A Career in Interior Decorating

Imagine having a career that lets you use your creativity to make homes and businesses more beautiful and comfortable. Welcome to the world of interior decorating!

There are few careers that offer so many benefits. As an interior decorator you will have the satisfaction of making your vision a reality. You will meet interesting people, and because many people who hire interior decorators are wealthy, you will likely spend time in many beautiful homes and businesses. If you start your own decorating business you can enjoy the freedom of being your own boss. And perhaps most importantly, your “work” will be fun, interesting, and rewarding.

As long as you have the desire, you can become an interior decorator. No special education or experience is necessary to break into this career and succeed. (Unlike becoming a certified interior designer which has strict requirements including two to five years of post-secondary education in interior design.) You can become an interior decorator immediately.

If interior decorating sounds like the career of your dreams, here are 10 steps to breaking into this fabulous job, based on the FabJob Guide to Become an Interior Decorator published by FabJob.com:

1. Train your eye

Since you are interested in a career as a interior decorator, chances are you already have a “good eye” for design. In other words, when you look at a room you can see what looks good, and what could be improved. But no matter how naturally talented you are, you can continually “train your eye” by studying what people consider to be good design.

Seek out beautifully decorated interiors to look at. You can find numerous examples of beautiful interiors in design magazines or in your own community by visiting show homes, open houses for sale in wealthy neighborhoods, furniture showrooms, historic homes, art galleries, and offices of professionals such as interior decorators and corporate lawyers.

2. Educate yourself

Interior decorators are expected to know about the various elements involved in decorating such as: space planning (how to arrange furniture and other items within a particular space), use of color and light, furniture and decorating styles (for example, Colonial or Southwestern), floorings, wall coverings, window treatments, and use of accessories such as pillows and art. You can learn decorating basics through courses, books, web sites, and even by speaking with retailers of products used in home decorating (paint, carpet, lighting, hardware stores, etc.)

3. Practice at home

Most interior decorators get their first decorating experience working on their own homes. Even if you have just one small room to experiment with, you can get “hands-on” experience with a variety of decorating techniques. For example, you can make a dramatic change to any room, quickly and inexpensively, simply by rearranging the furniture or painting the walls a new color. Give it a try! Experiment with techniques you wouldn’t ordinarily use. Consider this room your “research lab” where you can try things out before recommending them to a client.

4. Volunteer your services

Your friends and family members may already have asked for your advice about decorating, but if they haven’t yet asked you to actually decorate their homes or businesses, why not offer?

Some occasions your family or friends may want to redecorate are when they experiencing transitions in life, such as: marriage or co-habitation (help them merge two households into one), moving into a new home, childbirth (offer to decorate the baby’s room), hosting a special event such as a wedding or dinner party, starting a home business (you could decorate their new office), and selling a home (explain how a well decorated home can attract buyers).

5. Prepare a portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of samples of your work, plus any other documents that can help show why someone should hire you. The most important part of an interior decorator’s portfolio is photographs of interiors you have decorated, so make sure you take “before” and “after” photos of every space you decorate. Choose 15-20 photographs of work you are proud of, and arrange them in a photo album or portfolio case.

Your portfolio can also include letters of recommendation and “design boards” (poster boards onto which you have pasted pictures and samples of materials such as fabrics, flooring, wallpaper, etc.) to show clients what you recommend to decorate a particular room.

6. Get a job

Even if you plan to start your own interior decorating business, you can learn about the business and meet potential clients by starting with a job in the industry. Companies that hire people with decorating talent include home builders, manufacturers of furniture and housewares, hotel and restaurant chains, retailers (furniture stores, home improvement stores, antiques dealers, housewares stores, etc.), plus interior design and decorating firms.

To get a job, you will need to prepare a resume that emphasizes your experience with decorating plus any other skills the employer is looking for, such as customer service or organizational ability.

