Episode #0032 – Adding Virtual Design Services with Ellen Smith

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson interviews fellow interior design professional Ellen Smith. She works in the New York and New Jersey area to help people find the perfect additions to design and decorate their homes.

Ellen has discovered a way to help others find the perfect furniture for their homes without having to be in their geographical area. Which has been an advantage in the current pandemic, adding virtual design services. 

Her services include selecting paint colors, fabrics, furniture options, and more. Ellen’s business model is such that the client then has to hire their own painters, movers, and contractors to complete the onsite work. She simply assists them to find what they are looking for, she does not participate in the process of installation. She prefers to meet on Zoom and assist her clients virtually.

 Ellen strongly believes you have to trust the process. The process may take numerous meetings. But the most important thing to remember is to not give up if you do not find the perfect options immediately. Sometimes it takes trusting the process and trusting the interior design professional to find what you are looking for.  

So, join Crystal and Ellen as they talk about adding virtual design services. And, see how working remotely is possible even for interior designers and decorators. Then, do something today that your future self will thank you for and think about how you could expand your business reach by working remotely. 

Suggested TPD episode: #0026 Economic Value of Furniture

How to get in touch with Ellen:

Website – ethanallen.com and ellen-smith-designer-ethan-allen 

Instagram- @misse.designs

Ellen Smith as TPG guest in the episode Episode #0032 - Adding Virtual Design Services

Recommended podcast:

A Well Designed Business

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

0:42
Welcome everyone to another episode of the productive designer I have a special guest with us today I have Ellen Smith and she is from New Jersey, New York, and I’m gonna let Ellen tell us a little better about herself so welcome on.

0:55
Thank you, thank you so much crystal for having me. I always tell people, you know, design was a second career. You know I spent 18 years in corporate America,

1:04
I’ve heard that more than one time,

1:06
yeah, yeah. Yes, I like to let people know because there’s chapter two, Like, certainly for me. I had reached that point where you know, I was downsized or suggested I don’t even know what the language is doing more, but I remember just having an epiphany saying, you know, what is it that I want to do when I grow up again, you know, exactly, you know, choose corporate and design was always a passion for me, but I just didn’t know how do you make a living out of doing right now. Can you make money from that, you know, and certainly for myself I can work, family, hard working family you know you go to school you learn you get college degree, blah, blah, blah. You know even saying you want to do something creative was a little outside the norm, you know, so to speak for yourself on that, but I had reached that point in my life I was about 32, you know, and I said, What do I really want to do, if I had to choose to do something, you know, and design was something that was always a passion of mine was always something that came. Not only was I interested in it but it was something that I was good at, you know, even as a little girl, I tell people this story, it’s so funny but even as a little girl you know I doll houses and I mean I love my dog, you

2:22
know, decorating your dollhouse

2:25
with my dogs and then I come and deer, my sister’s doll house you know so I was that girl. Switch to Roma, and you know so. Me too,

2:35
I was. Yeah, I

2:37
was that girl so how do you make a living. What kind of job is that, you know what I mean I know when I was younger I was like, What is this, is this a job that people actually do you know so took me a while, and again it was just kind of being, you know, I guess nudged or or looking at it as a, maybe a blessing in disguise, you know, what do I want to do when I grow up again and design was the thing so it also kind of coincided with the popularity of HGTV so it looked more like a job, you know any viable career you can make. So I started locally at first at a design center near my home that was real pretty well known. He had just opened a store in Manhattan. I started off in custom window treatments, which was really an excellent place to start. Things with certainly the attention to detail, you know, and I worked in New Jersey and I worked in Hatton for many many years, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the pace of it. I enjoy working physics different types of homes you know so, and then I wanted to branch out a little bit more to full design, and I had applied to no local Design Center. The first one I applied to. I didn’t really get any bites and I was like okay, but that wasn’t really like the location I wanted to be at so again once again right things just happen when asked what’s happening, right, right, so I got the location and it went to be at night. I’ve been there three years and I really loved it. I enjoy what I do, I find that having that window treatment background again the attention to detail, you know it’s really something that it works well for me and I know people think that you know when you’re in a creative business people think it’s all fun on, but you really do need a good balance of left brain right brain,

