Monday, November 8, 2010

What I've Learned (so far)

I'd like to start off by saying I would NOT consider myself an expert in this industry by any means. Every day I feel like there is so much more for me to learn. But I do learn a little every day, and hopefully as the years go on I'll get better and better. That's the plan at least. :)

I'd also like to say that I have no idea if this advice is even any good. This is just what I've experienced and learned along the way...



1.) Start small.

Don't expect to go out into the world and make money right away. As I mentioned yesterday, I started by doing design boards for free. I did TONS of them for free. I enjoyed doing them, and people enjoyed getting them.. so it was a win/win. I also presented my local services as "portfolio growing". I got compensated for the work I did, but if I actually calculated in my hours spent and miles driven, my compensation would have been way, way, way below minimum wage. I didn't do it for money, I did it for experience.

Also, in California I only used places like IKEA, Home Goods, Salvation Army, and small local fabric stores. No fancy budgets or to-the-trade vendors. Looking back, I realize how LITTLE I had to work with. But it was great experience. It'd be interesting to challenge any big name designer to see if they could do the same!

2.) Don't quit your day job.... yet.

This goes hand in hand with my previous "tip". While you are working the small, getting-paid-hardly-anything jobs, keep your day job. It sure sucked working my corporate job all day and then going home and working all night, but I'm glad I did. Although I loved interior design, I had no idea if I was any GOOD at it. I had no idea if I could do a room from start to finish. Trust me when I say it looks much easier than it is. So I went on with my normal life, and just worked interior design in on the side. I worked with a family from start to finish on their home remodel.. and at the end of the project, they were really happy with the work I did. I could see in their faces when they looked at what I had done that they felt like they were home. It was then that I knew this was what I was meant to do.

3.) Work the finances.

When I was ready to quit my day job, my husband and I made sure we were financially ready. This may mean different things for everyone, but for us it meant that we didn't have to rely on any of my income to pay the bills. A big factor for us was that we moved to a city that had a much lower cost of living (Los Angeles to Charlotte).

You won't make much at first. And I'll be completely candid - I still don't make much. Sometimes I get down about it, but I am very realistic about it. I've only been "doing this" for a year or so and as they say.. Rome wasn't built in a day.

And because some people may be curious - currently I do all my accounting myself. It's pretty simple considering I'm such a small business. I plan on going to an accountant at the beginning of the new year to get myself more organized. (i.e. Quickbooks instead of my trusty Excel Spreadsheet haha!)

4.) Seek out Experience.

This is probably my most important advice. Go out in your town and seek out experience. For me - it is my job at Isabella. It is the best thing I could have done for my career. I only work two days a week (and sometimes Saturdays) and my schedule works out perfectly. Tuesday and Friday I'm at the shop, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday (and sometimes Saturday) I work on bryn alexandra interiors.

Working at the shop has been invaluable. I've learned so much about fabrics, products, quality, clients, bookkeeping - you name it. The shop I work at does Interior Design, so I'm constantly getting hands on experience working with other designers.

5.) Get a website (with portfolio pictures) up.

This is kind of a no brainer... as soon as you can get a website up, do it! And get business cards. It's nice to have a "brand" to go along with your services - especially when you meet someone new and can give them a card with a website. Even if you just have a couple portfolio pictures, I recommend getting them up on a clean and pretty website.



And that's really all I have for now! You might be thinking - just five tips?? But as I mentioned above - I'm still so new to the industry and I am learning every day. I hope you have found this post somewhat helpful, though!

I was going through my pictures the other day and I have a lot of "progress" pictures that I never showed. I never wanted to show them before because I wanted my work to look perfect. But after writing this post, I thought these would fit in perfectly.























(These pictures are from projects that are currently up on my website.)

53 comments:

  1. so many great tips and i love the during pics. so real.

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  2. Wow, where did that white dresser come from? It's amazing!

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  3. These are the real tips many need to hear. Yes. I concur she is so real.

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  4. Perfect and succinct. Question - who did your blog/website design?

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  5. Hey Bryn-
    Great post. I live in Mooresville- 30mins north of Charlotte by LKN. If you need a fabulous bookkeeper or someone to get you started up with qb google Ford Accounting in Cornelius. Betsey and Bethany are awesome and totally got me straightened out with my small business- plus super affordable and always available!

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  6. You're so talented, Bryn! Thanks for all the tips. Great post!

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  7. Thank you SO much Bryn! I have a secret desire to start my own business someday (in another industry) so these tips are GREAT! You're doing a great job!
    Also, I think you may have mentioned before, but where did you find the giant German stamp photos you have in those pictures? (The floral ones) Thanks!

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  8. Such great advice. Love that you are making this happen for yourself.

    jbhat

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  9. I loved reading this- totally makes me think I might actually be able to follow this dream. Thanks so much for sharing. xo

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  10. So many tips.... best is starting small....I have learned that with my Christina Elaine handbag launch.......

    xxx
    ceo

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  11. Hi Bryn, I wish i had time right now to sit and read your entire blog... I just quickly flipped through your portfolio - LOVE your style! I am new to blogging (1 month now!) and wish that I had known about all the wonderful people who are willing to share their ideas, successes, failures. I love your post, your openness and your great advice. I started out in a similar way, and even today (10 years later) am wiling to take on a new project that I may not get paid what I wish I did when I factor in all the research I need to do because it gives me experience and educates me in an area that I do not know. Great post / love your blog!

