Virtual Market | Day 3 Tips for Building and Growing Your Design Brand

As the interior design industry, brands, and the world learn to adapt to a new normal, Vishion Virtual Market hopes to bring this community together, collaborating. If you are struggling to adjust to social-distancing, closed showrooms, and canceled events, Vishion is here to help you discuss your small business concerns. Here is what we learned from Day 3 of Vision #VirtualMarket’s LIVE Sessions from our industry-leading experts

Virtual Market Day 3

Change Was Inevitable

As a world traveler, journalist, deep thinker and architect, David Dewane spends his time conceptualizing office spaces and how to design them to increase productivity and personal well-being. With a global pandemic forcing most Americans to work from home, he says his industry is rapidly changing but it was expected.

“COVID  is forcing, triggering changes that were already sort of in the works and pushing them forward faster.”

In the past decade, the open office space trend grew amongst the top tech companies and startups,

Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

making its way into main-stream office culture. While these spaces encourage collaboration, they also create a distraction. Depending on your personality, constant communication and interruptions can be tough. As the world starts thinking about post-pandemic life, many are wondering how it could change your 9-5. Will large spaces, packed with people be safe? This concern, along with productivity research, has Dewane thinking. Even before the coronavirus hit, he had already begun working on a new office concept called the Eudaimonia Machine. Office spaces designed for deep work, including several concepts merged into one.

“mind state you get into when you are working at the edges of your abilities in a highly focused way. Cross between public spaces and deep work spaces.”

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

Office spaces aren’t the only “public” areas that could change after the coronavirus. Restaurants and bars may also look a bit different.

“Paranoia has real consequences on multiple levels. If you only allow businesses to sell half the seats, it cuts into the bottom line and the logic upon the way their business model was based. What separates great restaurant design vs. poor design is how you manage entertainment space. How do you make a space feel like it’s comfortable and cool? A lot of that has to do with spacing – if you create too much space, you kill the energy.” 

The future of public space and architecture is unknown, but Dewane hopes that it could yield positive results and more work/life balance.

“In some respects what is more important and what is happening is permission from your leadership to not be 100% efficient… There is more value to you as a human being than how many billable hours you can get in a week… The design challenge is how we treat each other as humans – that is the big change.”



Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

Overwhelmed? Having trouble “turning off” your work computer and separating it from your personal life? Jen Obermeier is here to help. As a professional organizer and founder of Pro Organizer Studio, Obermeier helps clients take their “mess” and clean it up. While she typically works to clean and organize tangible items, her methods can be used for company structure. She says she teaches the most organized people in the world how to organize their business.

In her Vishion #VirtualMarket session, Virtual Project Management Tips for Designers, she gave valuable insight on how to serve your clients and employees with the same level of service they expect but in an elevated, virtual setting.

 “It’s not about doing more ZOOM meetings. A lot of wasted time is happening on zoom meetings like it does in the office. Recognizing the real problems and committing to the solution is how you will grow.”

She emphasizes that we must overrespond, not overreact. What exactly does that mean? Obermeier says identifying the warning signs that lead to overreacting can help you come up with a solution to properly overrrespond.

Warning Signs of Overreaction:

  • Texts (conversing wherever and whenever)
  • Emails are used for virtual project management
  • Phone calls that not everyone is looped in on
  • Waking up at night panicking with questions
  • Constant zoom meetings
  • Virtual tools that not everyone knows how to use or don’t communicate with each other

She says most people won’t fix these problems because it takes time, they are big decisions and winging it seems more efficient because they think the pandemic is temporary. The FIX to these items is an overresponse. Stop the everything is fine

Photo by STIL on Unsplash


  • Slow down, stop the “everything is fine”
  • Document an entire client project for YOUR firm, from end to end
  • Identify what gaps there are for collaborating as a virtual team
  • evaluate tools: current vs. other options
  • Choose the tool that will address the greatest number of needs
  • Use their help resources to fully migrate and integrate and train your team on how to use this central location for everything

Obermeier’s tips should help you and your business set the standard to identify what should be a zoom meeting or email and what shouldn’t be. A quick share of information can be done more efficiently with a project management tool like Asana. If you commit to this, you will save time and resources, immediately. You will have confidence that the expectations you set during this time can be met. In the long term, you will rely less on “drop off meetings”, creating better customer service and becoming a company that evolves in response to challenges like the coronavirus.




If you’ve found yourself in a position where your traditionally high-touch business has moved to the web, you might be stuck trying to figure out how to translate that into the digital space. In the #VirtualMarket session, Pivoting To A Fully-Online Design Business, Iquo Essien is helping companies break it down to the basics. 

“You already know design, you are just adapting your business to the web.”

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Essien is a business consultant that specializes in multimedia storytelling, marketing, brand development, and creative strategy. Long story short, she can help you tell your story, set up a digital business plan, and start working. She founded Crowdfund Your Dream to share her vast, diverse digital knowledge.

