The influence of social media on our lives is hard to ignore.
A few of us may still remember a world without full, instant, and unfettered access to thousands of photos of gorgeous interiors of every type and style.
But those days are gone.
As people get more access (via Instagram and Pinterest) to how beautiful living spaces can be, they want the same thing for their own homes and their own social media feeds. People who never considered hiring an interior designer may find themselves considering it now.
Interior design also feels more achievable to more people. They can take their pick of the hundreds of photos they see online, choosing the looks that reflect their own style and replicating them as closely as possible.
Designers need to be aware of how these marketplace shifts affect their business and adjust accordingly. But that doesn’t mean that they need to start offering budget design packages for those who want a little help copying their favorite Pinterest look.
Here’s what I suggest.
Understanding The “Mainstream Buyer”
Here are a few things that you should understand about this quickly growing segment of the interior design market.
They Tend to Have Limited Budgets
Unlike the “traditional” interior design client of the past, these “mainstream” clients might have smaller spaces and smaller budgets.
Those factors aren’t a problem in and of themselves — great designers can do amazing things with small spaces. The problem comes in when these clients are also hunting for a bargain, as many of them will be.
To protect your bottom line, you need to find the clients who are happy to pay you what you’re worth as long as they get a great value in the end. As I’ve written before, clients who are looking for discounts are a red flag. Trying to win clients based on price results in a race to the bottom.
A “luxury” brand is important because it puts the emphasis on exclusivity and experience instead of price. Click To Tweet As I mentioned in my post on positioning your design service as a luxury, a true luxury product doesn’t aim to be “easy” to get. In fact, its scarcity may add to its appeal.
Discounts and price competition will corrupt your luxury brand and puts your profitability at risk.
They Tend to “Play it Safe”
“Mainstream” clients don’t tend to want to take any artistic risks. Unlike the typical interior design client of the past, they’re not exactly trying to come up with something interesting or statement-making.
Their current living situation probably has very little design thought put into it, so even copying an image from Pinterest could be a big upgrade for them. However, as we know, even copying a Pinterest look can take a lot of time and energy in sourcing, measuring, and styling, which is why they might be looking help in the first place.
They Might Not Be Able to Appreciate Your Expertise
If someone is looking for a designer primarily to help copy a look or come up with something similar to what they’ve seen online, they won’t necessarily be looking for someone with years of experience and a distinctive artistic vision of their own.
They’ll be looking for someone with some technical skills, industry knowledge, and willingness to jump in on a project on short notice.
However, it’s a designer’s artistic vision and distinctive style that sets them apart in the marketplace and keeps their services from becoming a commodity.
When you spend too much time working for clients who are fine with “mediocre” designs, it adds nothing to your portfolio. It also takes time that you could be spending creating designs that you truly love.
That’s why the designers with consistently distinctive brands are the ones who stay the most profitable.
Why to Avoid Mainstream Buyers
It might seem crazy to actively avoid the largest group of potential interior design customers on the market, especially when the group seems to be growing.
However, I still think that interior designers should keep magnetizing that small group of “perfect” clients. These clients are willing to pay for the best and who will bring out the best in you.
If you throw your hat into the ring and compete for “mainstream” customers, you’ll find yourself up against huge corporations that have leveraged the power of software to do a lot of the heavy lifting for clients who aren’t looking for something standout or unique. These programs spit out personal style results from online quizzes and source products from the same groups of online retailers, sometimes with the help of a real designer who works for relatively small fees.
Why compete with those programs if you don’t have to? As we mentioned in our post “Do These Things and Clients Won’t Give Competitors a Second Look,” there are plenty of consumers out there who are more interested in investing in design services that are exclusive, and personal.
They don’t want what everyone else is getting from the big corporations. They value the full experience of working with you personally to come up with something unique and different from what everyone else is doing.
A Few Exceptions
Despite the importance of relying on a relatively small group of clients for your main income, I can see a few possibilities in which established designers can ride this wave of mainstream interior design popularity to benefit their businesses.
I’ve mentioned before how important it is for interior designers to diversify their incomes with multiple revenue streams, such as your own line of products or complementary services.
If you want to work with clients who don’t have huge interior design budgets and are just starting to understand interior design concepts, you could potentially create a paid course, a series of webinars, or even a written guide or ebook that gives them an introduction to how they can approach design.
There’s significant potential for these digital products to be profitable because after you put the hours in upfront, the income continues to roll in with little additional work from you.
However, these digital products will only have an impact for designers who have already done the hard work of consistently posting to social media and growing a large, diverse following. (For more on the power of consistent marketing, check out our full post: The Power of Establishing a Continuous Marketing Cycle for Your Interior Design Business)
If you don’t have that big following yet, continue to build that up, hone your brand, and find those ideal clients. As I noted on Instagram, it’s been my experience that designers who carve out their own niche experience rewards in all categories: creative freedom, great relationships, handsome profitability and a life with ease.