4:27
for sure. I always say you could come up with all these great ideas but if you can’t get it executed, you know, wrap in the right timeframe, with the right budget, like, then, is it

4:40
good, is it good is it if you can manage the project, you know, so I think I’m fortunate in that respect I did you know in between this site, you go back to school, you know something my father was something my father was pushing me to do I did finish my college degree in Marketing, and again it just it appealed to me because again I’m that left brain right brain, no I have the creative, but I also am extremely analytical, you know, so it works really well for me especially with managing my projects, following up with clients, you know, that kind of stuff that, you know, you just can’t let that fall by the wayside. Yeah, with referrals you know when to repeat business, you know, so I enjoy so much what I do I feel so fortunate to make a living out of something you love, is really, really, what they say you never work a day in your life, you know, but that’s not 100%. You work in but at least it’s a passion, you know you want to work you know what I mean it’s like you’re working and especially these last nine months or so, it’s been a constant wind is the constant work but at least you love it, you know, Amy,

5:50
getting out of bed to do something, you, you actually want to do is what you’re getting into bed, to do something you don’t want to do just to

5:58
my fortune and I’m certainly within the last five months and I think, you know, looking towards the future people’s focus is on the home, you know, home backyard, you know, all of that, we’ve been a beneficiary I know, right now I’m in New Jersey but I see a lot of, we see a lot of Manhattan knights, coming to the suburbs, we see a lot of, you know, northern New Jersey like Jersey City they own you know, we’re maybe they were a little more in North Jersey because they needed a shorter commute to the city right you know a lot of places now, people are home.

6:34
Well, people will virtually and functional. So they’re like, why am I in the city, why do I need to be here right.

6:41
A lot of places it’s indefinite right now,

6:44
for sure. I think especially, especially New York City being, you know what it is in the sense of real estate prices for rent and what you’re getting and like I couldn’t imagine being in a small tiny apartment 24 seven for the last nine months you start losing your mind and all those amenities of why you want to be in the big city are not available to

7:03
you are not available, like kids and pets and you know all that. So again, just being that part. I guess a little bit of luck, you know, just being in the right industry at the right time is yeah I mean, really I can’t really say I had anything to do with that. I’m just real fortunate like I could be working at a clothing retailer,

7:26
you know exactly, you just kind of I’ve, I’ve thought of that myself to just, you know, my husband does renovations and you know when that first hit, we were all kind of going, Oh, okay, what is this mean and then to see how our industry, to your point exactly has just, I mean every designer every run like Everybody I talked to that’s somehow related to the home, residential everyone’s just running off their feet because it’s going crazy people are taking the budgets that they usually had for travel or vacation and they’re like, Well, I can’t go anywhere. Let’s put it into the house let’s make our house. And so, yeah, and I can see how window treatments when you’re talking about that with AI because that’s a that is a specialty in itself, how the details and all of the, you know that because it’s not just about the beauty, it’s about the function of it too and you know how you have to think about all the different elements and aspects of, of what that window treatment is how is it going to look, how’s it going to function, which I think is a great foundation for the rest of design as well so that you’re, you were, you were right to, to start out on that is probably was a great foundation for you to have that yeah,

8:24
I definitely would agree with that. Definitely.

8:26
So you were saying when you and I were talking before that you’re doing a lot more, ie design, so yeah. Can you elaborate a little bit on. I know, I know you work out of a showroom, if you want to save the day or not but

