As a creative industry, designers are learning how to keep projects moving, adapt their business services and employ new marketing techniques—all from a safe (and social) distance.
(Image Above Charlotte Moss gets creative on Instagram with a Collage Contest/ her family foundation donated $100,000. providing one million meals across America)
There may be chaos, but hope, inspiration and creativity are still alive and well. In fact, some aspects of our world are thriving. While we are inside, the earth is regenerating and enjoying a much-needed respite from our carbon-heavy lifestyle.
As the tree canopy turns green and spring flowers come into bloom, this is also a time of renewal, rebirth and reawakening. Let’s strive to see the silver lining in this difficult situation: we are all in this together, and we will survive.
Natasha Lima-Younts DSA
Designer Society of America
Tools For Your Design Business
- Communications Week starting April 13th "Bridging the Gap" conversations with Manufacturers
- Talking with clients
- Shop "The Market" Virtually
We love to share positive, productive and inspirational stories from our members. Do you have tips for other designers about how to navigate the post-COVID design landscape? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share your story with the DSA community.
Creative ways to Connect
Things look different these days, and may look different for a while. But that doesn’t mean your business has to come to a screeching halt. To the contrary, designers who use this time wisely may be uniquely positioned to thrive during and after the pandemic.
In all challenges, there is opportunity—for growth, learning and serving others. Here, we’ve put together a few tips for navigating this challenging time.
You may think that now is a bad time to market your business because you don’t want to seem opportunistic. While it may seem counterintuitive, this is actually the perfect time to be of service to your clients. The balance is: this is not the time for hard selling—instead seek new ways of connecting, offer an online class, share new design concepts with current and future clients, respond (and initiate) Instagram comments. Share ideas with your clients via Instagram/private pinterest shares, or email. You can also use the time to make a game plan for the second half of the year and catch up on marketing tasks such as website redesigns that usually get put on the back burner.
Make it Personable and Get Techy With It
Designers are utilizing many of the great tech tools available for remote work. You may want to add FaceTime/Zoom/Google Duo consultations to your list of services for new and existing clients to stay in touch. Consider setting some time aside for budget-challenged clients—30 or 60 minutes at a flat fee— to recapture some lost revenue.
Tools Built For Designers
Think about which technologies will allow you to stay connected with your team, clients and others and keep your business going virtually in spite of social distancing.
Design is a visual business, so one-on-one meetings are a much more personable method of communicating than the usual phone call or text, plus it’s a great opportunity to share creative time. Make it fun and interesting: choose backgrounds for your chat (great settings in your home or office /or there are standard options, plus you can upload your own photos as a backdrop
). Show your personality and clients will turn to you for inspiration when the time is right.
Other tools such as Slack, Trello, and Evernote can help you stay organized and in touch with team members no matter where everyone is. (This article offers a comprehensive look at several tech tools.) Skill Crush
Work on Creating Partnerships
You may not be able to meet in person, but why not use this time to make some new connections? Perhaps there is a designer or vendor whose business model you admire or a market you’d like to know more about. Send an email introduction or LinkedIn request. Reach out to people now—once the quarantine is lifted, things will get hectic as we readjust again. There are also thousands of online groups (including virtual happy hours and communities for every interest or hobby under the sun) where you can network with all manner of potential clients and like-minded people.
Enjoy the Outdoors
Exercise is a powerful antidepressant—it releases natural endorphins in our brains which make us feel good—and outdoors is one of the safest places we can be provided we continue to follow social distancing protocols. You don’t need to run a marathon or even break a sweat; a leisurely bike ride with the family or a brisk walk will do. And since it’s spring, it’s the perfect time to plant flowers, clean up the yard and spiff up the outdoor entertaining area.
It’s Perfectly Fine to Reset and Relax
This is a massive reset of everything we’re used to, and it is a big deal. Please know you are not alone.
Give yourself permission to relax and recharge. This is the Universe’s way of telling us to slow down, and it’s okay to heed that call! You may find comfort in nesting activities such as cooking, cleaning, organizing, rituals, music, aromatherapy or simply enjoying the extra time for whatever fuels you. .
Davina van Buren
Bridging The Gap
- Just Announced- Starts April 13th - 5 DAYS choose One or all 5 days
DesignerInc Technology Platform and Marketplace Provides Online Furniture Market Solution For Those In The Interior Design Trade Affected By Brick And Mortar Closures
Join the "Bridging The Gap" online for Free Communications Week
To support vendors and trade shows facing event postponements and cancellations, we are offering online-only versions of these events via our DesignerInc MKT. We are also expanding our coverage of the Spring Market season by offering DesignerInc MKT from April through June. Vendors can set up special promotions just as they normally would, and reach designers while they shop online!
DesignerInc MKT emulates the activities and marketing opportunities traditionally offered offline and in-person. Designers currently not registered on DesignerInc are encouraged to register and experience DesignerInc MKT for themselves by visiting www.designerinc.com.
We will continue to monitor the impact on our industry and work with our partners to help them reach designers online. We believe in the power of design to bring communities together in challenging times, and we encourage feedback from our partners, designers, and the broader trade community on how DesignerInc can support all of you during such an unprecedented moment for the world and for the design trade. You can reach me and the team any time via email@example.com
Heather Gillette CEO
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New collections are highlighted in the category MKT Featured Collections, and special MKT savings are highlighted in the category MKT Special Savings.
