It’s Time to Hire Your First Interior Design Employee – Or is It?

Most designers start out as solopreneurs, trying to juggle handling all the jobs in the firm alone and working long hours to do so. Then comes the moment when you realize that there are only 24 hours in a day – no matter how you try to stretch them – and if you want to grow, you admit that you’re going to need help. You’re going to need to hire your first interior design employee.

Building your team can be the most exciting yet daunting task you perform. It’s exciting as you will be able to hand off many tasks you shouldn’t be doing, don’t like doing, or don’t do well. It can be daunting for the same reason that it can be exciting. Because you will need to admit that you need to give up some control of the duties you have been performing and be willing to avoid trying to micromanage. It can also be challenging as you may not know where to start. It involves taking the time to plan, so let’s address that.

Preparing for Hiring

First, you need to evaluate your current processes and procedures to be sure you are being as efficient as you can be. Are you using the tools available such as software for streamlining social media management and accounting and project management software designed specifically for interior design firms?

Next, take the time to list tasks you do every day and then for each task ask yourself: Do I like doing this? Am I the best person to be doing this? Is there someone I could hire to do this or could I outsource it? If there are more than 5 things on that list you shouldn’t be doing, then it’s time to hire.

As you move forward remember that most people don’t automatically know how to approach the hiring process, so be willing to learn and to spend the time preparing. You should hire slowly and fire quickly. Be certain of who you’re hiring, and be quick about firing those that don’t fit your needs. Also, be sure to hire people who will balance your strengths and weaknesses to begin to build a strong team.

Create a very clear job description – for the areas you plan to offload but also for yourself. Then be sure you are committed to spending the time to not only find the perfect fit but also the time needed to onboard them. Follow the advice of Simon Sinek – hire for attitude, train for skills. You want to build a team that represents the culture of your firm, but anyone can learn new skills.

Who to Hire

When your hire your first interior design employee, you may automatically look for an assistant or junior designer. But wait! Think about that list of tasks that you should offload. Then think about how much more time you could spend actually working on design if you instead first hired one or more of the following positions: bookkeeper, administrative assistant, social media expert, project manager, website designer/graphic designer, or CAD expert. Most of these positions would not immediately need to be full-time employees and can be extremely valuable to the success of your business. Meanwhile, you get to spend less time on the business part, and more time on the creative part.

Financial Impact

As you start to think about building your team don’t forget to figure out the financial piece. How much do you need to include in your budget to cover the cost of adding to your team? If you are not sure of the average pay rate for jobs in your area you can use a site such as Payscale or Glassdoor to plug in the job title and city and find out what the pay scale is for your area. Remember that there are some positions that can be virtual so the pay rate may be less in the areas where your virtual hires live.

Also consider the long-term financial cost when you hire. A more experienced person will definitely save you money in the long run. You will spend less time training them, they will get up to speed more quickly, will probably be a better fit for your team and may more likely stay with your firm for the long term. Like anything else, it’s an investment.

If you are serious about building a successful business, you will need a strong team, so realize the value of investing the time in the front end. As recommended above, hire slowly and fire quickly – but also plan to do the work to prepare ahead of the hiring process.

“Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” African proverb

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Drue Lawlor

Director of Business Transformation Coaching Drue leads our coaching and consulting. As a NCIDQ certified designer she and Gail co-developed the 12-month Strategic Business Transformation Group Coaching. The program leads the way in teaching designers how to build or redesign their businesses for profit and success. Outside of Gail Doby Coaching and Consulting she is the co-founder of Boomers with a Plan B. She is driven to help clients create a safer and healthier homes. You’ll find her in Senior Magazine and a contributor to the following books: Design for Aging: Post Occupancy Evaluations and Interior Graphic Standards, second edition.
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