8:38
I mean, okay, I work at Ethan now and it’s a great place to work. We do full design here. I love it and I will say this, what we’ve been able to do. We didn’t just start doing this, I think one of the things that I, there’s a lot of reasons I like working here but I used to work in corporate I worked in the training department, and I’ve had to tell you the training here is phenomenal. It is absolutely phenomenal where I work, so they are all about the technology and we always had our little maneuvers that we could take with us, we could always work from home, you know, sometimes you need to work from home for plans and not you know, that’s not always a nine to five, kind of thing so always kept up with the latest technologies, we had a really awesome 3d plan or we have an augmented reality app I mean, we had all that we had, you know, the opportunity to connect with clients from all over the country. So, that was always something that we had, and then mid March, when this hit. It was like the company itself, like we didn’t have to scramble to get things done. So, that was great, so it was a good foundation for a design by having, you know, because I live in New Jersey and we were kind of like the first ones kind of, you know, so to speak, yes, pandemic, we were home, but we were still able to connect with people all over the country. So that’s where the he designed for me really really picked up because I’m talking to people, people in Chicago, I had a woman, you know that I connected with honestly she was in Canada but when I tell you she was in Canada, she was in like the middle of Canada, like I mean she was like five hours away from like Toronto.

10:30
And so how did you find her, I’ve just I just find that interesting, how did that connection happen.

10:34
So, again, we have the technology to connect with people so you know we have a live chat, you know, off of our website you’re registered, and people are, you know, they have questions I’m going to order something this What about this does this come in this finish. Can you help me with paint colors to help me to my rugby you know like you never know what someone’s you know, going to ask. Yeah, and in her case, she wanted to purchase some leather chairs, and she, because she’s so far away from. I don’t want to say civilization, but certainly

11:06
any of them are major

11:09
yeah basically she was in literally, I mean if you took a dart in Canada and hit the middle she was there, you know, like literally, so it’s like okay well let me, you know, take some pictures, let me FaceTime with you, you know, That kind of thing. Even with the design, it’s not that there’s other ways to connect with people, you know, they still talk to them, you know, whether it’s female you still need to share, floor plans, you’re probably going to need to like FaceTime with someone because you do need, you still need a face to face, I feel like connection,

11:43
I still use your room, you know, yeah, for sure,

11:46
I need to ask you questions, send me pictures you know that kind of thing. I tried to, you know, when I was working in that, you know, kind of mode I was always people love to send you pictures or their space, they want their questions. Yeah, you know, they, they’re always, I don’t want to say like looking for free advice but people want

12:04
to know. So especially if that, you know, all of a sudden you’ve got, oh I’ve got somebody answering my question. Well I’ve got them

12:11
right I have a professional on the other you know, end of this computer might not take advantage of me so I think that was kind of, you know, kind of like a jumpstart and it has evolved by, I’ll tell you about future clothes that I had about a week ago which is when we swell so busy. It was young couple purchased a home out here in the suburbs, they actually changed from I believe Connecticut. Okay, but both work from home. They purchased a new home. I mean like a million dollar home in a suburb, local to our design center, and she’s pregnant and she’s high risk.

12:48
Yeah, so like I’m not going anywhere.

12:51
He’s not coming in. Yeah, so no problem. Not a problem at all. So, we FaceTimed, I did actually go out to the home so that I could do my own field measurements,

13:03
so just ask him, How do you manage that because yeah, you know, obviously there’s some disclaimers there if you’re not doing

13:10
exactly right, So here’s the deal. So, if I can do field measurements, I certainly want to do a couple window treatments right out of trust and vice versa. But there are times where you’re not able to do that. So, people have floorplan. No, you can, and this is where FaceTime is helpful because they have a measuring tape you can kind of guide them, putting on the window, let me say, you know, with furniture. The thing is, you know, it doesn’t have to be to the eighth of an inch. You know, so if you have a little bit you know a little bit more wiggle room, but as long as you kind of get the gist of the room and I’ve had success with actually people taking

13:50
their own measurement. I always wonder how that with, with the design how that can be. I would worry about, you know, somebody going okay well here’s my measurements. Okay. Are they accurate and, you know what I said before, I guess you have to say there’s some sort of onus on them, that they have to understand. Yeah,

14:06
absolutely and I think that I know certainly during a pandemic and when I was, you know, working with people you would have to put a disclaimer and I would have them sign off and say you know these are your own measurements, but again like it depends on what it is you know like if we’re talking about like a sectional, you know that’s something that we’re going to really have to tighten up these measurements at the top most often to chairs, you’ve been doing this long enough to know, you know, exactly some pieces that your room right, I can see the door swings. This way we should be okay. I know a room is probably about, you know, now if you tell me your room is 20 feet wide. Now, that automatically is going to be like. You tell them is 12 feet seven inches I’m like okay, it probably has to be seven into, you know, so I think experience, you know, helps with that as well, like, as many pictures as people can, if they have more plants and sometimes they do have four right

