll become a no-brainer for the clients who feel a special connection to that style.

A consistent, beautiful and vivid brand for your interior design service is what you need to help spark those connections. Let’s go through the steps together.

Visualize it / Create a Vision Board

You’re probably used to creating vision boards for your clients. You collect the materials, colors, fabrics, and individual focal pieces that set the tone for the project and display them together to bring it together cohesively.

It’s time to do the same kind of styling for your own business. After all, you’re probably a visual thinker (most designers are) and you’re selling a visual product, so it’s the best place to start.

As you create your brand’s vision board, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to attract to your business?
  • What future do you see for your business?
  • Who would you like to serve with your business?
  • How do you visual working with your clients?
  • What speaks to you?

Don’t rush through this step. Treat it just as if it were a client project and make sure you get it right.

Articulate Your Message

Once you’re satisfied with your vision board, take a look at it. Notice the patterns.

Then, try to articulate your vision into a concise, descriptive mission statement. (All businesses can benefit from a mission statement, and your design business is no different.)

When crafting the statement, focus on your competitive advantages on the end benefits you want to deliver. What sets you apart from your competitors, both visually and on the business end?

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Something too vague like “Designing gorgeous interiors in the [city] area” is too vague for a competitive marketplace. It won’t set you apart from the crowd.

Here are a few examples of good mission statements for interior designers:

  • Creating warm, inviting and beautiful spaces where families truly feel at home.
  • Concierge design for busy professionals who want stylish, refined and impressive living spaces.
  • Clear your mind and regain your focus with Zen-inspired living spaces for all budgets.

If it helps, use the ideal interior design customer profile you created and picture the customer as you write it, imagining that you’re speaking to them directly.

Refine Your Portfolio

Armed with a clear vision and mission, you can now start refining your portfolio to reflect that vision and mission.

If your portfolio currently showcases some work that doesn’t seem to accomplish the goal established by your mission statement, you need to replace it with work that does.

This overhaul doesn’t need to happen overnight. Keep your mission in mind as you cultivate new projects and shots, and soon you’ll have plenty of images to replace your older work with.

If it helps, you may want to update your shot list to make sure you’re including the angles and features that best illustrate your brand and reinforce your signature styles for each project.

Over time, you’ll develop a portfolio with a consistent tonal value full of work that points back to your mission and vision.

Refine Your Brand Voice

A brand consists of more than just visual elements, of course.

One element that’s particularly important to interior designers is voice. The words and tone you use on your website and social media accounts should be consistent with your brand, too.

If your mission statement is all about simple, Zen-inspired spaces, your language should be calm and streamlined, not bubbly and effusive.

Similarly, if your style is more bohemian and colorful, a buttoned-up and professional tone of voice won’t work.

[bctt tweet=”Developing a distinctive brand voice is often as simple as letting your real voice shine through in your writing.” username=”idmasterclass”]

Before you write new website copy or a new social media post, ask yourself if the tone you’re using is consistent with the brand you’re trying to cultivate.

Developing a distinctive brand voice is often as simple as letting your real voice shine through in your writing. Just as you did when you were writing your mission statement, picture yourself talking to a good friend or a good client as you write. Then, after you write something, read it out loud to see if it sounds natural coming out of your mouth and modify as necessary.

The Dangers of Over-Specialization

When I encourage designers to choose a more specialized path, there is inevitably some opposition. Designers fear that a distinctive style won’t appeal to enough clients, or that they’ll get bored by focusing on just one style.

There is a risk of going a little too specialized, of course. A mission statement like “Designing the perfect cowboy-themed rooms for children” isn’t going to get you much business. If you find that the pool of potential clients in your sales pipeline is dwindling, you might need to do some tweaking.

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But generally, these fears of specialization don’t materialize into legitimate business risks.

On the contrary, specialization puts you in touch with your ideal clients and makes projects more fun by letting you really become an expert in the style you love. Freedom.

And specializing doesn’t have to mean that all of your work looks alike or that it has to stay the same forever. The beauty of styling your brand is that you can continue to refine it as your business and your style evolves — and it WILL evolve over time.

The key is that when someone looks in your portfolio, they recognize a common thread throughout all of the spaces you’ve created: a thread that’s uniquely yours.

Plus, if you really do get bored, you can always dabble in other styles for consultations or for other projects that aren’t destined for a spot in your portfolio.

I’d love to see your brand’s vision board and hear your mission statement — be sure to post or link to them in the comments, or add me to your private Pinterest board.

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