7. Start your own business

Many interior decorators dream of being their own boss. If that’s your goal, you’ll need to decide on business matters such as your company’s name and whether to incorporate or not. Free basic business advice is available from organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Many interior decorators choose to work from home when they start their businesses because it saves on the cost of an office and, unlike many other types of businesses, you won’t be expecting clients to come to you – you will usually be going to their homes or offices.

8. Establish relationships with suppliers

Suppliers are companies that supply the products and services you need to decorate. They include manufacturers of furniture, wall coverings, flooring, fabrics, etc. as well as contractors who do painting, carpentry, installation, etc. When you go shopping as a professional interior decorator, you are entitled to “designer discounts” of up to 50% off the regular retail price which you can pass on to clients.

While some decorators charge an hourly rate or a flat fee, others charge “cost-plus.” For example, if your cost for a product is 40% percent below the regular retail price, you could charge the client your cost plus 20%, thereby saving the client the other 20% they would pay to buy the same item at a retail store. This opportunity to save money on decorating may convince clients to hire you.

9. Get clients

Your potential clients could include home builders, new home buyers, wealthy home owners, professional couples, advertising agencies, art galleries, bed and breakfasts, boutique stores, corporate head offices, hotels, law firms, restaurants, spas, and many other types of businesses.

One way to market your services is by networking with professionals who can refer business to you, such as real estate agents, architects, antiques dealers, art dealers, home renovators, and owners of businesses that sell home furnishings. Other marketing techniques include putting up a web page with photos of interiors you have decorated and getting publicity in the homes section of your local newspaper.

10. Grow as a professional

Successful interior decorators continue to learn new decorating techniques. Once you have started a business you can continue to develop your skills by attending trade shows, reading decorating magazines and books, and joining professional associations. You can also impress clients and have an advantage over your competition by becoming certified as a professional interior decorator.

Interior Design and Interior Decorating – Some Definitions

Interior Decoration and Interior Design, although related disciplines, are different in terms of their application. Interior Decoration is the process of decorating a house with regards to finishes (for example wallpaper and paint, choice of furniture and fittings as well as adding finishing touches and decorations such as paintings and objets d’art. All of this provide a certain “feel” to a house but essentially the underlying structure of the house is not changed.

Interior decoration is normally professionally done by Interior Decorators although recently the trend has been for people to learn about Interior Decorating through various courses or books and then apply the techniques themselves-usually on a shoestring budget. The whole objective of Interior Decorating is to make a house aesthetically pleasing and at the same time, unique, since it should reflect the owner’s specific personality and tastes.

Interior design on the other hand is more integrated with the architecture of a building and a professional Interior Designer will work closely with architects and builders to make choices regarding the integral design of the whole house or building. This includes looking at choices with regards to room layout, choice of cabinets and tiles and lots of other design factors. While the Interior Design budget for new developments used to be minimal, it is recognized these days that incorporating Interior Design into the project means the difference between a run-of-the-mill development and one that contributes to the branding and life-style image of the project. The money spent on Interior Design is therefore seen as a worthwhile investment in the whole property development process.

Homeowners are spending more and more to improve their homes. Since it is relatively easy to change the appearance of a house by changing the finishings and fittings a large portion of this money goes into Interior Decorating. The growing popularity in do-it-yourself Interior Decorating has meant that a whole industry around Interior Decorating courses, books and TV Shows have also sprung up, and it has become a popular hobby for married couples. Innovative Interior Decoration ideas, which cost less but at the same time giving the impression of style and class, are in vogue.

Young entrepreneurs have also seen the gap and there is a growing demand for information and courses on how to break into the Interior Design and Interior Decoration Industry. This has also given the home {interior decoration industry a boost.

Although the trend recently is for people to tackle the exciting task of transforming a house themselves, it has to be recognized that this falls more in the area of Interior Decorating. Interior Design still requires study of the context of Interior Design, the theory of good design, knowledge of the technical advances in the engineering industry for both residential as well as commercial buildings and knowledge of the latest trends and advances in the Interior Design industry.