15:01
from the realtor or something. Yeah,

15:03
right from the realtor, so that certainly helps. If it’s someone in this particular case, they were lucky enough that I could come out and do measurements because we were talking about three rooms, you know, actually four homes. And I’m like, I’d like to come out and measure. You can be in another room, you know, while I’m doing practicing social distancing and that work but then the rest of it as far as the floor plan, the actual floor plan itself. All that I did with great 3d rendering tool, you know, you can email things to people, we can FaceTime, you know, the big screens in the Design Center we can take a look at fabrics, I think it worked out really well, you know,

15:44
yeah it’s I’m interested to hear like how you because there’s a lot of nuances in what we do and just trying to figure out how, so you would hold up a piece of fabric, basically to the camera and have them sort of look at it and

15:57
miso and have like a design board put together a presentation for yep okay, here’s the, here’s the concept of what it is that we’re trying to do, okay to get fine on the concept. Yeah, I have the actual pieces like wood pieces and actual case pieces in the Design Center. Yeah, I got my camera, I got to FaceTime, I’m like okay, I’m doing close ups we also, you know, we also have a website. Yeah, so there was something else to look at,

16:26
oh no, yeah.

16:28
And also I want to say this as well. So this is a couple that I’m going to say, you know, young is always relative right so I’m gonna say there are young couple somewhere between, maybe I mean she’s pregnant so I’m going to say like maybe 32, maybe 37 All right, somewhere around there. I think that they were tech savvy enough that they got it. I, it just depends on your client, you know any mean like whether or not they’re going to be comfortable with a design because you’re not going to be able to do that with everybody.

17:00
Did you say, like, were you able to physically well okay that location, because you were in within distance you could bring samples if you wanted to but like your, your client that was in candidate like do often send

17:12
actual finished, like exactly so in that case, you can mail sample, you know, fabric samples, samples are not so hard to get. You can mail it to people when you have a 3d rendering. And again, you’re going to, you know that everything’s funny. It’s not just one tool

17:30
right so there’s more yeah you’re using different tools for different applications, whatever

17:36
your rendering tool is sending the fabric so they can touch and feel because this is still, you know, interviewing people want to like say for sure.

17:45
Yeah, especially textural stuff like poster yeah you want it, yeah.

17:49
Yeah.

17:50
Now what about sitting on stuff because that’s another question.

17:53
Okay, so here’s the thing crystal again. Let’s look at this generationally right. And let me say this for myself, I am a perfect size seven shoe. I don’t need to try to, yeah, okay, because I know I’m a perfect size. Right, you have a generation, again, I work for reputable quality.

18:10
Oh yeah.

18:12
You have people that are comfortable with not suiting ones. Okay, I think because I work for quality retailers, the name is unknown is synonymous with falling. Also, I don’t think that this is such a big deal, but I do have people that need to sit on something, and I think we kind of talked a little bit about this before, I would suggest going with the retailer and checking out their return policy. And you know, because as you know, if you get something custom, you cannot return it. If there is a place for them to go if there’s a brick and mortar store for them to spin on things. Yeah, that’d be great, but again it just depends on budget, you know, you have people that will spend $3,000 for a sofa and then you have people that don’t want to spend more than 1000, you know,

19:03
so I’m just thinking with what I mean I know Ethan Allen here in Canada is up there in price, I mean it’s a quality. So, I would be concerned about somebody buying, let’s say, a sofa that they’re picking the upholstery they’re picking whatever so now it’s custom Brady, that’s something that, but it’s more for, I think, like, how tall are they does it, you know, how do they sit on a sofa. Yeah, right. But But to your point, like I do a lot of shopping even prior to the pandemic, I do a lot of sourcing, online, a time and I’m comfortable with it too. And I think to your point that the newer generation. It’s just I think that’s the one part where I go, you know, if you’re if it’s for somebody’s house, you kind of want them to sit on it but

