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3 Tips for Feeling More Confident in Your Interior Design Business

Designers with little confidence often find it hard to feel good about their designs and talk money with clients. If you're feeling low on confidence lately, here's how to give yourself a little recharge.

Alison Martin
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If you caught designer and business coach Tobi Fairley's talk at High Point Market, or headed to Merchandise Mart in Chicago yesterday to hear from designer and owner of Interior Design Business Academy Terri Taylor, then you — like most interior designers — have money on the brain. Both designers-turned-consultants delivered engaging talks about money without ever opening up the calculator on their phones.

Fairley and Taylor argue that in order to charge clients your full worth, then you have to have confidence in your worth. You're responsible for your own financial success, Taylor said at her lecture, and also for your failures. It's easy to blame other factors for failure — the economy, your location, online shopping, whatever — but blame will only ease your guilt. It won't bring you more of the clients you want.

For designers looking to grow their business and their portfolios, confidence matters, and it serves as the first step towards a better business. If you're running a little low on confidence lately, try these tips to remember how fabulous you are. 

Let go of the small negatives

Have you ever finished a project you feel proud of only to have that feeling derailed by some tiny detail that didn't turn out exactly as you wanted? Maybe a contractor or a manufacturer made a slight error, and even though the client doesn't know and is 100 percent satisfied, that error eats at you and makes you question your talents, lowering your confidence.

This is common, Taylor says. Sometimes, one negative detail overshadows an otherwise positive project, and it changes how you think about that project moving forward. If this describes you, it's time to readjust your thinking.

There's no real method to how to shake this habit, but a good first step is acknowledging that you're doing it in the first place, that you're letting one minor flaw make you miserable or feel bad about yourself. As you catch yourself having these thoughts, switch gears by focusing on something positive, like your excited client who's raving about your work. In time, you'll learn to let go of the little things.

Spend less time with less positive people

Everyone knows someone like this. No matter what is going on, this person always has something to gripe about. If you've had a rough day, this person had a worse day and insists on telling you why. If you have good news to share, this person will be the first to point out any problems or potential negatives he or she sees.

No one can be positive all the time (it's exhausting), but when you're surrounded by those who can't find joy in anything, you too may find it hard to be happy. If these are people you spend a lot of time with, they may start to wear you down over time, and it'll get harder to pick yourself back up.

Even when it's those you love, you can ask them to limit their negative commentary and set boundaries for them. Taylor, for example, felt drained when she talked with her mother because her mother wanted to talk about stories she'd seen on Fox News, and that wasn't something Taylor wanted to hear about. Taylor never wanted to cut out her mother, but she told her mother that she would not take her out to dinner if her mother only wanted to talk about Fox News. 

It worked. Her mother complied, and they could enjoy their time together. You don't have to surround yourself with yes men, but spending time with negative people will not make you feel more positive. 

Know your numbers and your capacity

When was the last time you took a good, hard look at how much it truly costs for you to complete a project? Sure, you have flat fees or an hourly rate, but when was the last time you looked at if those number accurately represented the time, talent and energy it took to actually complete a design project?

You know, of course, that you need to make a certain amount to break even. Are you making that? Is it actually enough? Are you spending more time than originally projected on projects while still charging a flat fee? 

Knowing your numbers — the cost of your time, your monthly expenses, how much is coming in this week, how much needs to be paid — can be empowering because you know what those numbers represent in your work. When meeting with clients, you'll feel more confident talking about your fees and be better at explaining how the client's money will be used.

This can also help you be better at choosing projects that are right for your firm. If a client questions your fee, you can calmly explain how the money is spent and how you spend your time designing. You know what you're worth, and you should be proud of it. If the client just isn't willing to pay your fees, then that's okay. That's not the right client for you.

Numbers feel empowering because they're the cold, hard facts. Taylor recommends having a money day once a week, a day devoted to going over your books, your bank accounts, your expenses and your invoices. You don't have to spend the whole day going through your accounts, but you should know exactly how much cash you have and what still needs to be paid. The more you know about your numbers, the less likely you'll be to take just any client. After all, why take a client when you know that client won't meet your expenses?

No designer can be confident all the time, but little changes in your thinking and lifestyle make a big impact. How do you feel a little more confident in your day? Share with us below!

Photo: Pexels

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