Why Interior Designers Need Websites

Nearly half of U.S. small businesses have websites, according to USA Today. Even before the financial crisis, small businesses and solo professionals had begun turning to the Internet to reach a global audience and to better serve their customers right next door. Experts predict that companies without a web presence will be at a disadvantage as customers in all industries now expect an online site as part of doing business.

So why should an interior designer have a website? Here are five reasons why an online presence is well worth your time.

1. World-wide exposure. Too many designers never receive the recognition they deserve because their work doesn’t reach a wide enough audience to ignite fame. With a well-designed website, your portfolio can reach millions of people all around the world-potential clients, reporters, bloggers and corporate decision-makers. That can mean increased opportunities for projects, show houses, commercial bids and interviews.

2. Qualified, 24/7 referrals. Your website transcends time zones to work while you sleep. Today’s customers are more likely than ever before to bypass the media when looking for a solution and go straight to the Internet. If you’re relying on traditional media for articles and ads to reach clients, you’re missing out on an increasingly large share of the market that relies on web searches to find what they’re looking for. If you’re not on the web, they don’t even consider you.

3. Credibility. Americans now expect to find companies on the web. Companies that lack a web presence look less professional, more limited in scope, and less stable than those with good quality websites. Even if a prospect finds you through word of mouth, they may rethink their choice if they can’t find out more about you online.

4. Competitive advantage. Your website defines you. It provides a chance to see your portfolio, read about your recent projects, view or listen to client testimonials and celebrate your show homes or awards. Without a website, you lose the chance to define yourself, and others may not define your work or speak to your capabilities as well as you would.

5. Websites are a great venue for self-expression and creativity. Just as your workspace or your business card make a statement about you, your website can make a striking visual impression on prospects. Through the design of your site, you can showcase your personality. Visitors will know right away whether you are bold or restrained, modern or traditional. A website can express who you are as a designer and allows potential clients to see what you have to offer them. With web audio and video, you can showcase your talent in whole new ways with plenty of drama and panache.

Interior designers with websites have a big advantage over those who don’t. We live in a visual world, so the more visual a website is, the better you can communicate your talents and ideas. Today it’s surprisingly affordable to build a great website. You’ll find other cost savings to having a website, including reduced costs for printing and mailing, since you can refer prospects to pictures on your site rather than having to reproduce and distribute these individually. Even better, the information on your website is easy to update, so if you change your phone number, your address or other details you don’t have to scrap a box of expensive brochures that are now out of date.

A website is living; it is constantly being viewed and can change with your needs. So let the world see through your eyes. Share your creativity and design-driven thoughts with the world. A great website will help you achieve things paper will never be able to do.

How Do You Find a Reputable Interior Designer?

At some point in your life you might need help from a local service provider who is experienced and has a creative flair for interior design work. But other than opening up the Yellow Pages and reading the display ads, what are your options for finding a reputable interior designer?

In most cases, you might not know where to start, and you might not even know what types of questions to ask. Then there’s the unknown factor of how much it’s going to cost.

Since you probably don’t have much experience working with designers, it’s always safe to call several of your friends to ask if any of them have ever hired such a professional to help with their home design projects.

The next group of people to ask would be co-workers, or people from your church or place of worship. It’s like the old adage, if you don’t ask people before you buy something, you will always hear about the good people someone hired after your work has been completed.

Since we’re living in the Information Age with social marketing sites and all the Internet forums and communication options open to us, you might think it would be a simple solution, but it’s usually not.

If the above suggestions haven’t yielded a positive referral, then you might want to cast your circle a little larger and do more research. Talk a walk through the downtown section of your town and look at the interiors of restaurants, cafes, showrooms, or stores.

Many times, interior designers are multi-talented and work with commercial as well as residential clients. If you like a particular style that you’ve seen in a restaurant, ask the owner if he hired an interior designer. If the answer is yes, then ask for the designer’s name and contact information.

If that approach is “too out there” for your personality, then visit trade association web sites such as the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and look for a web page that lists designers based on their location, design specialties, and pricing structures. When you find a suitable match with your expectations, then call or contact the designer to make an appointment to discuss your project.

Another option is to head to your local bookstore or mall to check out the trade magazines that feature interior design work, architecture, and homes. In those types of magazines there are usually display ads or a section at the back with all sorts of ads. If it’s a local magazine, you’re in for a treat, since many of the ads will be from local professionals.

One more idea is to call a local design school to see if they have a career or placement service where students and graduates can list their services. Perhaps they’d like to take on a project for less money just to get the experience, and a valued referral.

Making The Most Of Your Smart Decision To Hire An Interior Designer

So you’ve decided to hire an Interior Designer–good move! Now what? Before you start planning your “reveal” party, you’ll need a basic understanding about the process to ensure that you get the most design for your dollar and that you have a fun and fabulous experience, no matter what type of project is ahead of you.