19:47
exactly right. Right and I think you got to be careful with. So, what are we looking at here are we looking at a sofa yeah probably once you sit down our sofa. Yeah, you know, in this particular case with this couple, he was able to come in and sit on some pieces, perfect, we were able to come in early in the morning, he had the entire design center to himself, you know, and he was able to sit on things, you know, and he had her, you know on FaceTime okay yeah this is comfortable. Yeah, and again it’s really, there’s no one size fits all, you know,

20:20
yeah, no, you’re right. Yeah, no I was Wonder how with with a design but I think to your point, a lot of times, from what I understand what the designers is a lot of them will just, you know help pull things together at specify stuff. But there comes a point where it’s not full service right we’re not talking, full service so you have to get your, there’s,

20:42
Yeah, and there’s some onus on urine so the other thing so like I have my family members that are in North Carolina. So this is a great, you know, this is a good example. The retailer or I should say the retailer, but the source that we’re using is an online source. So, there’s no city, you know, there’s no setting, but it’s also returnable right so when I’m doing is I’m finding pieces that are going to work. Scale wise style wise. Okay, I’m providing you the links. Okay, and you do what you need to do with that.

21:19
You could look at it,

21:20
or you could buy it or

21:23
if you buy it, you buy it. But it’s your credit card, it’s your, you know it’s you having to return it in a case like that, I would be like, No, that’s a flat, because I don’t even want to get involved,

21:35
No, and you’re, you’re right not to, because that’s, that you don’t need and I mean, listen, yeah, sure, sofa, may be returnable but my God it’s not something you just throw in the backseat of your car, take it back to the store, item right so yeah, it’s a hassle, you’re getting somebody to deliver it.

21:54
Exactly. And I think it’s an again it’s not a one size fits all thing because I, unlike you like, maybe, the larger piece. I’m going to go with and where I happen to work as a national retailer, you know, so where are you located in Virginia. I got a dozen, you know places you can go to sit on something. But, and to your point, it’s not that easy to return a sofa, you know, so maybe, maybe that’s not the piece that you’re going to do online, but for some people, maybe it is yeah no to me, I feel a little bit for myself I know like case pieces yeah you could you know immediate unit, we can you know that that’s not hard, no line is basically it’s like, is it going to fit a little chess, you know, coffee tables, but I think with the upholstery, so you know, brick and mortar is and completely dead let’s put it like that.

22:46
No, I think I don’t think it ever will be.

22:48
I don’t think it can be, but some people really are going to need to just sit on something, you know, it’s like buying a mattress like who buys a mattress online. Yeah, I mean I guess somebody by delaying it

22:59
got, you know, even that I find okay well how long do I need to lay it out for how long. Well I don’t shoes too sometimes right and you’re like, can I think they’re comfortable, I’ve only tried the store. Yeah, there’s, there’s some, I guess, flexibility and in the statements, it’s not. Yeah, it’s not black and white and point it’s not one size fits all. So do window treatments as well with like through Ethan Allen do.

23:27
I do the window teammates as well to Ethan Allen, that is so little to us are so specific, like, that is, I mean Lester like draping panels, you know, cuz that’s easy. Yeah, it’s like, how, you know, on top of the window down, right, an idea to know. You know, cream, you know, sell for cream linen or whatever. That’s not, that’s not really difficult but anything more to me I would I call like the functional layer like the as far as like control as far as privacy. That is not something I would probably recommend doing, I mean you could provide certainly suggestions but that’s measuring, you know, and that to me is going to be relying on the client, you know to do. And then there’s a lot, you know, just like with upholstery, there’s a, there’s a range there like can you go to Home Depot and get a woven wood. Yeah. Yeah, can you get a customized welding work from Hunter Douglas, yeah, you can. We’re talking about $50 to $500 Yeah.

