The Whole Package: Using Systems and Processes to Build Design Packages
- By Sara Brennan
- August 11, 2020
As you probably know, I am really big into processes when it comes to running an interior design business.
So much so that at the start of 2020, LuAnn and I launched the first round of our “Process Leads to Profits” course where I teach interior designers how to set up and run their business systems and design processes to increase their efficiency and skyrocket their profitability.
I wanted to share my story of how I came to my love for systems and processes because it wasn’t love at first sight and I think you’ll be able to relate!
I specifically remember the day that I realized that I had to systemize my business.
I was frustrated and on a coaching call with LuAnn complaining how my “10-Step” Design Process just wasn’t working! I was about to lose it. I felt like I had no control over the projects, me clients were taking the lead and I was not making enough money—it sucked!
She asked me what each step was and what kind of sub-processes I had to ensure that each step went well. I paused. I didn’t have anything of the sort. Subprocesses to go along with my process, accountability or cross checks? Nope!
My “process” was done at such a high level, that there was no checklist or plan to ensure anything would actually go right.
I had a ME, not a business. All of these steps were in my head swirling around like a crazy tornado. My little “10-Step” Design Process was more like a roadmap with no directions—that’s why I was frustrated! So the light bulb went off and I vowed to make a change.
From this moment on I started to write down everything I did into a notebook. I started to track each step of what I did, how I did it, what the deliverable looked like and how I could communicate that to the client and this was the start of me systemizing my business!
I did a couple big, what I call, “brain dumps” and started to compile all of my notes into sequential steps and this is how my processes were born.
MyDoma became My Packages
Next, I learned that MyDoma Studios, an innovative software for design professionals, offered a little feature called “packages” and this gave me another idea.
Instead of offering product-based packages, like some designers such as Wendy Wolshchuk were doing at the time, maybe I should start to offer service-based packages so that my clients could see what I offer and for how much straight from my website.
A lot of people think posting design fees on your website will deter clients, but the opposite happened for me!
The more I shared the services that I offered and the more I explained what I did and how much it cost, it was almost like the client could start to visualize what it would be like to work with me easier than ever before.
I started getting more inquires than ever, but instead of spending time explaining what I do and how I do it on the Discovery Call, the conversation was more about creating a relationship with the client and learning about their project wants and needs.
My design packages allowed me to get further faster with my potential clients during the intake phase, which ultimately lead to more conversions to paying clients—yes!
For so long, it seemed like hiring a designer was a mysterious thing that “wealthy” and elite people did.
The traditional model of design was based around a seemingly “high” hourly rate and nobody could predict how many hours it would actually take to get a project done.
That along with the fact that the actual process was not talked about, each designer had their own “secret” way of doing things and nobody shared how the process was executed.
I think the fear of the unknown was enough to stop a lot of people in their tracks when it came to considering hiring a designer for their home! But by me sharing my services and pricing and putting them into these “digestible” packages on my website, I opened up peoples eyes to how they could work with me and luxury design became approachable.
Once client’s started to visualize the process, it made my job on the “sales” side a lot easier because the calls I got were from people with questions about which service was better for them or with specific questions. We didn’t have to start from scratch by the time I actually got in front of them, which cut the sales cycle in half!
How to Create “Digestible” Service-Based Interior Design Packages
In creating my design packages I started listing what I would do for the client from start to finish, I defined my deliverables and set realistic and predictable expectations of what it would be like to work with me.
In the package itself I outlined my design process in “phases” and described what the deliverable would be at the end of each phase.
Then I took some time to review my notes and historical data from previous projects, thought through all of my professional experience (aka: mistakes I’d made in the past that I didn’t want to make again) and set a price to my first “Flat Fee Design Package”!
Believe it or not, a couple days after I published this information to my website, I had a new client “Discovery Call” come in. I thought to myself, “Oh boy, what is this person going to think of my pricing? Surely they are going to tell me how crazy I am for charging this way…” but the opposite happened.
The client loved my packages. So much so they had read everything over with their spouse the night before and were ready to commit to 4 spaces of Full-Service Design before they even met me in person. Wow, I was floored—it really worked!
I got in Instagram and started talking about my design “packages” to spread the word. I will say, the phone rang less often at first. However, the clients who were calling were more serious about their project because they understood how I operated.
In fact, they started to actually categorize themselves and were telling ME which package they wanted to buy vs. me trying to “sell” them on something. This started happening over and over and over again and my design firm started growing fast!
It turns out that clients love to see and understand the process as much as we love having one to live by. I hate it when LuAnn is right, but she almost always is. 🙂
The Process Became the Package
Throughout this whole process of creating my packages and systems for my business, I realized that there had been a gap before, a BIG gap.
I couldn’t lead my clients down a confident path because, truthfully, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I certainly couldn’t sell them on one service vs another because I didn’t really know the difference between each of my services myself.
I had to create a plan so that I could better sell services, and this plan became my process.
As long as you have a solid process for each of your services, I don’t care what you call it. Some people don’t like to label their services as “packages” – okay fine, no problem, call it whatever you want to call it. The point is that processes and systems help create a better business, period.
Before I was able to explain what I did and how I did it, my design process was mysterious and that kept potential clients from contacting me, which is a total bummer for both of us.
Now that I know and understand how things work, its easier for me to share my process with others and scale my business by creating repeatable processes that clients and future employees could stand by.
So yes, LuAnn, I do have sub-processes for each step of my process. I even have an employee handbook with each step of each services outlined with examples of how the deliverable should look. We’re hiring and reaching ideal clients far beyond my wildest dreams and I truly believe it’s because of the confidence I’ve gained from understanding my business by developing my processes.
I would not be so passionate about this if it didn’t change my life and I can’t wait to hear your success stories of how you did the same for your business!
Do the hard work, show up and be excellent. It’s so worth it!
Darcy(14 September 2020)
I heard you on LouAnn’s Podcast last year when I started design school. You inspire me! I am literally just getting started in my business and love your design process! I just finished my last class for my masters certification in July and I am scheduled to do my presentation on the 24th of this month. I am interested in setting my business up as you have. I am a total process junkie! Thank you for this great article.
Sara Brennan(13 October 2020)
Hi Darcy!! It’s so great to hear how much you love processes! Congratulations on your Master’s Certification! Keep us posted on your success and never stop building out and improving those systems and processes!! 🙂