In short, an Interior Design project in which all the elements of design are pulled together is still the ambit of the professional designer who should be able to deliver on projects that extend beyond the boundaries of a hobby pastime.

Interior Decorating – When You Should Hire a Decorator

Whether it’s a new home, a new office or a new room, interior decorating is an important part of getting it ready for the future users. When it comes to who does the decorating however, people are usually torn. Should they use a professional or work on the project themselves? For those who are unsure, following are some tips on when you should hire a decorator for the home or office.

If you want a certain feel.

For those who are aiming for a specific emotion in their room, it would be best to get a professional that would provide this result. A good example of this would be for offices. If a lawyer wants their office to look professional, then they would need to use specific colors for the room. However, the office of psychiatrists would need a professional yet comforting design. This way, patients would be able to talk or tell what they fell.

If you’re working on multiple rooms.

For large scale projects, the input of a professional would be so much better. The sheer number of the rooms can actually be very tiring to design, thus necessitating the help of a decorator. Also, this requires very different approaches on each room, something a professional has more experience in.

If you don’t have the time.

Interior decorating can take up lots of time. It’s OK for those who have a flexible schedule, but most people do not really have this option. By hiring a decorator to the job, homeowners can simply coordinate with that person to keep updated with how the project is going. In any case, a decorator would ask their client about any changes, hence making it possible for the individual to monitor everything that happens.

If you’re on a budget.

Now this might sound counterproductive, but the fact is that in the long run, decorators are actually cheaper. This is because they are experienced enough to get a specific design at first try. Sometimes, personally designing a home leaves the homeowner unsatisfied, prompting them to make changes that are not within the budget. With a decorator however, they will be able to achieve the results they want without buying something twice. In most cases, professional interior design only starts once the client and the decorator decided on a budget. Plus, interior decorating with a professional gives a client access to discounts provided by the decorator’s contacts.

Of course, those who intend on decorating only one room might resort to personally designing it. For example, a guest room might not need as much attention as office rooms or the living room. However, also take into account the importance of the room to be designed. A good example would a nursery. For couples who are about to welcome a baby in their home, it might be a better idea to choose a professional for the job. This way, they can be sure to get results that are perfect for a newborn. Keep in mind though that there are different interior decorators nowadays so be careful when choosing one.

Tales of an IT Professional – It’s Not Just About the Hardware

As part of my work, dealing with inquiries for IT support in Birmingham and visiting prospective clients in the West Midlands, I come across many different IT setups both good and bad. When meeting prospective clients for the first time my approach is simple; it’s to sit, listen and understand why they’ve called me in the first place. It’s not to judge, it’s not to criticize and it’s certainly not to sell – That can only come once you understand.

First meeting

One such example was found on a recent prospect visit to the Black Country, on a day when I had 3 meetings with prospective clients. On that day I met with a prospect that has since become a client because they were unhappy with their current IT provider but who had systems that while were ‘OK’ were in need of some refresh. I then met with a company who were in need of IT because their existing IT provider had gone into administration but their systems were old and in need of significant upgrade. Finally I met the prospective client in the Black Country and this is where the need for IT change was most evident.

The discovery process

Their systems appeared old when I arrived and the big give away was that at the Directors desk, and their assistants, there was a desktop PC plus a laptop. This is usually a sign that the PC is not offering the service they need and so the laptop comes into play to try and do things they can’t do on a single PC. Little did I know and the truth was to emerge in the following 2 hours meeting…

We chatted about the current situation and the needs moving forward. It was interesting to learn about their business, a manufacturing business with sales into most territories throughout the world, and it was good to hear some positive news about their business with sales being good and business going well in these difficult times. I then raised the issue that the email I sent them to confirm our meeting had ‘bounced’ and thus there might be something that needs looking at with the current system. They were aware of ‘issues’ but had raised it to their guy, a man described as a ‘one man band’ that had looked after their systems for some time but whom they felt was getting past the point of usefulness due to lack of knowledge on their systems as they’d grown from 3-4 users to around 20 users currently.