24:31
And then at that point you would probably call in a local window. You’ve guided them on the style

24:38
and the look you know, that’s where you want to go then, you know, let me at least put you in contact with the local person that can take that can execute. From here, so we’re back to, like, you know, left brain right brain because if you’re doing it. If you’re going to take this job, then I feel like you need to have some resources. Okay, to guide people to write, even if they are selecting, you know items for themselves, have a list of resources of, you know, reputable places that you would recommend people to know, places that if you are going to purchase a sofa, you know, online, let me just make sure that, let’s just check and make sure they have one let’s check the reviews. Okay, let’s check the return policy. Okay and then let me cover myself as a designer, and I need to put a disclaimer in there. Yeah, right, because everybody’s everything’s all good until something goes wrong, right, if it goes wrong, right until something goes wrong and it’s like, Oh, you didn’t tell me this, You didn’t tell me that so I rather be a little bit more detailed with people to know, I just think it’s smart like let them know what what the expectation is, if you provide a pink color. You need to connect with the local painter, you know, I’m not going to give you the amount of paint you need. The paper is going to do that, yes okay yeah, I’m giving you the color. Yeah, if we’re looking at doing walking for me to your hangar, to give you the right amount of walking, because I’m not, I don’t want to take responsibility for that because number one we’re doing this virtually, so I don’t know exactly. Now this is a good point about sizes right I don’t know exactly what your, you know, what your size is. And again, I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be drawn into that, you know like I don’t think that that’s, for me, I don’t think that’s part of the service that I want to be drawn in,

26:45
and smart especially, you can’t physically be there, I think you need to be a consultant, and that, you know, and although you know you’re not doing as we said before, you’re not doing full service. So you’d be a consultant you guide them on the selection these. Here’s the wallpaper I think that’d be great, your wallpaper that solid well look at it, no the repeat No, you know how many cuts Windows doorways whatever you know, stuff that, and I feel the same way with a lot of even just tile too sometimes I’m like oh yeah I can go into my drawing and calculate the square footage, but that’s not exactly you know like I always want my Tyler to say, I’d be like okay this is what I calculated. Here’s my here’s my overage, but I want you to confirm, right, because there’s nothing worse than they’re on site and they’re like oh we’re short.

27:30
Yeah, there’s nothing worse right there’s nothing I agree with. There’s nothing worse than that and you don’t want to be the person holding the bag because, quite frankly, I’m not the expert at that.

27:40
No no no,

27:41
so I’m not yes but I respect what you do, and I’m going to delegate that to you so that you can take ownership of that particular part of that piece, because I think we also when you’re doing it virtually because like you said, you can’t be there on site. Yeah, so I can’t exactly manage this, you know, the way that I would want to manage it, and because I can’t be on site. I don’t want to do it like, No,

28:09
I think it’s smart because you’re just opening up a huge can of worms to a lot of problems,

28:15
like, a lot of problems. Exactly, so you’re there you’re consulting, and also, here’s the thing, too, if you’re doing things you know virtually there’s no guarantee that they’re going to purchase anything. That’s what I’m suggesting

28:29
yeah here’s what I paid for is to give you a the loader

28:34
to do whatever it is that you need to do in mind. My job here is done, you know, you’ll manage the shipping, you’ll manage the Amazon deliveries or whatever, wherever there

28:47
are the shipping when somebody something arrives damaged and

28:50
exactly a day go because that’s not, I don’t want to be involved with that, you know, 2000 miles away. I don’t know.

28:58
I don’t think that’s a smart choice and, and, yeah, from what I understand most II designers that I’ve spoken to or have sort of learned about pretty much do the same thing right it’s more of a consultation or it’s more of a consulting type project where you’re picking everything for them. Here it is, you know, you guys, you know now the execution has to come from,

29:18
from someplace. Right, exactly, because if you were going to hire me, let’s say, you know 19 desire, let’s say you know we were locally you’re hiring me as a designer, not even, you know, to my day job. I’d be charging for all that stuff, you know, so obviously, for whatever reason and there’s no judgments if that’s not what your budget requires tonight, get it, then this is the value that I placed on this particular job I think that I’ve given you more than enough value. And at this point, there’s a part of you that, you know, I feel like some people are di wires, yes, no and so there’s a certain aspect of, or maybe they’re people that, you know, because believe it or not Christian, there’s people out there that can’t make up their mind.

