The interior decorating industry is built around making things look beautiful and using all sorts of tricks to make a room look better than it actually does. There’s a lot that goes into running a decorating business beyond the pretty scatter cushions, fresh paint and beautifully curated furniture choices. It can involve long hours, stressful moments and unpaid bills..

I receive emails and direct messages on Instagram every few days from people wanting to get into the interior design industry or about to embark on two years of study and want a little bit of guidance. I remember when I was at that stage in my business and how many people just never bothered to respond to me when I sent off a resume or tried to make contact so I always make a point of responding to them all even if I can’t offer them anything the’ve asked for. Often their opening sentence starts with “I’ve been following your work for a while now and it looks like you are killing it….”. I’m definitely guilty of sharing the fun, pretty and exciting side of running an interior decorating business so I do often feel a sense of guilt when reading those emails because it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. Some days one email can throw off your entire day or you sit at your desk trying to hold back tears when things don’t always go to plan (NB: I’m not a crier at all. Like ever. But some days I am reduced to tears when it gets tough).

So, what’s the point of this blog post? I wanted to share more of what happens day to day running a decorating business. For the most part I’m extremely thankful I can carve my own path in a really great industry so I’m not here to complain, I just feel I need to share some of the more realistic parts so I’m not setting anyone up for false expectations in the industry…

The Realities of Running A Business

Here are some of the kinda shitty bits about running a business (and trust me, they aren’t specific to the interior design industry, I have plenty of entrepreneurial friends who complain about similar issues but we very rarely share them on social media.

Unpaid Bills

Sometimes clients don’t pay you. Ever. I usually invoice for a percentage deposit before starting work but occasionally a client just goes AWOL and never responds to you. It’s a real pain to follow them up and still get no response or no final payment. I’m changing the way I invoice this year to try and combat this.

Stock can go missing

If I tallied the hours I’ve spent on hold with freight companies chasing client orders I’d probably gain a whole month of my life back! Plus, when something goes missing usually no one wants to take responsibility so it can end badly for everyone.

Rude clients

Now this one comes with a disclaimer because 99% of my clients ROCK, pay their bills on time, are polite, respect my working hours and sometimes we end up celebrating their finished house with a glass of bubbles on their sofa. BUT, every now and then a rude one will pop up with unrealistic expectations. I recently worked with a client who spoke down to me and questioned the value of my services. I don’t need to take those kind of jobs on because they’re usually the most time consuming yet the smallest/cheapest jobs. Don’t forget that you are able to say no to clients, you don’t have to give them the exact reason but you also don’t have to put up with their crap.

I’m also a marriage counsellor 

No I’m not a trained counsellor but the amount of couples I’ve seen argue in front of me is actually quite astonishing. Like full on disagreements with raised voices…  Managing a husband and wife is often tricky as two different styles and personalities need to be considered so reminding myself that they’ve engaged me as the professional and trying to bring the decision down to a more practical decision as opposed to a style decision is often the best way out of these arguments.I’ve also had a couple of clients joke that I’ve saved their marriage because they go with my decision and don’t have to argue with each other to come to an agreement 😉

They want YOU

I outsource as much as I can to my fabulous assistant Holly or to a freelance team of contractors but ultimately my clients want (and pay!) for direct access to me and my styling ideas so I have to be available to make quick decisions for their builders to implement on site the next day. This brings me to the next one….

You’ll work 80 hours a week so you don’t have to work 38 for someone else

Yes you can set your hours to some extent but it’s not a 9-5 job. It’s a 24/7 job, especially if something goes wrong and you need to fix it out of hours. No one else will magically step in and fix something for you if you want to go to the beach that day instead. Often I need to meet clients out of hours because they work full time so that means my hours are extended too and I don’t always get those extra hours back later in the week.

Some days you sit in the car ALL day

I try to schedule my client visits to be in similar areas of Sydney but it’s not always possible. Some days I’ll leave the house at 8am and not return until 6pm or later because I’ll be sitting in Sydney’s revolting peak hour traffic to get to the other side of Sydney and then cross the city again to get to another client meeting. I know where all the McDonald’s restaurants are because they come in handy for toilet stops, food to refuel and they have wifi so I can quickly check the inbox while I’m on the road. Again, if I counted how many hours I spend in my car I’d be shocked! On days when you’re out all day the inbox doesn’t resolve itself, I either need to work late that night or respond quickly to say I’ll get in touch the next day. Scheduling your client visits is a big juggle as it does take you away from designing client concept boards so try to consolidate consults to one or two days a week rather than being out on the road throughout the week.

Ok that’s enough whinging from me.. I met with a lovely couple today who have engaged my interior decorating services for their brand new home (no arguments were had in front of me) and I need to get started on their project documents which I’m really excited about (see, I do love my job!)

If any other decorators read this, I’d love to know I’m not alone so send me an email or leave a comment below!

Emma x

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