You’ll need to learn the basics of choosing the right design professionals, establishing a budget, outlining the details of the contract, considering your lifestyle and communicating your challenges.

Choosing the Right Designer: Beyond the Portfolio

Professionally trained Interior Designers have undergone extensive training in the various elements of modern and historical design, art and architecture. They have a basic foundation of knowledge that allows them to develop concepts in a variety of styles that range from traditional, contemporary, art deco, eclectic–or a combination of several styles.

That being said, not every designer’s talent is right for every project. For yours, you’ll want to choose someone whose portfolio “speaks” to you in a positive way. As with every profession, designers tend to develop personal styles that carry over into their projects. It could be the sense of clarity and order you see in the furniture arrangements, or maybe it’s a color palette that’s used in a unique way. It could be the modern touches worked seamlessly into a roomful of antiques, or the interesting textures of the fabrics.

Referrals are the best way to find a designer, so if the home of a friend or colleague appeals to you, by all means ask them for the designer’s number! You can also visit Web sites to get a better feel for the designer’s talent and personal style. Expect to spend a bit of time on the phone discussing your project with the designer and/or completing a questionnaire that will give them a better feel for your tastes and your project prior to the kickoff meeting.

You’re looking for someone you instantly trust and respect, who communicates excitement about your project, no matter how big or small, and who trusts and respects you as well. After all, this person is transforming your most sacred and cherished space!

Establishing a Realistic Budget

Everyone has a budget, so don’t feel bad about setting yours in stone…or tile, or brick. No matter what the amount, your designer should help you get the best value and the highest quality possible. Be wary of anyone that summarily dismisses your grand ideas based on budget alone: A first-rate designer will work hard to achieve your key design goals, perhaps by spreading the job out over time or suggesting alternative solutions for your project.

A great benefit of using a professional designer is that she has access to materials unavailable to the general public, so no matter what your budget, your home will feel unique and very “you.”

Your designer will also manage the entire process, whether it involves space planning, lighting design, purchasing, ordering, selecting finishes or monitoring the construction and installation of the project elements.

Outlining Terms of the Contract

Make sure you read and sign an official contract before any money exchanges hands or work begins. In addition to the legal aspects, a contract summarizes the plans you’ve been discussing such as your budget, design fees, accountability regarding subcontractors (painters, carpet layers, etc.).

You’ve selected the designers and signed the contract – now comes the fun part!

Considering Your Lifestyle

Your home environment should complement and support the way you and your family really live – or really want to live. For example, if you’re starting a home-based business, you might turn your cluttered garage into a functional office. If your spouse loves to cook, you might knock down a wall so the under-used formal dining room becomes part of the kitchen. Many families make the mistake of letting the layout of the home dictate their activities vs. reorganizing the space to embrace their lifestyles.

To ensure that your designer understands how you live now and how you want to live, share as many details with her as you can. Also share your personal tastes so she can incorporate them into the designs. If you hate plaid, tell her now, before she gets too deep into the first draft.

To help you better prepare yourself, answer these questions before you have your first meeting with the designer:

  • Are you a creative person? In what ways does your home limit your creativity or your hobbies?
  • Do you like the present color palette? Does it need updating?
  • Are they any rooms that feel cramped or stuffy? Any rooms that feel empty, cold or unwelcoming?
  • Is adequate, well-organized storage a problem? Can you find things when you need them?
  • Are your bathrooms functional, pleasing spaces? Do you or family members have special needs (e.g. grab bars, easy-entrance shower stalls, etc.)?
  • As you walk through your rooms, jot down your favorite qualities about each. Do you like the proportions? Is there adequate ventilation and lighting throughout your house?
  • Are there any rooms that you don’t use regularly? Could any of these rooms be used for more than one function? Could any of these rooms be used for a completely different function?
  • Does your home balance open space and private areas?
  • Does the entryway do its job of setting the stage for the rest of your home by welcoming guests and making a statement about the people who live there? If you normally come into your home through the garage, does that area welcome you?

Focus on Your Challenges

A designer works best when you share your “wish list,” express your ideas, and then keep an open mind. That means communicating how you want to live in the space and then entrusting the designer to make it happen. After all, you hired this person for her experience, talent and vision!

For example, one homeowner hired a designer to help her reorganize her tiny office so she could be more productive. Instead, the designer suggested that she move her entire operation downstairs, into the den she used once every two months to watch movies. She did, tripling her space and doubling her productivity in just three months.

Contrary to TV, where designers admonish clients for questioning their plans, real-life designers understand that you’re the person who ultimately needs to love the space. They want you to be happy and want you to give your input so you’re absolutely thrilled with the results (and so you’ll recommend them to your friends)! That’s why they do so much probing upfront about your tastes and how you live, then incrementally present their ideas throughout the process.

Hiring a designer is like giving a gift to yourself! You made the smart decision to hire an Interior Designer, you’ve been smart about the planning process, and now you can rest assured that the time, money and energy you spend returns truly smart, stunning results!