30:07
That’s shocking.

30:09
Believe it or not, there are people out there that have to get everybody’s in.

30:14
Oh yeah, That the drive thru

30:18
family yeah, you know, yeah. And listen, if that’s what you need to feel comfortable making a decision if you if you need your girlfriend to tell you what’s good in your house Hey, yeah. So yeah, I don’t care but then you just hold on to that design until you’re ready to execute it, my again my work here is done. No, I think that’s, that’s the best way to look at real opinions, and say, that’s on you, you know, so, I think, setting. And I think see so I, I feel like this is where experiences on your side a little bit, you know because you kind of know you know where the gray area is, you know, we’ve been doing this for a while, so you kind of know like where your where your boundary is, you know, I guess, you know, so to speak, totally, totally, and you’re like okay this is, this is where my job starts and how to make it clear and how to skate with confidence. You know, so this is how I work. And this is what you should expect and and be clear about and be confident and don’t apologize. You

31:23
know I mean I think too many people don’t, I think too many consumers or clients don’t fully, you know, if you’ve never worked with a designer before they don’t really know, to your point, they don’t know where the boundaries are right so if you know they’re either contacting you through the, you know, through the internet and it’s now in a design that you know you have to spell it out to them, I’m gonna pick the stuff I’m going to specify, but I’m not purchasing it I’m not delivering it I’m not whatever. And, you know, it just I think it’s, it’s smart to any type of business and it took me a while to figure that out too. But you, you really do need to know what lane you’re in and you stay in that lane and to your point of having the confidence to explain that to your clients or prospective clients that you know I do this but I don’t do this, this and this and I’ll do this but I don’t, you know,

32:09
I think it’s right in a way. So first is you have a product that needs to be assembled, because that’s where you need to be as far as budget, again no judgment, but you have to assemble it, you know, Or you’re going to pay someone else to assembly, it I don’t care who was there, but I’m just gonna come on assembled and that’s why this is $300 Okay, so just know that. The other thing I had mentioned something that kind of triggered something in me, it’ll probably come back to you but it was really about like just the experience, and knowing, you know what you are responsible for and what you’re not responsible for it took me a little while to, oh I know what I was gonna say revision, you know, the amount of revisions that you’re going to give somebody, because we could be doing this all day and we’re not going to be doing this. You know what I mean yeah so you don’t know

33:05
that when you start first meet with a client, you don’t know if they’re gonna make a decision quickly or right now I

33:09
don’t know, I can I kind of play that by ear, but three is going to be my max

33:16
sort of I think Dan did or I was saying that rule but again, you need to sort of spell that out to

33:22
write exactly like three is going to be my max, I’ll probably start off with a couple of different choices. And then, you know, we need to make another you know revision or something from there and it depends on the vibe that I’m getting you know from Sunlight. Sunlight, you know I’m not that hard with people but you do get people that think this is an unlimited, you know,

33:47
desire on call

33:50
lifetimes, you know. Yeah, because it’s a business you know like, this isn’t a hobby for me, you know this isn’t, this isn’t a game that you know you’re playing on Facebook, this is, this is my livelihood, you know, so I’m going to put my best foot forward, based on what you’re telling me, based on budget to know because that’s the only thing

34:17
everybody has a budget

34:19
by everybody has a budget so if you’re telling me you want to spend 11 $100 for a sofa and again no judgment, that’s what you want to spend. We’re probably not gonna get a leather sofa, you know, we’re not going to get a customized purple sofa, you’re going to get a neutral color, sofa, that’s going to be the greater page, that’s where you’re at. Yeah, you know, and that’s fine, but just met and managing those expectations to 100% Now, you have to add

34:53
it and I think the more and if there’s any words of wisdom for people that are new to the industry is, is exactly that managing expectations, and setting the boundaries, that’s probably the two biggest things that you can do and it’s hard when you’re starting it’s really hard because you’re, you’re, you’re anxious you’re hungry, you’re excited you want to do whatever for people and