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  12. thanks for this post and the helpful tips.. love this blog!

    question though, can you tell me where you got the white dresser from in the first few photos? it's lovely and i'd like something like that for my bedroom! thanks! :)

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  13. Great advice, Bryn. Agree with MFMB--so nice that you're keeping it real!

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  14. Thanks for the great advice! I am in the process of starting my own company too and I was nice to hear some clear and HONEST feedback.

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  15. Love your stuff. Just found your blog and LOVE IT :)

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  16. Thank-you so much for sharing! I can't tell you how perfect your timing is.

    I recently started a new blog here in Vancouver, BC. Would love your feedback www.lovinthat.blogspot.com

    Thanks again :-)

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  17. So cool! I've been reading for a long time, and it has been great following along.

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  18. Bryn so many great ideas and advice!! I adore your site!

    Come read a great interview, then enter my latest giveaway!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  19. I am glad that you wrote this. I needed to hear it right about now. I am where you were working a full time job and working at night too. I will get there slowly but surely. It pays to have a plan right?

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  20. I loved this post!

    I can't wait to see where you are at in 5 years. You have so much talent! I think it's also so amazing that your husband is 100% behind you--- he's a smart man! Blessings!

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  21. Thanks so much for this post! I think it's some great advice, especially for someone like me who is currently trying to get into interior design.

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  22. You're tips are so inspiring!

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  23. Love that credenza in the first photo! All of these rooms are wonderful!

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  24. Thanks for the tips! I've been doing this for friends and family for a few years, and just started doing it for people I don't know:) Oh my! It has been so eye-opening.

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  25. Thanks Bryn for the sage advice. And I love that you put up photos...I am the same with wanting things to be "perfect", but I think "real" is so much better. THANKS!

    --Gretchen O.

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  26. What great advice. And pictures. You are exactly where I want to be someday. Thanks for sharing!

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  27. I love how you were so honest...thank you for taking the time to address those most asked questions! It was great advice!

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  28. I really enjoyed reading this...great tiips ...there's always someone out there wondering how to do things.
    :)))))

    www.madebygirl.com
    madebygirl.blogspot.com

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  29. Thank you for this post. I needed to hear this. It's a great reality check of what it takes to start something and immensely encouraging at the same time.

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  30. Thank you so much for sharing all of this! I've been reading your blog for over a year now and it's been one of my absolute favorites ever since I found it. I'm on a totally different career path but I love design, and following along as you started your business has inspired me to finally start my own blog.
    [p.s. The first room (with the white dresser) is beautiful!]

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  31. Am I the only one that noticed EDDIE ROSS commented on this post! Awesome!

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  32. Bryn...that is all great advice. I have been at this for about 17 years now, and I started out just like you. I also went to work for a small design firm to learn the ropes. I cringe when I look at my earlier work.....but as we know there is a steep learning curve in this business. Here is a tip...I use Mac Freelance to do my invoices. If you don't have a Mac...you can use My Invoices. It always look professional to have an invoice with your letterhead on it. Great post! I know you will be very successful because of all your talent!

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  33. Am I the only one that noticed EDDIE ROSS commented on this post! Awesome!

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  34. I love how you were so honest...thank you for taking the time to address those most asked questions! It was great advice!

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  35. Thanks for the tips! I've been doing this for friends and family for a few years, and just started doing it for people I don't know:) Oh my! It has been so eye-opening.

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  36. What great advice. And pictures. You are exactly where I want to be someday. Thanks for sharing!

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  37. Thanks so much for this post! I think it's some great advice, especially for someone like me who is currently trying to get into interior design.

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  38. I am glad that you wrote this. I needed to hear it right about now. I am where you were working a full time job and working at night too. I will get there slowly but surely. It pays to have a plan right?

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  39. So cool! I've been reading for a long time, and it has been great following along.

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  40. Love your stuff. Just found your blog and LOVE IT :)

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  41. Thanks for the great advice! I am in the process of starting my own company too and I was nice to hear some clear and HONEST feedback.

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  42. thanks for this post and the helpful tips.. love this blog!

    question though, can you tell me where you got the white dresser from in the first few photos? it's lovely and i'd like something like that for my bedroom! thanks! :)

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  43. These are the real tips many need to hear. Yes. I concur she is so real.

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  44. I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write this post. I appreciate it!! :) TJ

    BTW, I love the couch with the first picture. Where is it from? It's exactly what I need!

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  45. I stumbled across your blog after kinda stumbling across another - THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!  You are so sincere and candid and well, downright likable.  Sometimes the designing-blogger types are a little less so, and quite secretive about their humble beginings and advice to "make it."  I am not looking to get into the business of design at all, I just like to follow those that do once the kids go down for a nap. I will be reading your blog from here on out to check in to see your progress and growth in the design field.  Best of luck to you - and stay just as you are!

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THANK YOU for taking the time to share your thoughts. I appreciate each and every comment.

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