Part Two
We have two choices
Published on October, 2019. Last Updated: October, 2019.
by Tobi Fairley 
Part Two
We have two choices
Published on October, 2019.
Last Updated: October, 2019.
by Tobi Fairley 
what we know:

1. The generally accepted interior design business model is broken, by trading hours for dollars there is a cap on how much you will ever be able to make.

2. After following the business model given to us, most designers are just a month away from being flat broke.

3. Modern designers joined their profession based on the smoke and mirrors of glamour, without understanding the big picture of profitability.

4. It’s time to pull back the curtain and see new potential in our industry.
We can continue the grind of focusing solely on high end client work.

We’ll spend our days falsely believing that signing the next big client will be the boost our business needs to become a sustainable, revenue generating entity that allows us to work normal hours.

Or, we can lean into our roles as business owners (because that is what we are at the end of the day), recognize the wake-up call in front of us, and make the changes necessary to shift toward sustainable profitability.

This is one of the things I love about people in the design industry. 

We have fine tuned our ability to adapt. To understand trends and combine them with elements that are timeless.  

We did everything we were supposed to! 
High end design is all about signing big projects, working with large budgets, and delivering quality results. 

We’ve been doing it the “right” way. 

The way that design is intended to be delivered. 

But what are we really doing?

We raise our prices, thinking that if we can just charge enough, we’ll attain that financial freedom we crave. 

We ask our peers, mentors, and coaches to help us justify charging more. And, frankly, most of us should be charging more.

But, when that next client doesn’t sign immediately, the money starts to run out…no matter how much we charged. 

And, the panic sets in.

We take less than ideal projects and ill-fitting clientele, just to stay afloat. 

We sacrifice working on growing our own businesses to do client work, just to stay in the black.

But, one of the first things that determines the long-term success of a business is its ability to scale. 

Scalability allows you to increase profits without exerting more of your time.

The #1 easiest tool you can use to scale your business is the internet. 

This is where you are going to be challenged about everything you’ve ever been told about or believe about good design. 

I’m going to guess that your thoughts are heading somewhere like this:
“Design is different. You can’t do good Interior Design online.” 
“Design is different. You can’t do good Interior Design online.” 
This generally accepted false belief  is the main reason that our industry is so behind the times. 

It’s the reason that internet influencers with no design background are raking in thousands of dollars each month representing brands and churning out information products that meet the consumers where they are. 

High end design and democratized design are NOT mutually exclusive. 

Guess what? You don’t lose street cred by meeting the needs of a new audience. 

Scalability is paramount to the longevity of high end brands. 

When it’s done well, it can enhance the demand for higher end products and services. 

An informal case study of two high end fashion houses:
The House of Chanel is known for the “little black dress,” the perfume No. 5 de Chanel, and the Chanel Suit. 

What started as high end, bespoke fashion quickly followed suit with the extremely famous and more easily accessible to the masses, No. 5 perfume.

110 years later, the brand is still known for couture and high end design. Of course, they have added many lines to supplement the original women’s fashion line. 

And, although Chanel isn’t found at your local Target store, their perfume, makeup lines, and accessories can be found at high end department stores around the world.

Did expanding into a perfume line that could easily be mass produced and sold to women around the world dilute Chanel’s reputation?  NO. 
Let’s also look at someone who has been on the scene for less than 100 years.

Vera Wang started her fashion career in a very specific niche. 

Bespoke, high-end wedding dress design. It’s important to also note that Wang didn’t start her now-iconic wedding dress design business until she was 40 years old.

In 1990 celebrities were lining up at her design salon for wedding dresses worth thousands of dollars. 

Wang quickly expanded into fragrance, shoes, and accessories…because what do brides need to go with their wedding dresses? 

This puts Wang in the same high end scalability category as our Chanel example.

But, Wang went further. 

She noticed young brides-to-be coming into her space and looking at designs they couldn’t afford only to leave and buy something as close as they could find within their budget. 

Young women wanted the couture they saw in magazines, but without their ability to afford it they purchased elsewhere.

She followed what many others designers have done and created a handful of designs that could be mass produced and sold at a lower price point. 

White by Vera Wang rolled out in David’s Bridal stores across the country to raving fans.

And, it didn’t cannibalize her high-end design business one bit. 

She was now serving two different audiences. 

Meeting them exactly where they were at in order to leverage multiple lines—all still using her name. 

She now leads a fashion empire, still serving high end clients like Michelle Obama, fashion icon Victoria Beckham, and countless others. 

She also has a fashion line available through Kohl’s. 

These examples were created ONLY to show you that your reputation as a high-end designer and your premium services can only be enhanced, not jeopardized by scaling. 

But, we’re in the design business, not the fashion business.

We’re service-based. 
Everything we do stems from our ability to serve. 
Scaling via new physical products, licensing, etc. is the old way.
That’s what got us here in the first place!

Instead of creating multiple product lines—we’re going to do things differently this time. 

If you think that the design industry is an exception to the benefits of scalability, you’re wrong. 

To the tune of millions of dollars wrong.  
Interior Design is still finding its way to scale. 

There is some experimentation starting in the industry and keeping a close eye on that while also preparing your own business is key to ensuring you don’t fall further behind.

Instead of creating products that require high overhead, manufacturing, logistics, and eventually liquidation, (ugh, just making that list raises my blood pressure) you’re going to tap into the knowledge industry instead.
People already pay you for your ideas, your talent, your vision. 

So, finding a way to replicate that service and position it as a product is the sweet spot to scaling in design.  

You need to accept that a viable business has multiple ways of meeting customer demand. 
I’m not talking about those cheesy mood boards that bloggers were selling a few years ago. That’s not going to be the business extension you need to create sustainable profits.

Creating scalability is a long-game with a massive payoff. You’ll see results quickly but will grow exponentially with time. 

Imagine that you are in talks with a client and you quote them a 5-figure estimate. 

They balk at the price. Your response is either… 
  • You lower your price, alter the package to include less and both the client and YOU are not getting what you originally wanted out of the deal. By lowering your price, you also create a reputation for yourself as a discounter. Your high end packages aren’t so “high end” any more. 
  • You instead offer them a solution that you have available that is a lower price point. It requires less of your time/energy, if any. It’s something they can do within a lower price range that still solves their problems and you’re not spending your time toiling away on a project you undercut!

The second choice allows you to preserve your time for well fit, high end client work.

Scaling isn’t a zero-sum game. 

It’s creating a value ladder of things you sell easily all the way up to bespoke services that people are seeking.

But, let’s be honest. 

In order to work the changes needed in your business...

You need to shift into a new mindset that allows you to grow, get uncomfortable, be a positive disruption, and make things happen.

Your schedule has to be wrangled to accommodate your business while keeping an emphasis on what’s most important in your LIFE.

Additional revenue streams alone won’t fix your broken business.

It’s not just about adding more, more, more. 

Your entire business ecosystem needs to be redesigned to include an integrated approach.

Let's discuss.


1. After following the path laid before us, most designers are still struggling to run a sustainably profitable business.

2. We need to move past our preconceived and incorrect beliefs that good design cannot be done “online.”

3. Our industry isn’t “special”—we are not the only high end service providers that struggle with feast and famine. We need to take a page from those who have thrived through scalability.

4. You must find new ways to meet customer demands, and that requires a shift in the foundation of your business.  

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