First published March 7, 2017
Its important for me to keep account of all the mistakes I have made along the way trying to figure out how to be an awesome freelance interior designer. Thereby more successful. Doing so will ensure these mistakes will never happen again and I just get better and better every day. A mistake happens on every project, whether its your fault or not. Its embarrassing, stressful, and sometimes costly. Navigating through them gracefully is the difference between a pro and a dilettante. Cassie from The Veda House does a wonderful series for the graphic designer. I haven't come across a good one yet for interior designers; only descriptions of what to do right. Not what things could go very wrong, so I will start one myself. Hopefully you will get something out of it and you will avoid some of my mistakes and make your own truly original ones.
Mistake #1: Saying "yes" to a project when your gut says "don't do it". When you are starting your own business you feel the pressure to say yes to every project that comes your way, even if it sounds like its going to be a cheap client with a difficult personality. You say to yourself. "It's a good challenge for me and will build my portfolio" but you will be wrong. What I have learned is that when I get the sense the client is going to be a jerk from our initial conversation, they WILL BE a jerk. Making every interaction painful, making getting your billings paid in a timely manner nearly impossible, making that great project you thought would look neat in your portfolio something you don't even want to show because your creative ideas are too expensive for this particular client to build out and they will cut corners and delete details wherever they can. They will find ways to blame you for things that you had nothing to do with. Things will get bitter and awkward.
I don't know why some people conduct business in this manner. I truly believe if you are respectful and treat the client, contractor, and consultants like one big team people will go out of their way to please you, reduce their fees, put love into their work, and come back willingly for new work. I have also come to realize that when a client seeks you out they appreciate anything and everything you create for them. When you answer a post, they will treat you like you need to constantly prove yourself and are disposable. Which is why I have learned to let my work speak for itself and do zero marketing. Quality clients will find me through referrals, online, other blogs. And if I get the spidey sense that a potential client is not going to be a sweet and respectful person, I just say no, er...politely decline. And you should too. Other projects will find you and you will enjoy the process of creating and building exponentially. Trust me on this one.
PS - I know this is a very long post so if you are done reading, peace be with you. As a post script, I want to say that twice I have gotten the just say no gut feeling but said yes to miserable stress inducing work that I vowed never to work with said client ever ever ever again. After the project concluded successfully my difficult clients came to the realization that they had burned their bridges with me and yet I was talented and pretty tolerant of their tirades. I received mia culpas and glossed over apologies with the hopes that we could collaborate again. On one hand I was satisfied to get the vindication, but on the other hand I knew to say no thank you to working with them again. Life is too short. Lesson learned.