What Level is Your Design Business?

Diary of a #NewbieDesigner

Diary of a #NewbieDesigner

Sometimes I wonder if LuAnn ever thought her presence and energy alone could totally ignite a room of 200 design professionals who flew in from 17 states and 3 Canadian provinces.

I wonder if she knew that her A Well-Designed Business® podcast could inspire this many people to be better, actionable, and even excellent! Maybe this WAS her vision. Knowing her it probably was, but what I do know is this: LuAnn is changing lives, including mine.

I’m Sara Brennan and, like many of us, I’m a #NewbieDesigner.

To be honest, I actually think I’m probably LuAnn’s ideal client too. I mean she solves my problems. I know, like and trust her. And I’m buying what she’s selling. See, I told you—ideal!

I’ve been listening to and working with LuAnn for about 18 months now and I am living proof that the advice she gives on her podcast and in her coaching is worth its weight in gold.

Not sure if you trust me? I get it.

You just met me, so let me give you some examples of what I’ve achieved since putting LuAnn’s words into action:

  • Thanks to podcast advice, I’ve been published in national magazines multiple times: 7 print publications, multiple online publications and I also have my own monthly column for a magazine.
  • I started using MyDoma Studios and created detailed Luxury Interior Design Packages using a flat fee structure. Because of this, I doubled my sales and quadrupled my profits in my second year of business
  • I’ve implemented systems and strategies to create an organized and structured team and business that runs smoothly and stress-free
  • I started working with Michele Williams and hired a CFO to understand the financial health of my business, implement the Profit First strategy and earning a six-figure salary (yes, in my first 18 months!)
  • I got really clear about what I WILL do and what I WON’T do with my clients, which has lead to realistic client expectations and amazing projects
  • I made a million mistakes, identified where things went sour, had the tough conversations and grew from these experiences
  • I hired someone to design a website that contained a killer bio, a portfolio displaying my niched design aesthetic and a lead magnet to attract my ideal client
  • I’ve also created a ladder of design services, a recognizable and reputable brand, I’ve attracted and turned away my ideal client (I’ll tell you that story later), I got confident and good at sales, implemented time blocking and Monday meetings, recognized my transferrable skills, and created company core values.

If you’d like to see my hard work in action, I invite you to visit my website and see what I’ve been up to. I promise it’s all there!

Okay, so I hope that helped you to see that I’m not messing around when I say LuAnn’s advice has impacted my life.

You may also be thinking that I must have known something about business or design before I began to be able to have such success in such a short amount of time?

But no, this is not the case at all.

Before becoming (and calling myself) an Interior Designer, I was a Middle and High School Science teacher and a stay-at-home mom. Yep, my design education goes as far as a Biology Major, Neuroscience Minor and Masters in Education will let it.

(Hint: There are no design classes in these programs). So I’m just like you, I didn’t know what I was doing (who am I kidding, I still don’t a lot of the time), I decided I was going to try my best and make something of myself, so I did.

I came up with the idea to write stories of my design journey because I think I’m just like many of you reading this.

It became especially evident to me after attending LuAnn Nigara LIVE, It’s about the conversation, when I had the realization that even those designers who I look up to immensely have made mistakes and have a raw story to tell about how they got to be where they are today.

LuAnn Nigara Live

I loved it. I loved it so much that I felt compelled to share my story because I thought it might inspire others who haven’t “made it” yet, but aspire to.

And I’m sure “making it” is different for everyone, we all have different goals and dreams, but I’m sure the common thread is that we all want to be the best designers and business people that we can be while making a good chunk of change for our hard work!

So I pitched this idea to blog for LuAnn and she agreed with this “crazy pants” idea! I vowed to her and to you to share the good, bad and ugly of my journey through my #newbiedesigner years.

I promise to share what it’s really like, not what you see on Instagram and social media because I think this backstory, this conversation, this raw emotion is what made LuAnn LIVE so amazing and I want to keep it going.

Many of the things I write about will be things you also encounter, so my log will serve as a building block for you and your business so you can skip the bad parts and fast-forward to the good stuff.

To wrap up this first post, I want to share one final thought with you.

My personal motto is “Showing up is Not Enough” and I think of it like this… A professional athlete doesn’t just show up to practice, they choose to take part in it, try different things, make mistakes, so that when they’re in the big game, they’re ready to succeed.

Sara Lynn Brennan

For us, life is the “big game”, and if showing up is the only action for you, it’s not enough. It’s what happens after you show up that makes all the difference.

Don’t just call yourself an Interior Designer and stop there.

Choose to do work when no one’s watching. Choose to feel uncomfortable and scared. Choose to go outside of your comfort zone because that’s how you grow and become better and THAT is what will make you unique, special and valuable to your clients and peers.

I share this thought with you because I think it’s important to always remind ourselves that we are capable of so much more than we think we are.

