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How To Provide Interior E-Design Service

Today I wanted to cover the dos and don’ts of providing E-design or online interior design services. Pre-pandemic, interior designers would ask me, should I …


How To Provide Interior E-Design Service

Table Of Contents

Table Of Contents

Today I wanted to cover the dos and don’ts of providing E-design or online interior design services. Pre-pandemic, interior designers would ask me, should I provide E-Design services? Now, almost every designer has been providing some combination of online/virtual E-Design interior design services (whether they’re profitable or not!)

I love E-Design; in fact, it’s the reason why my young architectural and interior design business took off! E-Design was my signature service. But the vital thing to note is that my services were profitable because I created specific services around a virtual business model, and that’s the biggest mistake I see interior designers making with online interior design services – they’re not profitable.

So before we get into the dos and don’ts of providing online interior design services, let’s take a look at what E-Design is and what it is not.

What is E-Design?

E-Design is a low-cost interior design service. It’s NOT a replica of your main interior design services provided over the internet. Why not? Predominantly because there are only so many interior services you can undertake without entering a client’s property, and only so much value clients see in those services.

That’s not to say that you can’t make a decent living as an interior designer offering E-Design alone. I did, and my mentees do all the time, but the key is creating a specific E-Design service and not just taking your current services and making them virtual.

A Non E-Design Service

Take a regular interior design project, for example. More than 50% of the work you’re doing requires you to be on-site, meeting with clients or other consultants/manufacturers or requires you to have absolutely accurate information about the property (requiring a house survey). A typical full-service might look like this:

A Typical Full-service Might Look Like This:

  • An in-house meeting/consultation
  • House survey
  • Proposal of existing house plans, designs and layouts
  • Amendments
  • In-house presentation of designs with a physical mood board, samples etc.
  • A few more meetings to agree on details
  • Sourcing, purchasing
  • Project management of the project
  • Installation & styling
  • Photography/marketing

If you’re running this type of project from start to finish, depending on how you market your service and who your target market is, you really could charge whatever you want for this and get it! Also, the potential for what you can earn (depending on what your clients are willing to pay for your service) is limitless.

If you swapped this same service like-for-like, however, and tried to make it an E-Design, you’d be hard-pressed to get anywhere near the same fee because much of the work you were being paid to do needs to be done by someone else – namely, the client.

Also, the higher value items on the list, such as project management, sourcing, and installation, are all removed because you can’t provide these services remotely (or shouldn’t). In that case, someone else still has to do the leg-work. So part of the designer’s fee goes to someone else to do the physical labour of the job.

So one of the biggest dos and don'ts of providing online interior design services is to ensure that you create specific services designed around a virtual business model and NOT replicate your standard interior design services, making them virtual.

An E-Design Service

Let’s look at the service we have above. Suppose that was what we referred to as our “lucrative offering” or our traditional interior design service. In that case, as an E-Design, we could offer an affordable version of that service by selling advice or design only.

That means that the clients who want to work with us but don’t want to invest in the expensive offer can still get the design ideas and advice from you, but they would do the manual labour of putting the project together themselves. So your E-Design version of the above service might look something like this:

Your E-design Version Of The Above Service Might Look Something Like This:

  • Virtual meeting
  • Digital concept designs, including sourcing list
  • One round of revisions
  • Two weeks of additional email contact for questions, advice etc.

Should You Be Providing E-Design Services?

It depends on what kind of E-Design services you want to offer, who you’re selling your services to (ideal client) and then, of course, how much you want to earn or make from that service. I’ll use myself as an example.

When I started, I provided a similar E-Design service to the one I described above. I sold this service for £1500 (approx. $2000 US) for a small property and £3K (approx. $4000 US) for a large one (don’t forget that typical houses are much smaller here in the UK than they are abroad). In my first year of business, I had undertaken over sixty E-Design projects.

But after two years and hundreds of completed E-Designs, I was bored and tired. I wanted to work on larger projects with fewer clients, less turnaround of projects, and higher fees per project. I wanted to get into detail, run a project from start to finish again and design everything right down to the last detail.

I had the option to hire more staff, keep the E-Design part of the business running, and take on the larger projects myself. Still, to do that, I would have to change my marketing, grow my office to employ more people and go to an office every day to oversee and manage all the projects. That wasn’t what I wanted.

In contrast, if I let go of the E-Design service, I could take on two to four large projects each year and earn more overall with considerably fewer work hours, less admin and less marketing efforts. So for a designer like myself, who wanted to work on large, luxury or traditional full interior design projects, E-Design was no longer the right service for me.

