You’ve decided to work for yourself as an interior designer, and it’s your first day in your new “office”. You sit down, and you’re excited. You’ve got your hot or cold cup of choice, and you’re ready to start. You sit down, tidy your desk, post to Instagram, and start procrastinating until it’s your lunchtime break, when you panic that the morning is over. You’ve done nothing except respond to a couple of unimportant emails. You spend the rest of the afternoon busy with the voice in your head shouting, “You don’t know what you’re doing!”.
If you’ve already got a project underway then you probably took the reactionary approach and started to deal with the emails and requests that came in regarding the project (if so, this blog post about how to deal with client problems might be worth a read: Dealing With Interior Design Client Problems ). You know that you have a long list of things to do like set up your business correctly and do all of the legal stuff, but that can wait, your project is more important because it will give you that very much needed portfolio and money so you ignore the administrative things and put them aside for later (which never comes…)
Does any of this sound familiar? Once you start to work for yourself as an interior designer it can feel like you’re doing what you need because you’re keeping busy or “marketing” on social media (aka scrolling for hours with no intention) or responding to emails. But this is not how to run an interior design business if you want it to succeed (if you haven’t seen my video on How To Start An Interior Design Business To Guarantee Success, you can check it out here: How To Start An Interior Design Business | 5 Things You Need To Guarantee Success ). I know this too well because even to this day, it’s something I have to work hard at, especially with a super cute toddler who loves to play in my office (making a mess) all day. I’m a natural creative who loves to feel the freedom of flexibility in my days, but without any structure at all, I get lost, I lose my direction and I need to stop and focus to get realigned.
The key to managing your day when you work for yourself as an interior designer is to look for change. Did you change your work/life balance? Did you change your career? What else has changed? Take a moment to think about any recent changes in your life and work and note these down for yourself.
These are the changes that have recently happened in my life, some of which you might be able to relate to, some perhaps not:
These Are The Changes That Have Recently Happened In My Life:
All of these recent changes have meant that my timetable is entirely out of whack, and it starts to get frustrating; things don’t get done, and if I let the disruption in my life go on for too long, it will start to affect my projects and clients (which is a big no). So, how do you manage your day if you work for yourself as an interior designer? How do you get back on track and get yourself organised so that you know what to work on and when, and then get back into your groove and flow, removing the stress so you can do what you love?
Here is my list. Suppose you don’t know where to start. Start with this. It will give you what you need to move forward like a professional. It works for me every time, and I’ve just done this again recently, too.
When you work for yourself as an interior designer, you need to know how you spend your time, so the first step is to scrutinise how you spend your time each day. I do this by keeping a paper and pen close by (call me old fashioned, but you can also use your phone) and then writing down what I have done during that time in hourly intervals. You can split it up even more than that (I know people who do it every 15 minutes…), but I find an hour passes quickly.
Once you see how you spend your time during the day, it starts to reveal where you’re wasting time, where you can gain more time, what needs to stay and what needs to go in your schedule. Remember that you want factual data. Don’t guess; do it for real, or else it won’t be beneficial.
If you haven’t read the book “The One Thing” By Garry Keller, then it’s time you did. If you work for yourself as an interior designer, you will need to know your primary business goals and how you will achieve them. Business goals will differ for everyone, so set them and work your way back to how you can achieve them. Then you will know what that one thing is for you and focus on it first, thing, every single day.
If you haven’t got any money coming in and need to pay the bills, then client acquisition is likely to be your key “one thing” that will move the needle for you in your business and the main thing that deserves your focus at the start of each day. Then, don’t do anything else until that task is complete. It’s the one thing you must do every day until something changes again. Then, once again, you’ll need to realign.
The next step to manage your day when you work as an interior designer is to create a timetable. This is more of a holistic exercise than something you need to swear by, but if you can aim to stick to it (roughly), you’re already focussing on the right tasks at the right time.
It depends on your personality whether you stick to it or not. If you can manage to finish tasks in set times (creativity doesn’t’ happen like that for me), then great, but it helps me see how much I can potentially do each day and see how I can work towards that. Some days, I’m more efficient than others; some days, I take a day off (and it’s not the end of the world, and that’s the best feeling, too).
This is something I walk through with my mentees. It’s critical because you cannot get your timetable or routine right the first time you try it. It is essential to check in after a week or so to see what is working and what isn’t, note it down and refine it as you go. Another thing to note is that if you work for yourself as an interior designer, it’s likely that you don’t have two design assistants, a PA and someone to whom you can outsource everything at the beginning at least! So you do have to create a routine that works for you and ask for everyone’s help to support you during the times that are yours. However, you also have to stick to your boundaries!
Also, don’t forget that things change. With a two-year-old at home, I have to rework my schedule completely. Without kids, it’s easier to find the time to complete everything that needs to be done. If you need support, ask for help and be the business owner who does what needs to be done rather than feeling sorry for yourself (like I used to!)
Some people will naturally get up and get dressed each day (hello morning people, I see you), and others can live in their PJs or sportswear, forgetting that they need personal hygiene (hello, architecture students). Joking aside, you can quickly get into the habit of not getting dressed for work every day when work is down the hall or in your bedroom. But if you work for yourself as an interior designer, you must get dressed every day, not only for your sanity and well-being but because we do have people visit us, so you want always to be prepared to pop on that Zoom call or answer the door to the sales rep!
You’re a professional, and that requires dealing with clients, trades, and other professionals speaking on camera, going to meetings, and popping out to pick up samples and collect deliveries. So, getting dressed for work every day will help you feel confident and professional and allow you to do what you need as a working interior designer to get things done rather than set them aside for another day.
If you work for yourself as an interior designer and find that you are wasting time each day because you don’t know what to focus on or you’re wasting time focusing your energy on the wrong things, these five action steps will get you on track quickly. It’s what I do in my interiors and architecture business, and I teach my mentees to do too. Once you find a routine that works, you’ll be glad to know that your efficient way of working should last quite a while.
If you’re like my husband Darius, who has had the same schedule for 20 years and it works perfectly, then lucky you… I’m lucky if my schedule lasts two consecutive years, let alone two decades! But know that once you nail down these things and get comfortable with your routine, you’ll be focused and deal with the important things that must be done each day without stress and worry.
To finish up, I feel like social media can make you believe that everyone has everything sorted, but remember that life isn’t static; different projects might demand a different schedule and different lifestyle decisions like exercising daily or cooking all your meals from scratch require you to think about how you’re going to fit that all into your day. I’m constantly revisiting how I organise my time and what I can do better. If you have any tips, note them down below, too!