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Interior Designers: It’s Time to Stop Looking for External Validation

We all occasionally want some external confirmation that we’re doing things the “right” way.

It’s healthy to look for guidance from those who’ve already traveled a path similar to the one we’re on, or who have accomplished similar goals as the ones we’re aiming for. Many of us look up to certain designers as our inspiration or even see them as our mentors. Getting validation from them can feel great.

But there’s a difference between being inspired or open to advice, and feeling like you’re not on the right path unless someone else is confirming that for you.

You may think you need validation from the design community, from a particular designer, from loved ones, and even from clients. Sometimes this desire for external validation is completely subconscious. But whether you’re aware of it or not, the need to be validated can cripple your artistic vision for your interior design.

Here’s why and how to develop the self-assuredness that your interior design business will need to thrive.

First, Stop Looking for a Handbook

I think interior designers are particularly at risk for self-doubt because the design itself doesn’t always give objective answers. There’s not always a clear answer to the question of when something is “good enough” or “finished,” for example.

There are also plenty of gray areas to navigate on the business end of interior design. Because interior designers are often solopreneurs, they’re inundated with decisions nonstop. In addition to the actual creative work that clients pay for, they’re in charge of everything from deciding what to charge for their services to choosing the company logo.

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Faced with all of these choices and often treading new territory, it’s no wonder that designers often assume that someone else out there must already have the answers.

Yes, you can use proven templates and spreadsheets from experts, you can learn a lot from books, and you can consult with people who have similar challenges. But the odds are that there’s no “wrong” way to get the job done.

To learn what will work the best for you and your business, you have to try things yourself. The nature of being an entrepreneur is that on some level, you’ll always be winging it. Stop looking for a handbook and embrace the thrill of making decisions the way you think will work best.

Stop Asking for the Client’s Permission

To a certain extent, you do need the approval of at least one other person on your designs: Your client.

But that doesn’t mean that you should be necessarily looking to them for validation.

Although they do need to love their design in the end, they should be seeking validation from you, not the other way around.

As I’ve written about before, taking control of the design process is part of what makes this a luxury experience for your clients. If you ever give them a sense that they’re the ones who have to start making the decisions, they may begin to doubt your expertise. They also may seize the opportunity and begin weighing in on every little choice, inserting themselves into the process too heavily.

Clients should have hired you to do the heavy artistic lifting, and because they felt a connection to your unique style. If you ever get the sense that a client doesn’t completely trust you to handle their project, you should reconsider taking the project on at all.

As I wrote in my post, Start Standing Boldly in Your Designs Today, you should always be prepared to defend your design decisions. That’s why projecting a sense of confidence is so crucial. [bctt tweet=”No one is going to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.”]

Respect the Role That Confidence Plays in Creativity

Most of us are at least a little familiar with our “inner critic,” or the voice inside our heads that fills us with doubt.

It’s hard to get work done when you hear that nagging voice telling you that you’re not good enough. When it feels like someone is looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to procrastinate or stop to run your ideas by someone else.

But there’s more at stake than just lost time when you listen to your inner critic. Listening to voices of doubt can keep you from being bold in your designs and making the art that you truly love. It keeps you playing it safe and in the zone of mediocrity.

Your style, your creativity, your unique artistic perspective, is absolutely the most valuable thing your business has. If you can’t find a way to trust your instincts and silence your doubts, you might never fully realize that perspective.

Worry Less About Your Credentials

Learning and knowledge can be powerful tools. But if you ever decide to pursue a course or degree in interior design, you should do it out of your own interest. Don’t do it out of a need to impress other people, or out of the belief that it’s the only way to prove your talent.

The fact is that your clients don’t care much about the credentials that other people issue. All they care about is whether you can deliver a beautiful space in your unique style on a budget that seems reasonable to them.

You don’t need a degree to prove that. You need:

  • A fabulous portfolio
  • Reviews and testimonials from other happy clients
  • An impressive interview and sales process that show you’re competent

If you have these things, potential clients are unlikely to go digging for official certifications. Similarly, it might not matter much if you’ve been designing for a year or 10 if you can prove you can get the work done well and on budget.

In the end, you’re the only one who is the expert in the type of design that you love the most. You’re the expert on your artistic vision.

Related post: How to Stay in Your Zone of Genius as a Designer

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Banish Doubt

If you need to silence the inner critic as you work, think about some of the projects you’ve loved the most or some of the toughest challenges you’ve overcome. Try to see yourself the way your best clients see you. Pretend to be confident: Act like the designer that you wish you could be. You may find that soon enough you won’t have to pretend anymore.

In my post Why You Need to be Your Own Biggest Cheerleader, I go over a few other tactics to boost your confidence when you need it.

Finally, seek out support and camaraderie from other people who are also trying to run a small interior design business. Knowing that you’re not alone and discussing pressing issues with other smart, driven designers who are also making their way through new territory can give you a real confidence boost.

If this sounds like it could be helpful, I encourage you to consider joining the Interior Design Master Class mastermind group. We meet once a month to hold each other accountable, share best practices, and support each other. Click here to learn more about the program.

Interior Designers: It’s Time to Stop Looking for External Validation

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