Who Is E-Design Right For?

The main dos and don’ts of providing online interior design services are to remember that E-Design isn’t suitable for everyone! Why not? Because there are so many different configurations of interior design services that we can provide as designers, depending on our niche, our client type and of course, our skillset, and these don’t all lend themselves to online design. Just take the design-source/purchase-install model, for example – these were the first interior design businesses to suffer during lockdowns because they weren’t digitally viable. They required you to physically be somewhere in order to provide the service. So who should consider providing online interior design services?

Who Should Consider Providing Online Interior Design Services?

  • Less experienced designers who want to start with lower risk projects.
  • Designers who aren't ready or don't want to provide full interior design services.
  • Designers who want to practise running small projects from start to finish.
  • Designers who don't mind giving away control of the end result or details of a project (to a builder or client, for example).
  • Interior Designers who only want to work on conceptual design-oriented projects (as opposed to project management, installation and in-house styling type projects).
  • Specialist, highly skilled or experienced designers who hold digital documentation and communication skills such as 2D and 3D rendering and drawing, technical drawing, detail documentation and other specialist documentation services (such as historical building analysis and specification writing) that don't require site visits.
  • Designers who prefer less face to face client time and who would prefer not to work in an office.
  • High turnaround business models such as those who have automated marketing and high numbers of clientele (and typically lower cost products).
  • Those designers who want the flexibility of choosing their work hours or who require flexible working arrangements.
  • Designers who have an online sourcing business strategy.
  • Designers who don't mind if they don't see the finished project.
  • Designers who don't mind working on projects that might not be complete within a short time (as some clients prefer to stagger the process or wait until they have saved for certain items as they work on creating the design at their own pace).
  • Designers looking to provide an efficient, low-cost service for a packaged or fixed price (low cost here is under £5K [$approx $7K US] per service).

Who is E-Design Wrong For?

Of course, sitting behind your computer and working on your own or holding virtual meetings all day isn’t for everyone. Many designers joined the profession because they considered themselves to be practical and hands-on, liked to meet with people and wanted to be active rather than sit around behind the scenes all day!

Also, No one wants to provide services that aren’t profitable, and not all interior design services can be offered online successfully because we deliver a physical product after all! So what kinds of interior businesses should avoid the E-Design route?

What Kinds Of Interior Businesses Should Avoid The E-Design Route?

  • Designers who provide a high-touch or luxury client experience.
  • Traditional or full-service interior designers who manage projects from start to finish.
  • Designers who would prefer to work with fewer clients but higher-priced and more significant value services.
  • Those designers who provide services that cannot be undertaken as a virtual service, such as installation, project management and in-house or turn-key styling.
  • Designers who undertake complex, sensitive or historic building projects.
  • Designers who prefer to work in an office or with a team face to face.
  • Interior designers who want absolute control over every detail of a project at all stages of the project.
  • Interior design business models such as design-source/purchase-install and design-detail-build-install etc.

Don’t forget that if you want to provide a low-level offering in your interiors business, such as an E-Design service alternative to your high-ticket offering, then you can do that. You just need to be creative and see how you can create a new offering based on a virtual set of services (and not simply try to deliver your current service over the internet).

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Conclusion | How To Provide Interior E-Design Service

We’ve looked at what online services are and what constitutes an excellent online interior design service, and we have also looked at who these services are suitable for and wrong for. To finish off, let’s highlight the key dos and don’ts of providing online interior design services.

DO make sure your interior design services are specifically designed around an online business model (rather than replicating existing interior design services and making them virtual) and DON’T assume that E-Design is right for every interior design business.

If you’ve been asking yourself, “should I provide online design services?” but you tried, and the services weren’t profitable, you might have been going about your E-Design service structure all wrong. If you provide E-Design services, make sure they’re specifically designed around an online business model rather than replicating existing interior design services and making them virtual.

In contrast, if you have been offering E-Design services and feel you’re ready for a change, maybe it’s time to restructure your marketing and business plan and offer a more traditional full-service instead, remembering that E-Design isn’t right for every interior design business.

Jo Chrobak

Jo Chrobak

Jo Chrobak is an architectural and interior designer and mentor at the Interior Designer’s Business School that trains interior designers to set up professional and successful interior design businesses and gain experience working on real projects. She is trained in architecture, interiors, business and life coaching and runs her architectural and interior design studio in London UK.
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  1. Avatar of Jo Chrobak

    It’s a pleasure Oksana! Hope you’re doing great x

  2. Avatar of Oksana Butman

    Very interesting analysis. Thank you very much Jo!

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