Even during a growing economy, finding new clients as an interior designer can be a lot of work. However, during a recession or period of high inflation, it can be difficult to make the case for interior design services, as clients become more sensitive to the bottom line.
But it isn’t all bad news – in 2008 and 2009, following the MBS housing crisis, interior design experienced an unexpected revival and a period of renaissance. New styles cropped up everywhere, as clients realized the core investment value of this professional service.
So how did it happen? First, the slowing economy put a drag on the luxury market, and quickly dampened new construction. The housing market had been riding an enormous bull market, and interior design was at the front of the pack when it peaked. As high-end clients quickly dried up, interior designers and decorators were forced to reach out to smaller clients, more niche projects, and clients with lower budgets. All of whom had never previously considered their services an option.
This created a huge diversification in the types of spaces being created, and in particular shined a light on the functional value of interior design. Designers who address a challenging economy by using these strategies opened up the industry, and became the dominant players today. Here are a few of those strategies that you can instantly use to attract new clients during a recession:
1. Highlight the value-added service of your expertise
Value-added service refers to the additional benefit added to a service from the expertise or exclusive knowledge of a service provider. It’s important to explain this to any potential clients, but during a recession or period of high inflation it's more important than ever. Here are some examples:
Making better buying decisions. As a designer, you have greater knowledge of the market conditions and can recognize a good deal or poor quality products.
Lowering investment risk. Strategic updates, especially in the kitchen, bathroom, and living spaces are high cost and high risk. However, when done correctly, they can greatly affect the salability and value of a home or office. A professional can protect that investment, and ensure their return is maximized by lowering the risk involved.
Creating more functional and comfortable spaces. When it comes to intangible qualities, like comfort and effective use of space, many clients know what they want, but don’t know how to achieve it. These are your core specialties, so don’t forget to highlight them!
2. Emphasize the benefit of durability in asset value
In periods of recession or high inflation, many clients will be looking for quick, cheap ways to save money. This makes it more important than ever to highlight the long-term benefits of investing in your services, such as increased reliability and satisfaction, lower maintenance costs, and longer lifespan of high-value assets such as furniture and fixtures.
Commercial clients intrinsically understand the value of your services, but homeowners will need some coaxing. In principle, the economy has cooled, and housing prices are falling. Now is the opportunity to invest, and design should be framed this way.
3. Offer tailored pricing models
Inflation and recession affects both client and designer. There are many ways to make sure you are fairly paid for your work, but during periods of inflation or recession, using hourly pricing can not only guarantee you are fairly compensated, it is also much more transparent and appealing to clients with lower budgets or smaller projects. With larger budgets, allocating fixed costs to specific rooms or projects can help your clients prioritize, which is key to setting expectations early.
For more on this check out our complete guide to managing an interior design project.
4. Frame early talks with an educational angle
While many clients may seek out a designer with a specific project or goal in mind, it's best practice to start talks by outlining the full range of services that interior designers can provide, like making spaces more cohesive when occupied, customizing a special space to its occupant, and creating a space which will appeal to buyers.
By laying out these options early, your client will quickly reappraise the value of your services, even if you still focus on their original expectations.
5. Be sure to tell success stories
Networking is key to opening up new opportunities as an interior designer, but what you learn from others as well as your past clients is also essential to communicating the value of your services. Be sure to bring up success stories. This will reassure your clients of your qualifications and experience.
Seeing the investment potential
In conclusion, times of recession and high inflation offer challenges to the interior design industry. But as with any profession, there are ways to remain relevant and succeed. By highlighting your tangible qualities, emphasizing the long-term value, shaking up your pricing models, and sharing success stories, you can educate your clients on the benefits of investing in your services and keep attracting new clients during tough times.