She says the Interior Design industry has gradually undergone a digital transformation – turning physical mood boards to digital boards with products like vishion, she says this global stay-at-home moment has really pushed businesses and people forward. If you’re ready to take that step, here are some ways that you can start building your online design business:

4 Key Steps To Launching a Virtual Business

Photo by Tracy Adams on Unsplash

  1. Business Setup
    1. Choose a name and a legal structure
    2. Register your business
    3. Purchase a website domain and hosting services
    4. Choose website platform
    5. Pick a payment platform
    6. Claim social media handles
      • personal vs. business profile
    7. Choose email marketing services
      • For newsletters and communication
  2. Business Strategy 
    1. Identify your ideal client
      • Identify their pain points and solutions
    2. Research your competitors
      • Best practices for others leading in your space
    3. Establish your niche
      • ie: e-design, product sourcing, home staging, rental styling, etc.
    4. Create your service packages
    5. Set your pricing
      • hourly rates, flat project fee, retail, etc.
  3. Marketing – How to reach people and what to reach them with
    1. Design your website
      • logo, high-quality graphics, headshot, copywriting about you and your services
    2. Create Specialized Packages
    3. Establish a referral system
    4. Create a press kit
    5. Newsletter
      • don’t oversend
    6. Social Media
      • Start with 9 squares on Instagram that tells about your business, who you are, your products and your pricing
    7. Build a marketing funnel
      • generate leads: Pinterest, paid ads, webinars, virtual events, guest posts, etc.
  4. Operations – Start small and scale
    1. Purchase Design Tools and Software
      • Vishion, Canva, Dropbox
    2. Setup Web and Marketing Analytics
      • SEO, Google Analytics, etc.
    3. Schedule Consultation Calls
    4. Setup Virtual Meetings
      • Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts
    5. Draft your contract and/or service agreement
    6. Track Revenue Expenses, Billing, Invoicing
      • Quickbooks, PayPal
    7. Refine your client workflow
    8. Grow your business

She says to remember that your online presence is your digital water cooler. When explaining your product, always lead with your story. If you don’t consider yourself a writer, let your phone do the talking.  Pull out your device and talk to it, allowing it to transcribe your thoughts.

“We are in an identity economy where people want to know about you and what drives you. Lead with why you are the best person to solve this issue for them”

Using those words for your website copy, Instagram stories, and advertisements, creates a cohesive story for your site and your brand that will connect you with your new, digital audience.


Liability Management

A decade ago, Justin Masonek found himself with an Interior Design client. Once he got involved, he

Photo by StellrWeb on Unsplash

found that there weren’t many managerial accountants for the design industry. 10 years later, his practice, JBM Management, specializes in helping designers get their money straight.

“We will do everything except pick out your furniture… We will help you put packages together for your clients, enter your payments and process your orders… We aren’t the only ones who do this but we are one of the only ones that specialize in this industry.”

From sourcing to payment and delivery, financial accountability through every step of the process is critical. He says receiving client payments and applying them exactly as your client intended to pay you is extremely important. Always remember that the invoice date is the accounting event, until then, it is a proposal and pending item.

When it comes to hurdles designers face when billing clients, Masonek says Sales Tax is the biggest financial responsibility. Some states consider design services to be taxable and others don’t, every state has a different law. For example, In New York state it is considered a personal service, but it is taxed at a lower rate in New York City. If you don’t know how your state handles design fees, google it and look for a resource from a .gov.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Financial Concerns and Hurdles

  1. Sales Tax Liability
    • Managing sales tax responsibility is your biggest hurdle.
  2. Credit card management
    • You need to put these purchases in a grid and assign every charge and administrative expense, client reimbursement or purchase order number.

Masonek says credit card management is another big hurdle that design firms need to tackle and perfect. Using an excel spreadsheet can help you break down your complicated statements.

“We are translating a credit card bill into an excel spreadsheet grid that can facilitate that can entering it to the penny. If you do this 12x a year you will have all of your credit card transactions entered into the system to the penny.” 

3 Tiers of Client Billing

  1. Design Fee
    • Client is paying for the “big picture”
    • Based on the number of rooms, size of house
      • recommend breaking into installments and defines the design process period
  2. Mark-Up
    • This is the fee that is being paid to you for cost of sourcing, facilitating purchases, expediting and delivery
  3. Time Billing
    • You want a prearranged hourly rate agreement with your client that discusses work that is out of the scope of the contract



If you missed us, don’t worry! You can see ALL of the FULL #VirtualMarket sessions online.  Head to our Facebook page to view aired sessions, ask questions, and connect with the Vishion Community.

Stay tuned for more on the 2nd Vishion #VirtualMarket

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Privacy Preference Center