Why Do Interior Designers Need Systems And Processes

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If you’re here I can assume you’re an interior designer at the beginning of your career. You might have just launched your business or you’re thinking about doing it while working for someone else still. In this case, chances are that the idea of systems and processes is foreign to you. Let alone the reason why interior designers need systems and processes in the first place.

If it sounds to you more like something from the IT department, rather than the creative industry, remember that running an interior design studio is only partially creative. A huge chunk of what you’ll be doing is business related. And every business is based on systems and processes. If you’ve done a project or two by now, you might have some of them in place already, without even knowing it.

But let’s start from the beginning.

What Are Business Systems And Processes?

A business system, process, or workflow is, simply put, the way you do things in your business. It’s the sequences of tasks or how you perform those tasks. 

It is anything from the way you answer your phone, or sign your email, to the way you on- or off-board your clients. By the way, if you don’t know what an onboarding process is, go ahead and read this article.

Do you understand now why I said that you might have some of the systems in place already? You probably just didn’t think that the fact that you answer your phone with “hello, this is Gina from XYZ Designs” is actually a system.

reasons why interior architects need systems and processes

Ok, So Why Do Interior Designers Need Systems And Processes?

As much as in the abovementioned IT department, systems and processes in the interior design business are, to say the least, very convenient. After all, how do you expect your computer to run properly if you don’t install the operating system on it? Well, it won’t. Your business might function without proper workflow set-up but will it run smoothly? I wouldn’t count on it.

You see, setting up systems and processes in your business can do a multitude of things:

  • it can reduce your stress - if you set up the workflow to everything you need to do in your interior design business, you will minimize the risk of anything unpredictable happening. You will know exactly what to do every step of the way and if you have a gameplan written down, you won’t forget a thing while you go. Some might call it boring but trust me - when it comes to running a business, it’s a game changer.
  • it works for the benefit of both you and your client. A stress-free and well-organized interior design experience that sails smoothly from the start is a dream come true for any person that has ever heard about how complicated it might be. And yes, surprises are indeed an integral part of any home renovation but if you don’t have to try and put out the fires on building sites while at the same time figuring out what you should do next, you’re already two steps ahead. Also, being able to tell your clients exactly what they can expect from you at each stage of the process and staying within the agreed-upon timeline will create a great client experience and establish you as a professional worth recommending further. And you definitely want that!
  • it will save you time and lots of it! Again, it’s all about predictability. When you work on creating systems and processes you’re able to see which actions are necessary, and which ones can be ditched. Once you establish a proper workflow you’ll know that it’s well-optimized for time and effort. Efficiency is the key!
  • it will help you track your billing time and other statistics as well as predict the amount a project will take from the get-go. This way planning and organizing several projects at once will not feel like your worst nightmare. *TIP - always add at least 20% of the time you think something will take. We tend to overestimate our work capacity and underestimate the days when nothing goes as planned.

Getting convinced that interior designers actually need systems and processes? I sure hope so!

getting organized with systems and processes will elevate your interior design business

How To Set Up Systems And Processes In Your Interior Design Business

If you’re getting excited about organizing your business to gain more efficiency and less overwhelm, what you can do is think about everything you do, step by step when you get to work on a project. Just think about the last one you’ve done. Was it a hot mess? Did it go smoothly? Go through everything, from the moment your client contacted you. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have much experience yet, I’m giving you some pointers, to help you out. But remember that every designer might have a different design process and there are tons of nuances in between. So by no means treat this list as finished. It’s just to trigger the analysis.

  1. What happens when an interested person contacts you? Do you have an auto-response set up? Do you put all the necessary info on your website? What does the screening process look like? How do you communicate with that person?
  1. When you decide it’s a good match - what happens then? How do you organize your clients’ info? What does your onboarding process look like? What are your communication rules?
  1. What does the design phase look like? How many steps are there in the workflow? How often do you meet with the client? Do you use any templates? How do you track the time? How many revisions do you permit?
  1. If you work on more than one project at once - how do you handle it? How do you document your progress? How do you prioritize various tasks?
  1. How do you store all the project info? Do you catalog the pictures? Do you take meeting minutes? What are your boundaries? How do you bill your clients? How do you deal with invoicing?
  1. Do you do on-site supervision? What does it look like? How often do you visit the site? Do you communicate with the contractors directly?
  1. Do you do installs? Furniture/material ordering? How do you deal with that? Do you communicate with vendors?
  1. Do you have an off-boarding process? How long do you keep the project information available for the clients to revise? Do you do any follow-ups?

As you can see, there’s a lot to organize, systemize and optimize. And this is just scratching the surface. The more in-depth your optimization, the more you can facilitate, automate, or even delegate.

Use checklists, to never forget any step of the workflow and templates, to gain even more time. Also, look into using a project management tool like Asana or Mydoma Studio, to keep everything in one place, easy to access anytime, anywhere. Interior designers are the ones that can benefit the most from systems and processes, so use whatever tool you can find, to help you.

use post-it notes to help you create systems and processes

Document It All

Yup, as if creating all those processes was not a lot of work, I’m adding even more to it 😀 Just treat it as yet another system - each workflow you create - document it. If you’re a stationery lover, like me, go the traditional way and create binders with all the systems you have. Or use one of the tools I mentioned above and do it the digital way.

You might not see the advantage of that yet, but wait until you need to hire someone to help you. Instead of explaining all the processes you established, trying to remember each step - just give them the binder or the digital version and that’s it! With easy access for everyone on your team, you can be sure that each member will follow the tried and true instructions. 

Another plus is that having it all written down, will make it much easier to revise and correct as you gain experience and decide that some of the systems don’t work for you anymore.

using binders to help you organize your business

It’s Never Too Early

You might be thinking that since you don’t have that much work and that many clients yet, it’s too early to create any systems. You might want to just go with the flow and see how it works first. But trust me, it’s never too early to start. The more you grow and the more workload you get, it will get more complicated with less time to your disposition. Use your current position to your advantage. Simulate each situation and imagine how you would like it to go. Then write it down and implement it the next time that particular situation arises. You will be able to verify if what you imagined is doable and if there’s an easier way to deal with it - just update the system! 

Remember, nothing is set in stone here. You can always adjust as you go. And you will, as you’ll be gaining more experience, perhaps getting more proficient in certain software, or your circumstances will change, etc. Just start with what you have and you’ll thank yourself later 🙂
I hope I managed to explain why interior designers need systems and processes and convinced you to create some for your business. Keep an eye out at my Resources Vault as I will be adding some useful templates there that will help you with organizing your business. And for now, have fun and enjoy the brainstorming!

hi there!

I'm Aleksandra, an interior architect with multinational experience, on a mission to help beginning or self-taught designers gain confidence and create systems that will help them bring their businesses to the next level.

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hi, I'm Aleksandra!

I will help you create an organized interior design business with systems and processes, and to gain confidence to bring your career to the next level.

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