35:15
you’re underselling yourself I’m just trying to make a name for yourself. Yeah, that type of thing again this is, this is what this is because I’ve been I’ve been doing this now for, you know, just my second to second chapter of my life, but I’ve been doing this now for 18 years and I’ve also. I also know that it just, it takes confidence and it takes experience to be able to tell a client. No, and this, this is just my own personal thing. When I get a client that is, and you don’t know this when you first started out, you undersell yourself, you just want to get out there, you just want to do it. You want to try to make a name for yourself, and the other but I’ve noticed that people that clients that maybe are a little too many or maybe not the ideal clients. I don’t know if I want you to find people. I mean like are they going to be like you.

36:04
Yeah, it’s very true, right, you never know.

36:08
Yeah. And also, just for a new person too. If you undersell yourself. And again it takes, takes a spiritual takes confidence. If you undersell yourself, and this person refers you. You better believe that that person is going to think that they’re going to get the same price that the person exact day, you know, referred, again, is that the person,

36:35
and they don’t get that kind of

36:38
person won’t, you know, because you know they’re going to talk about price well you didn’t charge her that and blah blah blah. So, just you have to think long game and I get it, you know, just trying to build up your portfolio and all that and getting out of friends and families don’t I, I get it, I do get it, but just think about it I know the people that have given me especially when I first were starting out, the people that probably gave me. I don’t want to say the hardest time but you know you always get those people aren’t going to refer you, but they never do. Yeah, they want you to lower your want to diminish your value, and then say all without be frightened, you know, it took me a while to be like, I don’t, first of all think I want you to refer me, and I know that you’re not going to do when people do that to try to you know,

37:23
or I’ve got a lawyer I know we’re looking at buying a you know a cabin that furnished in your

37:30
area out here like that is like look, okay, you know, and again I understand, listen in the beginning you’re just trying to now, you know, we live in an Instagram world we need, you know, we need photos we need all we need followers. I get it, but just be careful, you know, be careful. And that’s the good thing with the design is just setting the boundaries, sticking to it, and knowing that I think there’s a part of it too that you can, you know, there’s a way to, you know, to have the strength.

38:04
Well I think there’s almost a bit of hate to use this word but there’s a, there’s a safety and being, not having to be face to face with people. If you don’t like confrontation, not people don’t like confrontation because I don’t think they do but you know I mean it’s that kind of, there’s a, you can you can hide behind your computer so to speak, and I mean that with all respect but what I’m saying.

38:25
No, I do know what you’re saying, I think, you know, providing a service and being clear about it also allows you to step out of it. When you need to, because, you know, as you mentioned full project is a lot. You know it is. It’s a lot it’s a lot FaceTiming to being at someone’s home, it’s a lot hand holding. No, and with, you know, virtual design, you don’t have to do all that respects you put the presentation together, you give them an option A, option B Don’t, don’t give them too many options, I would say option A option B then if you need to tweak one of those. Yeah, that’s your third right yeah, that’s your third time at that and after that, you’re done. Okay. All right,

39:14
so I can’t if I can’t, you know, you know, I guess, Satisfy your design requirements based on that then, clearly we’re not the right match, right, like

39:23
the right match or maybe you don’t need to do this virtually maybe you need something exactly wanting something more custom, you know, which is completely different, a different service there, you know, so and again we’re back to like having a confidence because you get people that want to pick your brain to, you know, we’d have to like just have the confidence to say, I’ve given you my best I know that I’ve given you my best, you know, you know, if they need to move on to someone else they need to move on with someone else, but these might be people that are just, you never know.

39:53
Yeah, there’s there’s certain plants that I’ve come across over the years that you’re just like, nothing is going to be, I don’t want to think good enough for them but they’re, they’re never, they can’t be confident a decision, and even though they’ve hired a professional to make that decision.

Published by theproductivedesigner

Crystal is the principal of Crystal Collinson Interiors, a full-service design firm specializing in the Design and Decorating of Model Homes, Sales Presentation Centre’s, Condominium amenity spaces and small commercial projects. Crystal & her builderdesigner team work with many of the GTA’s largest home builders.

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