Sage for DOS

In the following hour I found out that most of the hardware was around 8 years old (average), their server was probably 10 years old, they ran Windows 2000 on each desktop, they had no security policy to speak of, no planned anti virus solution, a backup policy that could be described as ‘untested’ at best and that the accounts department (5 full time users) were managing a multi million pound business on… wait for it… Sage for MS DOS. Now many readers many not grasp the full significance of the software versions noted above, but let me tell you, anyone using applications for MS DOS in 2013 is seriously behind the times. However, having those MS DOS applications at the heart of your accounts system is a real issue. They are largely unsupported and so ‘legacy’ as to be almost impossible to migrate in the future.

Resistance is futile

One issue that came up during the conversation was “well the Accounts team don’t want to change and don’t see why they need to upgrade”. This is astonishing as the Accounts team are looking at only the smallest section of the business as a whole and forcing the retention of out of date systems for their own agenda. The result is that the IT at this business has been allowed to slide past the point of any sensible upgrade point and is not at a level where only wholesale replacement and renewal can be considered. This has huge implications on training for all staff, especially the Accounts team, and that was my overriding point to the prospective client.

The requirement

Replacing 20 PC’s and a server over a weekend is what I do – it’s my job and I can do that with limited impact to the business. The company can switch off on a Friday and return to work on a Monday with all systems operational and new PC’s operational at each workstation. However – the training implications this throws up to users that on Friday were using Windows 2000 and Sage for MS DOS is massive. The productivity levels will dip and unless staff are given the option to ‘buy in’ to the updates then they could hinder or even kill off the benefits of the upgrade. The key to this project would be full and focused training for all staff to make sure they understand what’s going to happen, what the new software can do and to offer familiarisation before the switch is made.

It’s not always about the hardware

To conclude, the point of this story is to show that if you are looking to upgrade your IT systems and move forward a number of steps then you have to allow for staff to catch up and you must help them as much as you can. Some staff (younger) may find the transition easier than other staff (older) but all should be trained and all should be helped through the transitional stage. It also highlights that it’s important to not just simply sell IT and then run; highlight the areas where IT will impact on the business process and offer help and support either directly or with partners (training partners in this case) to offer the best possible service

Craig Sharp works with a wide range of business sectors, and uses over 16 years of experience from a diverse customer base to ensure clients get the best possible IT Support and Service. He is customer focused and meets regularly with clients face-to-face to see how he can enhance the way they work and make sure they are getting the best from their investment in IT

Analysis of Reverse Auctions and the Hardware and Software Components Thereof

Unlike some technologies that have sprung up for business use in the recent years, reverse online auctions is not at its core a technology, but rather an amalgamation of a plethora of technological subsets, both hardware and software. Reverse online auctions is a concept, a business process, that utilizes technology to facilitate the exchange of money and supplier contracts at the lowest possible price while still taking into account many other factors that may affect a business deal and prohibit it from reaching its potential success level. Reverse online auctions can be broken down into two components: hardware and the hardware vendors and software and the software providers.

First, the issue of hardware is paramount. If the current IS implementation of a company cannot handle the increased load of database calls and other integrated systems, then the client-side software provided will be of little use. The minimum software requirements for a server run by the company for the auction software are Apache Web Server, PHP 4 to 5, and a SQL database. Though Apache is the most resource intensive application on this list, it is one of the least resource intensive applications available as web server software. Existing servers can be used for the hardware as long as they are able to support the Linux operating system. However, if the software is being purchased on demand from a vendor, then the only hardware needed is a computer that can run the Windows operating system.

