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It goes without saying that design projects aren’t always plain sailing. More often than not you likely find yourself on the back foot in some aspect, scrambling to make last-minute adjustments or negotiate unexpected obstacles. We discuss some of the most common challenges you'll face and how to overcome them.
Challenge 1: Unexpected delays
This is the number one issue that most designers face. From furniture not ready on the agreed date to builders running over schedule, you will most likely encounter at least one of these for every one or two projects you do. Sometimes a supplier is at fault and sometimes it's down to unavoidable circumstances. The key is managing your client’s expectations from the beginning. We suggest adding time to the original project schedule to cover yourself so your client believes it will take longer than what you hope it will. It’s also important that you work closely with any contractors' timelines and make sure that you are working ahead of them. One thing you learn very quickly is that it's always best to underpromise and overdeliver.
Challenge 2: Sticking to budget
Second only to unexpected delays - and arguably actually on an equal level - is the challenge of going over budget. You've spent hundreds of hours on Pinterest and InDesign creating the most beautiful mockups, only to be told months down the line that there's insufficient budget. This can happen even when you've discussed budget with a client at the start. The most obvious solution is a preapproved budget drawn up with the client, but projects so frequently go over budget that this isn't enough. It's a good idea to build in some padding so that you have wiggle room. Come to an agreed figure with your client where you know you can accommodate last-minute changes or surprise cost increases without putting them in a tight spot. If you don't need it, you don't spend it - and that n turn creates a level of trust with your client which should ensure repeat business. Also, be sure to send them progress and cost updates at each stage of the project.
Challenge 3: Trends vs timeless style
There's nothing like discussing a living room design with a client and they're dead set on forested wall murals and kelly green furnishings to "really bring in the outdoors." You know they'll be wishing they did things differently in 6 months, but how to tell them now so they can save the money - and not insult their taste? It's important to stay on top of trends and have ideas of how to incorporate them without going overboard. Creating mockups of timeless styles with a tastefully introduced trend du jour is one of the greatest skills that interior designers can master. Pinterest can be a good starting point. Remember to use your innate common design sense; it's why your client hired you.
Challenge 4: Embodying your brand
To stand out from your competition, you need to communicate what your brand is about so that clients know exactly what they'll get when they pick you. It's not enough to have great reviews or a good website. Think about creative ways to express your ideas when speaking to prospective clients such as 3D floor plans and mockups with fabric and finish samples.
Challenge 5: Partnering with the right people
Develop relationships with third parties that you can trust and with whom you work well. If you have the opportunity to pitch these suppliers for a project, you can wow a client with the seamless way that you work together, finishing the job on time and (hopefully) within budget. This also applies to anyone that you hire in your own company. Your team is a reflection of you and you can make design magic with people who share your core values and work ethic.
FCI London's Trade Services
We work with a close network of interior designers for whom we’ve specially created a range of trade services designed to take the headaches out of design projects. From product sourcing and technical drawings to logistics and installations, we provide bespoke project assistance and curated brands at trade prices. We were also once a small startup and we know a thing or two about building a business. We'd love to be your support as you grow yours. Sign up for a free trade account here and let us help you on your journey.
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