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Designer Confessions: Mistakes I've Made and Learned From

In my career as an interior designer, I've navigated quite a few challenges and wins. With each project, I've gained valuable insights, often learning the hard way. I'm sharing my pitfalls with you, especially aspiring designers, to offer a transparent look into the realities of our profession. It's a world that's as challenging as it is rewarding, and as complex as it is colourful.

When I first stepped into the world of interior design, I was armed with passion, a sense of style, and a dream. But what I lacked (and maybe still do in many aspects) was the wisdom that only experience can teach. Every space I transformed was a chapter in my story, each client a character, and every mistake a plot twist that taught me something invaluable. Here, I lay bare the confessions of my journey — the good, the bad, and the beautifully ugly.

1. The Delicate Balance of Working with Friends and Family

I love helping friends and family with their design needs, but I've learned that personal relationships should take precedence over professional ones. Initially, I charged minimal fees to these close connections, but this often led to them having unrealistic expectations. They would demand my attention round-the-clock, disregarding my calendar, business processes or even contracts. I was constantly working for free, tweaking even the tiniest things over and over again. Plus, I had to be ready to answer messages any time, the conversation about dinner plans would inevitably lead to a design question at 11pm on a Saturday night. These experiences have led me to a new approach: I now offer advice and guidance to loved ones but refrain from engaging in paid projects with them. This decision has helped me maintain healthy relationships and respect for my professional boundaries.

2. Venturing Beyond My Design Comfort Zone

I once believed that as a designer, I should be versatile enough to cater to any style. This mindset led me to take on projects that were at odds with my personal aesthetic. For example, working with maximalist designs, which don't align with my minimalist tendencies, often left me feeling out of my depth. These projects taught me the importance of staying true to my style and expertise. While it's essential to be adaptable, authenticity in my work brings out the best in my designs.

3. From Hobbyist to Professional: The Business Perspective

In my early days, I viewed interior design more as a passion than a profession. I often worked for free, waiting for that one project that would propel my career. This approach, however, led to undervaluing my work and not investing in crucial aspects of my business, like branding. I remember cobbling together a logo and website myself, only to have to rebrand a few years later. These experiences have taught me the significance of investing time, money, and effort into my business from the beginning, treating it as the professional endeavour it is.

4. The Missed Opportunity of Mentorship

Looking back, I realize the value of working under an established designer before setting out on my own. This path could have shielded me from many costly mistakes and equipped me with practical insights only gained through direct experience. While I've learned much through trial and error, the guidance and mentorship of an experienced designer would have been invaluable.

5. The Art of Building Genuine Connections

In the digital age, it's easy to rely on impersonal methods like mass emails for networking. However, I've learned that nothing beats the power of genuine, personal connections. Initially, I underestimated this, focusing on quantity over quality in my outreach efforts. As I shifted to more personal interactions, I discovered the profound impact of authentic relationships in the industry. These connections have not only opened doors but also enriched my professional journey with meaningful collaborations and friendships.

In sharing these confessions, my hope is that other designers can learn from my journey. Each of these mistakes, while challenging, has been instrumental in shaping my career and my approach to interior design. Now, I embrace each project with a blend of personal authenticity, professional rigor, and an ever-growing appreciation for the relationships and experiences that have guided my path.


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