So, to combine LuAnn’s motto with one of my own, I’ll sign off from here and look forward to our next chat where we can continue this amazing conversation our lovely LuAnn started. Talk to you soon!

Show Up and Be Excellent, Friends!

(24) Comments
  • Virginia
    (11 September 2019)

    Wow!! What an inspiration . . . Sara and Luann, I remember meeting you both last year at High Point and what a great panel it was (also with Claire and Wendy) Mydoma is, I’m sure, an excellent tool for designers. I just finished listening to the podcast, Sara and Luann. AWESOME content! Again, I am inspired . . . and to keep on keeping on as I fine tune my business model and plan.
    With many questions swirling around in my head coupled with the ‘on fire’ passion in my bones to continue to press on, I will continue to work on figuring out all details, structure, etc. as it relates to my Home Staging business. I thank you both for your openness and your professional modeling to me and also to the design community.
    I hope to see you both again at High Point market this year.
    With appeciation,
    Virginia Youngblood

    • Sara Brennan
      (23 September 2019)

      I love this, Virginia! Yes, I remember meeting you last year as well! Keep working hard to pull together the details of your process and lay it all out there for your clients to see and understand. It helps and creates a very streamlined system while also setting realistic expectations… WIN WIN!! Looking forward to seeing you at High Point in a few weeks!

  • Verona
    (11 September 2019)

    Sara and Luann,
    Starting from the very beginning is exactly what a #babydesigner like myself needs and wants to hear! We are all different, we have different lives and personal situations, and our circumstances and timelines can look so different to the usual “success stories” we see and hear. And of course, “success” also looks different for different people. That’s what I loved about Sara’s podcast with Luann, and this blog post. Getting “real” about what it’s really like getting started is what we really need to hear. It gives us encouragement, guidance, support and tangible pointers to help us on our journey as a #babydesigner. I am hooked! Thankyou!!

    • Sara Brennan
      (23 September 2019)

      Thank you for saying this, Verona. I try to always be real and share what I’ve learned because I know first hand how difficult it can be to get everything set up and running. I too love this podcast because of these real conversations and these insights have been so incredibly valuable to me too! I’m so glad you found our conversation helpful and I look forward to seeing you pull together packages of your own that are perfect for the services you offer! Best of luck!!

  • Kristi
    (17 September 2019)

    Thanks so much for sharing! Your episode with Luanne was amazing and I am re-listening again to take it all in and jot down some notes!

    • Sara Brennan
      (23 September 2019)

      Kristi, I’m so glad you found some golden nuggets to take away from our conversation. Take all the notes you need and listen as many times as you like and I hope doing this helps you to also get really clear on what you are offering to your clients. I’m so glad to have connected with you and I cannot wait to see your business grow! 🙂

  • Reena
    (19 September 2019)

    Hi Sara & Luann, just heard the podcast and now read this blog post. My head is buzzing. I am not a baby designer but do consider myself a baby designer in other ways, because technology is changing so fast, new options are all over, new ideas are constantly developing and as designers we are constantly catching up. I have been to lucky to stumble into you & you & MyDoma & so much more and I know when I started to do design as a freelancer back in 2003, this world was so different and so was this business. It was difficult to get connected so ferociously & so closely from far. As far as resources go we could count in one hand. Through the years I have grown and so has my business, but not enough! We moved way too much!

    So now I feel I am learning the business all over again with all these new resources, new ways of doing this business & new technique to implement. Even though the core business is still same there are so many avenues now. So thank you both for sharing your experience, your ideas and your inspiration.

    Sara, I am pleasantly amazed as to how you were able to achieve clarity in all your offers and your business. It is truly a gift. Thank you for sharing. I am literally repeat hearing the podcast and loving it.

    • Sara Brennan
      (23 September 2019)

      I’m so thrilled to hear that you found our interview and conversation to be both motivating and inspiring! Getting to the point where you are really clear on what you are doing for your clients is such a great feeling! This podcast is amazing for the exact reasons you described here! Cant wait to hear about your business grows and succeeds from here!

  • Carrie
    (25 September 2019)

    Hi! I recently listened to your interview on LuAnn’s podcast on a flight while traveling to Cape Cod for my ten year wedding anniversary. I don’t know exactly that it was, but something clicked after listening to your story! Perhaps my head was actually clear & able to really listen, while traveling off to a dream destination. I don’t know! But I have been showing up & taking actionable steps ever since listening. I have re-listened to the entire interview twice! I’ve looked at your website & checked out your services. I officially started my design biz in 2018, although its been a dream for many years. Currently it is a side hustle and I am working diligently to grow my business to be a full time sustainable business. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing your story, from this #babydesigner!!! I needed to hear some of the things that you talked about. Looking forward to reading your blog updates here!