On the software side, multiple vendors sell the components needed to establish a connection to an online marketplace and offer contracts to suppliers. One of the largest suppliers of software as a service (SaaS) is Procuri. Procuri offers bundle packages for both suppliers and buyers, each available on demand. This software combines to form the backbone which allows for the completion of a reverse auction online. There are relatively few steps from signing up with Procuri to completing a successful auction. First, a financial management software package is implemented which allows a budget to be made for the auctions. Next, suppliers are found by listing the auction in Procuri’s marketplace and then evaluated using the sourcing software package. Next, the auction takes place, each subsequent supplier bidding lower than the previous supplier in order to win the contract. This allows for incredible cost savings for the company that listed the contract, though it is disputed how much these savings apply when all factors are considered. At this point, contract management software is used to ensure that the contract remains permanent in a digital environment and easily accessible for approval and renewal. Lastly, the supplier management software suite allows companies to audit their suppliers based on the claims that were set forth when the contract was created. This allows for corrective action to be taken quickly and effectively while alerting both the supplier and the buyer that an issue has arisen.

It is easy to think of this entire process as simply online reverse auctions, though there is much more underneath the surface than can be initially grasped. Like every new technology, studies constantly conflict about the benefits of using it; some, like Fortune Brands, claim savings of over 18 percent, while others debate if these savings, when they do exist, serve as a detriment to company/supplier relations and negatively impact the future of the business. As this technology is studied more heavily, businesses will eventually be able to see both sides of this argument clearly and make an informed decision about whether this technology is cost-efficient and prudent to use in their industry.

If You Want to Win More Customers and Sell at Better Prices, DON’T Just Sell the Hardware

Years ago, if you were to be a foreign brand in China, you will find that you can command a real brand premium over other “Made-In-China” products. The reasons are very simple. You probably have

• Better quality,
• Better performance,
• Better safety,
• Better reputation and trustworthiness etc.

Since most of the products (or hardware) in China cannot match with the above quality, it’s a no-brainer that the foreign brand can command higher prices, AND still sell like hot cakes.

However, things have changed drastically over these few years. Nowadays, wherever you are in the world, you can find “Made-in-China” products that have met:

• International quality standards,
• International performance standards,
• International safety standards, and
• Reasonable levels of reputation and trustworthiness

While some customers are still reeling from product safety such as the 2008 Chinese Milk Scandal, but even world-class manufacturers like Toyota have problems with their Foot Pedals. No matter how you look at it, Chinese products are indeed catching up fast.

Yet, despite rising costs in China, Chinese products are still priced very low. This low pricing has caused many international brands to lose a lot of businesses due to their higher prices. The impact on the Chinese companies isn’t that good either: many Chinese companies are suffering from negative profits, shortage of funds or cash flow issues because of the low prices they quote. As a result, it’s a lose-lose situation for all.

Why Selling the Hardware Will Drive Down Prices

Besides the fact that there are a lot more competing products that are almost as good but selling at half your prices, here are some trends in the market that are driving prices down:

• Ease of getting information. These days if you want to search for just about any product, you can go online and just find it. Even if you cannot download price lists readily, it can be found in ways that are easier than before. Hence, prices are transparent if you are looking at the hardware specs alone.
• The hardware is getting a lot more homogeneous. Whatever product specifications that you offer, chances are the differences between you and your competitor are marginal at best. Since there are not much differences between the hardware, customers make more of their decisions based on price.
• Customers are getting more knowledgeable. Customers are better educated these days to find out what kind of hardware they want, AND what kinds of prices they can get. Sometimes, they even know more than the sales person when it comes to product (or hardware) knowledge.

In a nutshell, if a sales person were to sell the hardware, all it takes is the customer to say “I was quoted a lower price from your competitor” and voila! The price just miraculously dropped to match the competitor’s.

Even then, the astute customer may not just buy from sales people who sell the hardware, and then quote the lowest price for it. Instead, they need better advice before making a buying decision.

