By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
When you go to a networking event and someone asks what you do, what do you tell them? I used to say, â€œIâ€™m an interior designer,â€ only to watch their eyes glaze over or to have them tell me how much they enjoy decorating, too. It didnâ€™t take me long to realize that most people donâ€™t have a true understanding of what we do as designers.
Our media coach mentioned that you donâ€™t want people to tune out because they have an immediate picture in their mind of what you do.Â You want the listener to say, â€œOh, thatâ€™s really interestingâ€¦tell me more.â€
For example, when you say you are an interior designer, the other person could be thinking, â€œOhâ€¦so she gets paid a lot of money to pick furniture, colors and fabrics.â€Â Or, they could picture a designer as someone who is flighty, disorganized, snooty, etc. People rely on stereotypes all of the time. If they think they know all about you from your job title and perceive you are not someone who can help them make money or get ahead in their career, or they are worried you will try to sell them a service they donâ€™t want, then they likely will move on to someone else in the room who looks more promising.
So whatâ€™s the alternative? Do you say, â€œI design (homes, offices, hotels, hospitals, etc.)?â€ Or, â€œI create beautiful and functional spaces that improve peopleâ€™s lives?” Or, â€œIâ€™m an interior design professional?” One option that has gained some currency is to use the title â€œinterior design consultant.â€ Because itâ€™s a term people are not used to hearing, they are likely to ask you, â€œWhatâ€™s that?â€ That gives you an opportunity to explain in more depth what you do. It also sounds more professional because people associate the word â€œconsultantâ€ with high-paid business advisers who have expertise that others value.
As an â€œinterior design consultantâ€ you are advising clients on many aspects of improving interior environments, including functionality, sustainability, safety, and health and wellness. You are providing technical expertise on layouts, products and finishes. You also manage projects and other professional and technical personnel. You may also work in other areas where there is need for a specialist, such as in healthcare or education.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with calling yourself an interior designer. But, perceptions and prejudices are hard to change. And since people will pay for what they value, you want to impress upon them the value your business provides. Perhaps â€œinterior design consultantâ€ is not the right term for you. In any case, itâ€™s time to have a different conversation and to promote yourself as a professional and business person who happens to be in the business of providing interior design services, whether residential or commercial.