Confessions of A Struggling Designer

You know how you hear stories about a designer who does a room in their own home, posts it on Instagram and business takes off? Or, the one where everyone knows that they design so one friend ask for help, then another and business takes off? Or even, the one where a designer gets published and business takes off?  Well none of those stories apply to me not by a long shot.

I always knew I was going to open my own Interior Design firm. All through school I asked the questions, did the internships and opened accounts to hit the ground running. I even spent two months working with an older designer to see what business looked like live. I graduated in 2015 and launched my business.

I have a background in IT so I was able to get my website up and running. I figured business would start flowing in the door. I had a great website after all. I waited and waited and nothing happened.  Finally I put out an ad on Craigslist and had my first client. I was ‘good to go’ I thought “this is easy”. I worked with another designer who had more experience because I was clueless.

Fast forward to August 2016 and business had basically slowed down to nothing. I’m looking at my bills and looking at my income and I’m not even breaking even. September rolls around and thankfully due to my BNI membership I got several clients at once and I’m off again. Things are going well again, I’m actually slammed. I can’t think straight, I’m so busy, but the money is still flowing slowly due to my lack of knowledge on the business side of things.

Let’s be clear, I’ve become a marketing beast by this time. I’m on Facebook, I’m doing Instagram, I’m taking out ads, I’m on the first page of Google for my area, I’ve hooked up with Real Estate agents, mortgage brokers and contractors. Basically I’m working my ass off to bring in new business.  In spite of all the work I’m putting in business is getting slower and slower. By now, I have a part time assistant that I’m also working to keep busy. But, business is getting slower and slower.

Of course on social media I appear like a shining star. I’m blogging, I’m showing pictures of job sites but in reality I’m scrambling for work.

So it’s 2017 and I’ve traveled to all the markets, sometimes by the skin of my teeth and other times relying on showrooms to keep me fed while I’m there and still hoping for my phone to ring with new business. October arrives and I realize this isn’t working but of course I don’t want to give up the dream, my flexible work schedule or my pride in saying I own my own business. But I can’t sustain life this way. Bills keep coming and they need to be paid.

I had been toying with the idea of relocation for quite some time. I was interested in moving to Culver City, CA or Maryland. (Yes 2 very different places). I came across an opportunity in one of the many Facebook groups I’m in that would facilitate my move to MD. I was so excited. It seemed like a slam dunk. I made arrangement for housing (lots of friends in MD) and was basically ready to pack my bags after settling my 18 year old in his new apartment. Then I got the email that changed it all.

“Sorry I’ve been dealing with some family issues that will prevent me from expanding. I have to rescind the offer.” WHAAATTT??? To say I was crushed would be an understatement. What now?

Well at the end of October I decided to close my office, let my assistant go and apply for a temp job to facilitate my move to MD. It was so painful to close my office. I had just designed and finished the space to my liking. Tons of pictures had been posted on social media. It was heart wrenching.  So here we are. I’ve just interviewed for an overnight position at Kohl’s. I’m filling out Interior Design applications for jobs in MD. I’m in contact with MD real estate professionals to establish connections before I arrive.

One of the major thing I’ve learned thus far is that life is not also what it seems on social media. After posting this on Facebook. “Sometimes you get stuck. I’m there now. Can’t think of how to move forward”, tons of private messages came through of others in similar situations and still other messages of encouragement and mentorship messages. It was a revelation. I wasn’t on the struggle islands alone.

Follow me on my journey to MD and see how I get my business back on track.

About the Author

Born on the island of St. Lucia in the fishing village of Anse La Raye, that Sarah loves the ocean should’t come as a surprise to anyone. She draws energy from sitting on the beach or being in the water soaking up that salty air.  Having said that, Sarah currently lives in Maryland where no warm ocean beaches reside. She knows the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay are just a drive away, but if you’ve ever been to the Caribbean you’ll know the difference. Anyhoo, Sarah is a practicing Interior Designer seeking to re-establish her business after a recent move from California.