The Buyers’ Dilemma

If you were to put yourself in the customers’ shoes, here are some of the customer’s concerns when making a purchase:

• “Since everybody quoted the same specs at similar prices, from whom should I buy from?”;
• “Since everybody quoted the same specs, how do I know who will live up to their promises, and who won’t?”;
• “If I am going to make the purchase, how do I know that it will solve my problems, and work well as planned?”
• “If I am gong to make the purchase, how do I know that I will get assistance and support if things don’t work out as planned?”

While customers may be a lot better informed and educated, the business environment they work in are also getting a lot more complicated. Hence, here are some other factors that they would consider before making the buying decisions:

• “Are there any better ways that I can get a better result?”;
• “Are there ways that I can do more with less?”;
• “Are there any other factors that I’m not aware of?”

Thus, the customer’s experience is not just some fluffy concept that applies exclusively to the service industry. While the customer already knows a fair bit about the hardware specifications, but what they need now is to have a better experience buying the products they need.

Such “experience” actually add value by helping customers get better business results. Astute customers appreciate that. For customers that are still shopping on price for critical purchases, it will be the job of the sales person to educate them on how to get better results through a better customer experience.

Customising the Customer’s Experience

Suppose you are a sales person for Bayer MaterialScience’s Coatings, Adhesives and Specialties Business Unit, and you sell coatings to the buildings industry. The stain-resistant coatings used for homes, offices, restaurants and hospitals may be of similar chemical properties, BUT the customer expectations are different:

• The home owner may want to make sure that the coatings will save their parquet floors from their dog’s poo or their child’s vomit, so that if they have a visitor, the floor can be cleaned easily and be presentable;
• The office manager may want the carpets be coffee stain resistant, so that their offices look presentable to customers who may visit them;
• The restaurant owner would like the extra-strength stain-resistant coatings since their diners may spill wine, food and other contaminants onto the floor every day. The flooring also needs to be slip-proof to prevent the waiters from slipping;
• Hospitals would want to have their floors to be protected from abrasive chemicals and *gasp* blood! They wouldn’t want to frighten patients with blood stains that could not be cleaned.

Sounds easy? Unfortunately, the coatings sales person is unlikely to sell to the home owner, office manager restaurant owner or hospitals. Instead, he or she is very much likely to be selling to parquet, carpets and other flooring manufacturers, who will then sell to the end users.

Chances are, the flooring coatings sales person is not going to ask to whom those parquet, carpets and other flooring manufacturers are selling to. He or she is unlikely to advise which selling points of the coated floorings will appeal to which customer groups.

On the other hand, the coatings sales person who is able to provide better business advice (as opposed to technical advice) for the customer is going to create a much better customer experience. When the customer gets a more productive (and sometimes enjoyable) buying experience, they are likely to buy more from you.

And since you are able to justify the business reason why it makes more sense to buy from you, you are much likelier to get a better price from your customer.

Here are some other examples of some “experiences” that customers want, but find lacking in sales people:

• If you are selling meeting facilities in a hotel, can you find out from the customer what is so important about the meeting, and what will be the service that matters most?;
• If you are selling IT software solutions, can you find out about the end-user’s work habits so that they find the software easy to use and really boost their productivity?;
• If you provide furniture hardware to office furniture manufacturers, can you give suggestions on how they can use your hardware to save space and allocate more seats in office spaces with high rental costs?

Ultimately, the experience customers have with your company starts the moment you make the initial contact with them. If you would like to keep their business, then you would have to keep on selling the “experience” for as long as you can!

by c.j. Ng

c.j. is the trusted sales advisor who have helped international companies achieve quantum improvements in sales profits in China and beyond. He is also the 1st-ever sales trainer and consltant to speak at the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) International Convention. So far, c.j. has helped:

* A leading international hotel to produce the equivalent of an additional 5,000 room nights in China in the lull summer months of 2007 * A global leading architectural hardware company to increase the sales revenue of a key account in Shanghai by 10 times within 3 weeks * The world leader in PC sales to transform their sales force to be more collaborative and solution-focused, and helping them to regain worldwide pole position from their nearest competitor.