From BUSINESS of HOME
How to talk to clients about COVID-19
By Fred Nicolaus
Francis Toumbakaris was wrestling with a dilemma unique to the era of COVID-19: Would it be gauche to call his client, a doctor at Columbia University, to ask about an entryway mirror? Like a lot of New Yorkers, the Manhattan-based designer has seen most of his projects slow to a crawl in the face of social distancing measures. He’s stayed in touch with clients over the past few weeks via Zoom calls but was grappling with how to keep design projects moving while a pandemic raged.
“For someone on the front lines, the world is burning, and this is the most miniscule thing,” he says. “Taking care of a mirror above an entryway console—I feel bad asking!”
Not all designers are under the same lockdown measures, and not all have clients on the medical front lines, but across the country, designers are dealing with coronavirus-fueled uncertainty. Shipments are getting delayed, workrooms are shutting down, and projects are being put on pause. We reached out to experienced designers and business coaches to get some tips on how to talk to clients in an upside-down world.
Some clients are looking to pull the plug right now—but it’s not because they don’t want to do the project, it’s because they’re grappling with uncertainty about what comes next. Even if designers are feeling the same doubt, that doesn’t mean they have to give in to chaos. “I’ve been coaching people to talk about milestones, to try and move from shutting the project down to saying, ‘Let’s sit with it at the end of the month,’” says Holly Howard, a consultant who works with creative professionals like textile designer Rebecca Atwood and architect David Obuchowski. “Don’t say: I have no idea [about the timeline of the project]. Instead, say, ‘Let’s check in again in two weeks and see where things are.’ But you can’t go radio silent until there’s an answer, you have to stay in touch.”
BE HONEST AND HUMAN
Creating structure doesn’t mean pretending to have a crystal ball. COVID-19 has created so much uncertainty on a global scale—and with so many variables pinballing off of each other—that it’s impossible to know exactly what will happen. Pretending to have more control than you do will only create false expectations.
“I’ve been totally open. Last night, I sent out a pretty big proposal, and I said to the clients, ‘A lot of what we’re having done is made in Italy, and once they open, it’s six weeks,” says Jeanne Chung of Pasadena, California–based firm Cozy Stylish Chic. “There hasn’t been anybody who says, ‘I need this now.’”
Indeed, the fact that the problem is everywhere has a silver lining: universal empathy. No one is going to question delays at the moment, and a crisis tends to bring out everyone’s best side. Architect Thomas A. Kligerman has been doubling his efforts to stay in touch with clients over the past few weeks, and has discovered a healthy sense of perspective. “One client wants his house delivered by Memorial Day and the contractor has been scrambling,” say Kligerman. “It was very refreshing to hear him say, ‘Everyone’s health is most important—it’s just a stupid house,’ when we told him it might not be possible.”
The last couple of weeks have been a frenzy of escalating headlines and depressing news. Even if clients aren’t slamming on the brakes, they might not be in the mood to shop for cocktail tables. That’s OK. Right now, it’s just as important to connect on a human level. “The last couple of weeks have been really chaotic. We need to give it a little more time, and we need to maintain relationships above all else,” says Howard.
“Don’t focus on sales, focus on relationships.”
Business coach Sean Low, founder of The Business of Being Creative and BOH’s resident Business Advice columnist, says that in this period, it’s important for designers to invest in the relationships they believe in. One of his clients is working with an ER doctor who wanted to put the entire project on hold. “That’s understandable—she has literally no bandwidth right now,” says Low. “But why not say, ‘I’m going to be working in the background, and things are getting done’—which is a business risk, but for the right client, a risk worth taking.”
The bad news? If you didn’t already have the groundwork of a solid relationship with your clients, it might be difficult to start now. “[Businesses] that are doing well right now came into it really prepared—the ones who sent handwritten notes [to their customers],” says Howard. “I’ve been getting so many emails from businesses that I’ve never heard from before. This time is showing a lot of entrepreneurs that … nobody was paying attention to that relationship when things were going well.”
KNOW WHEN TO LET GO
A harsh fact: No matter what designers do, some clients are going to cancel projects or radically pull back. “At a certain point, a drowning victim is a drowning victim and you have to let them go,” says Low. “You can’t have a dialogue with someone who feels like they’re drowning.” The uncertainties of the financial market are going to hit particularly hard for clients who hold a lot of wealth in stocks, and those who were treating their project like a splurge are going to be the first to hesitate. One of the consequences of this period is that designers who have stable, long-term relationships with prudent clients are going to do better than those who work with indulgent spenders. It’s too late to get an entirely new client base, but it’s an important reminder for the next time a challenging period rolls around.
DON’T GIVE IN TO NEGATIVE THINKING
Given the seriousness of the moment, many designers are wondering whether now is the time to go over fabric options or discuss color schemes. But many others are finding that for their clients, the answer is a resounding yes.
“Clients do want to talk about their project,” says Chung. “They’re holed up, they see everything that they hate about their homes, and they want to move forward with it. Believe it or not, we just signed up a new project yesterday.”
Low says now is a great time for designers to own their craft. “You have to own the responsibility that you’re there to create joy. You may have gone down on [your client’s] survival priority, but we still want interesting and fun things,” he says. “Even if it’s as simple as talking to a client about fabric samples for five minutes to distract them from working from home with a toddler. … Before all this, you felt responsible to your clients to live a better life. That didn’t change.”
And for all of Toumbakaris’s understandable hesitation, as it turned out, his client was happy to take a few minutes to talk about an entryway mirror. “She did enjoy a little bit of a break,” he says. “We had an hour long meeting; she was on her bed, texting nurses while we talked.”