We talk a lot about the business framework, workflow and systems that interior designers can use to grow their businesses. There are a lot of tactics that can improve the way you operate, from the way you structure your invoicing and calendar to the way you brand your services.
But today, I want to talk about something a little outside the tactical sphere.
From time to time designers we work with are struggling but not because of design business or even because of their design creative. They’re struggling because of the doubt. Doubt is crippling – but let’s face it, we all experience it from time to time.
Being confident when you’re leading your own business is paramount. The conditioning for success needs to begin with you. No one else can do it for you: No one else’s confidence in you can replace the confidence that you need to have in yourself. The belief in your own success has to come from a genuine place. Your optimism needs to be unrelenting. You must believe and act as if it’s impossible to fail, as Charles Kettering said.
If you’re feeling a little shaky or unsure of yourself, this article is for you. By the end of it, you’ll have a solid idea of how to start banishing doubt and delivering your work more confidently, which is essential to you personally and to your business.
Understanding Imposter Syndrome
The idea of “imposter syndrome” has had a fair amount of attention in recent years. Some have observed that successful women, in particular, tend to feel like they don’t deserve the success that they’ve earned. They feel like frauds who are about to get “unmasked” or discovered to be inept at any moment. They become convinced that they got where they are in their careers due to luck instead of skill or aptitude.
I know designers who also struggle with these feelings. Despite creating outcomes that their clients love and successfully growing their design businesses, they still don’t see themselves as experts.
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Whether this “imposter syndrome” is a legitimate psychological problem or more likely to happen to women may be up for debate. But it’s powerful to understand that these feelings are common and, in many ways, totally normal.
You’re not the only one who occasionally feels like they’re just making it up as they go. Guess what? There’s no secret manual out there that describes the exact way to run an interior design business. You’re never doing it “wrong.” You’re just doing it your way.
Everyone who accomplishes some measure of independent success will sometimes have doubts. The key is to simply acknowledge those doubts as normal and continue to move confidently through your work. If you don’t, that doubt will put cracks in the foundation of your business.
Strategies for Banishing Doubt
Here are a few tangible ways to boost your confidence as an interior designer, and as the CEO of your design business.
Reframe Your Story
Shift the thoughts of fear to thankfulness. Bring to mind how you navigated the journey to date. Think about the story you’ve been telling yourself and others about your journey in the interior design industry. How do you sum up your expertise when people ask you about it? This is your “elevator pitch.” You may not be seeking investors, but you’re always positioning your business.
Refine your positioning and practice it until you can convey the unique benefits of your business easily and confidently in just a few lines. This will help to clarify and refine your mission and boost your confidence.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Even the most experienced designers and business leaders have to pump themselves up before big meetings, presentations and announcements. Courage is not the absence of fear, after all. It’s the willingness to act despite your fear.
Presenting and other intimidating events may get easier over time, but most of the leaders you know have simply learned to deal with their feelings of insecurity and doubt. They’ve learned to lean in to yield the return. They’ve learned to enjoy the process as much as they love the results.
If you practice being confident, you’ll start to feel more confident. Confidence snowballs.
Before a design presentation, think about which questions your clients could potentially ask. Practice how you’ll respond to each one of them. Watch yourself give the presentation or practice with a colleague and you’ll feel your confidence grow. Envision a successful outcome and layer in actions that will give you that result. Keep it on replay in your mind as you head into your presentation.
Look at Yourself Through the Eyes of Your Clients
Sometimes it’s easier for designers to truly appreciate their expertise when they try to see themselves the way other people see them.
Give your clients credit! They are smart, competent people who chose to work with you because you are also smart and competent.
You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will believe in you. Your clients and mentors have seen something in you that’s already there. Channel that as you move forward. Remember your victories. They were not accidents.
A Note About Vulnerability
Confidence and optimism are essential to success – just as vulnerability is.
Over-the-top energy isn’t necessary, especially if that vibe doesn’t feel genuine you. Quiet confidence can be just as effective, and a touch of vulnerability can go a long way toward connecting with your clients.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” – Brené Brown
For example, you don’t have to blow through every one of your clients’ questions that you don’t have an answer for by making one up on the spot. You don’t have to pretend that you understand something that you actually need more clarification on. ” I’ll get back to you on that ” is a response and one that’s exercised in consulting all over the world.
Reasonable people understand that you’re not omniscient. Admitting that you need to find the answer to a question or that you need more time to work something out is a good way to signal to your client that you’re honest, thoughtful and have their best interest in mind.
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Pay Attention to Who You Surround Yourself With
In any business, and in life in general, you’re going to face setbacks. Learning to take a break and not quit channels tenacity. Learning to bounce back with confidence and poise is the only way you’ll be successful in the long term.
While you need to believe in yourself first – it’s also important you have a circle of supporters around you.
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Choose to surround yourself with other people who have similar goals and who are dreaming big for themselves. The company of people you admire will give you the reinforcement you might rave for your ideas and the encouragement you need as a business owner. (Related: Who is Holding You Accountable?)
It’s a lot harder to try to change someone’s mindset than it is to give a few tactics on how to improve a design practice or get more interactions on Instagram. Just know your personal development and confidence are just as important as your creative talent and business growth, and they deserve as much attention from you.
If you want a built-in network of like-minded peers to inspire you and keep you on track, we invite you to apply to join our Mastermind Groups. To learn more, visit our site.