Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Start of My Business and Putting Yourself Out There

I have mentioned in my “About Me” that I have been running a small interior decoration business since 2004, but I haven’t told you anything about that yet have I?

So, why not start today.

So, go back to 2004.  I was feeling the feeling that I think is so familiar to all of us.

Many of us here in blogland are stay at home parents.  At the time, I had a 4 year old and a 2 year old.  Cute kids and husband right?

February 2004 044

Focus!  Okay, so I was feeling overwhelmed and worried.

Was I going to loose me in being a parent?  My husband did and still does travel a fair amount for his job and I was feeling worried that the realities of our schedule would not allow me to figure out who I wanted to be when I grew up.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being able to stay home with my kids.  I recognize how blessed I am to be able to do that.  I just had to find a balance.

And then a friend of mine decided to build a new house.  A beautiful, very 2000’s, open floor plan house.  And she was overwhelmed.

February 2004 - Nancy's house 059

   So, I found my first level of courage and I asked her if she wanted some help.

I had been wanting to start a decorating business for a long time, but just did not know how to go about it.  I had been collecting magazine ideas and reading and thinking about decorating constantly FOREVER.

We came to an agreement.  I would give her a plan, no charge.  If she liked it, great.  If she didn’t no loss for her.  Either way, I would gain by figuring out if this was part of my path or not.

February 2004 - Nancy's house 065  

Well, she liked it.  And no, I do not have any pictures of it finished, sorry!  Actually, what I mostly helped her with was paint color choices and where and when to start and stop a color, window treatments and furniture placement.  The one room we did do all the way was her downstairs bath.

What worked out to my advantage was that she the first house in a development of about 20 houses.  Through word of mouth, I ended up doing jobs for 6 houses in her neighborhood based on what they saw at her house.

portfolio 028

(This is a dining room that I did early on at a house in her neighborhood.)

Actually, almost every job I have done can be linked back to this first person who supported me.  Sort of like the “six degree of Kevin Bacon”, I got to experience the “Six degrees of Nancy”.

portfolio 017

(A bedroom that I helped finalize for a client)

And so a business was born.  I have no formal training, just my instincts that have developed over the years.  I say that not to brag, but as encouragement.  If you feel you have talent, put yourself out there.

I did take an online course a few months later.  It did give me some basic direction on scale drawings and fee structures and agreements which was helpful.  Mostly, however, I found it to be a bit of scam.  Scam is probably a little harsh, but I am having trouble fidning a better word.

  The first two questions on their final exam were: “What does a Interior Decorator do"?  Umm, decorate.  And “What does an Interior Designer do? Yeah, that would be design.  So much of their energy was put into what seemed to be a liability issue, to make sure that you never called yourself a designer, instead to use “decorator”.

February2009 076

(A pantry that I converted to an office space for a client)

I did pay my “fees” for a few more years to the company I took the class from but I no longer do.  I thought it would really help me if could put some letters after my name to give me credibility.  The reality is no one knew what they meant, nor did they care.  Every client I have ever gained has been through a recommendation of a previous client.

This is a picture of one of my first logo planning sketches.

finding home 

A lot of the work that I have done in this area was as a result of the real estate boom that happened over the last 7 years.   There were so much new construction built in this area and people really struggled with how to address the wide open floor plans.

We live in Orange County, NY.  That is significant because we are the furthest County that NY City’s police officers and firemen can live in and still be employees of the city.  Being, the furthest, we are also the most affordable of the surrounding areas.  9/11 had a huge impact on this area, so many families moved out of the city to here, especially NYC’s finest.

As we all know the building boom has come to a dead stop, and so my business has slowed significantly.  That is actually okay with me because I am looking to start a new direction (more on that in the coming weeks).

Whether you call yourself a designer, a decorator, a crafter, an artist or whatever else works for you, the one thing I have learned is that you will never accomplish your goals unless you put yourself out there.

My business at this point is not paying any of the bills.  I take a few jobs here and there to keep getting experience.  That was always and still is the intention, but I do hope some day to be more financially successful. 

My main job still is taking care of my family.  And my friends, and church responsibilities, and, oh yeah, cleaning my house!

  Christmas 2010 283

And now, I have this blog as another element of a creative outlet, and I have all of you to thank for that!

So, I encourage anyone who has been thinking about doing something new, to try it, take a chance.  No because I am an expert of any sort.  But, because I know when we accomplish something for ourselves it feeds the soul and makes all the rest more enjoyable!  And, it make me a more enjoyable person to be around!

I thought I would start sharing some of my client work with you all over the next few weeks and so this seemed a good place to start. 

Stay tuned….


Primitive Echoes said...

That is a really great story. Thanks for sharing.

michelle said...

This is so wonderful Laura! I totally agree with you that you will never know until you try and put yourself out there! You are so talented to start with and the good thing about just doing it is you learn so much along the way! Love the rooms that you showed and you and your family are so beautiful my friend! I can't wait to see what you have to share. :)

Courtney ~ French Country Cottage said...

Thank you so much for sharing this fantastic story!! I would love to do design too- and have struggled with how to get going, how much to charge- decorating vs design, etc. I actually just read a post from another blogger about the 2 D's - Decorator vs Designer. I like that she basically summed it up like this- an interior decorator has a knack and an interior designer went to school to learn. :) I have wondered if anyone would take you seriously without those little initials after your name. If you have any tips or advice - I would appreciate them! Thanks for sharing~ your rooms are beautiful- can't wait to see more! :)

Angela said...

I have been struggling with being a "stay-at-home mom" lately. I am very thankful for the ability to stay home, but I stuggle with having a purpose and loosing myself. Thanks for this post, it was very encouraging!

Tammy @BeatriceBanks said...

Great post! I started a decorating/staging business a few years ago and then my hubby decided to go back to school. We've relocated twice about to be a third time. I find it impossible to maintain any business with moving around all the time. Plus the dead stop in the home industry really killed things. I'm anxious to hear your next venture. Thanks for sharing!

Kate said...

Thanks for posting this!! I too didn't go to school for decorating but have always been told I have a knack for it and have a passion for it. I had been wanting to start my own business and finally just put myself out there. I'm glad you mentioned your online learning experience, I have thought of doing that but it seemed like quite an expense for what it is. I don't think people care if you have initials behind your name as long as you do a good job. To me, you either got it or you don't. You've obviously got it! :)

Calypso In The Country said...

Great story and very inspirational. I have always been interested in interior decorating/design but never took any steps in that direction. I guess I always felt like it was too late to go back to school for something else now. It is great to see you just did and went with your instincts!

Jane B. said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I just started my own design consultation business here in Charlotte, NC...and am loving it! But it was the scariest thing I've ever done...putting myself out there! Funny, I actually started as a blogger, and then took the leap to decorator. Still brand new...I'm on my tenth client!

Finding Fabulous

design consultant
Finding Fabulous by design!

Jane B. said...

Oh, and thanks for linkin' up to Frugalicious Friday!! Love your clients pretty blue room.