    • Sara Brennan
      (25 September 2019)

      Hi Carrie! Thank you for taking the time out to share this awesome comment with us! I’m so glad you were able to hear this podcast at time where you were really ready to listen and take it in, its so amazing when the stars align like that!! I’m so happy to hear that you are being very actionable and implementing new strategies to grow your business intentionally! Go girl!! From one #babydesigner to another, you’ve got this!! I KNOW you can build the business you dream of, keep taking baby steps (no pun intended!) until you have each new process on lock down. You’re well on your way! Keep me posted on your progress and success!! xo

  • Janet
    (12 October 2019)

    So inspiring, Sara and LuAnn! #notababydesigner but #latebloomer and #lifelonglearner LOL. There is always so much to learn and LuAnn’s podcast is packed with invaluable information and inspiration!

    • Sara Brennan
      (15 October 2019)

      Hi Janet, I’m so glad you reached out! You are absolutely correct, LuAnn is creating an amazing community for people of all walks of life to join in on; it’s fantastic. Best of luck to you and your design business!!

  • Leslie
    (12 October 2019)

    This is a great post, Sara, and sure to be helpful to all who read it. Good luck as you continue to grow your business!

    • Sara Brennan
      (15 October 2019)

      Hi Leslie! Thank you so much! I’m so glad you liked this one and I appreciate you taking the time to reach out.

      Have a great day and stay tuned for many more posts to come!

  • Mary Ann
    (13 October 2019)

    Congratulations on your successes so far and bravo to LuAnn who inspires us all and gives us new and amazing crazy pants ideas to try!

    • Sara Brennan
      (15 October 2019)

      I love it, Mary Ann! Yes, love those crazy pants ideas that sometimes turn into reality!! #dreambig

      Thank you for stopping by to leave a comment, I love to hear from you!

  • Sheri
    (14 October 2019)

    Sara, I too am an ex-teacher (taught grade 6,1, and 2 for 17 years). While that seems like a lifetime ago, I believe being a teacher taught me some valuable lessons. Working with kids as much as working with adults – so many business lessons learned in the classroom.

    I loved this: “… if showing up is the only action for you, it’s not enough” Best.Line.Ever!

    Wishing you all the best.

    • Sara Brennan
      (15 October 2019)

      How awesome, Sheri! Yes, I totally agree, there are so many “transferrable skills” that teachers can bring to Interior Design because we know and understand how to communicate with and educate people. I’m so glad you could relate to my post and I also wish you the absolute best!!

      Have a great day!

  • KaSonndra
    (15 October 2019)

    Hi Sara… wow, this is the post I most definitely needed to read this morning. Your story has given me the encouragement to keep right on pushing and forging ahead as I start this #babydesigner journey. I’m in the Raleigh-Durham area so please do let me know if you come this way anytime soon. Keep rocking your designer game my lady!

    • Sara Brennan
      (12 November 2019)

      KaSonndra, I’m so glad to have spoken to your heart today. Keep pushing and keep showing up with a game plan to be excellent!! I’d love to meet up with you sometime, let me know if you’re ever in Charlotte! Thank you for the support! #babydesignersunite xo

  • Lisa
    (10 November 2019)

    This is great. Helps me more than you know. I am one year in to this business. The podcast are great and your story encourages me to keep going. I am so reluctant to invest in my business and myself. But reading this helps me to realize I have to. So much to learn and change but one step at a time. Thanks for the blog!!

    • Sara Brennan
      (12 November 2019)

      Lisa, you’re welcome! I’m so glad you’re finding inspiration in these posts and in LuAnn’s podcast! You’re right, you have to invest in yourself and realize that YOU are the key to your firm’s success! You’re worth it and you’ve got this. Keep listening and keep showing up, you can absolutely do this! xo

  • Julie
    (16 November 2019)

    I am definitely a #babydesigner! I was an elementary school teacher for 10 years, was home for another 10 and now am doing an online interior design program and am starting to get clients. But WOW, there’s so much I need to learn as I don’t know a thing about business (thank goodness for my business minded husband). So where do I begin?? I have already started using DesignFiles which I love but wondering if I should switch to MyDoma since I’m not that far in?? THank you, can’t wait to read more!

    • Sara Brennan
      (17 November 2019)

      Hi Julie! I was a middle and high school teacher as well!! Listening to LuAnn’s podcast is a surefire way to pick up some great knowledge and inspiration for your design business; I’m so glad you discovered this podcast so early on, it was a game changer for me! As far as which platform to use, it really depends on your specific needs as a designer. MyDoma is great for those who are “fresh” to the field and have never had to learn any other platform before. You can get up and running on it quite quickly and of course, it allows you to create “Design Packages” that we all know I love so much! I’d definitely recommend you take a look into MyDoma and see how it differs from other programs and maybe even give it a try if you think its a good fit!

      Best of luck to you as you begin your design business journey. Definitely keep us posted! You can do this, girl!!

Leave a Comment

What Level is Your Design Business?