If you want more clients as an interior designer, or in any role that involves creative solutions for your clients, you need to think about building and maintaining a personal reputation. That means creating a personal brand, earning favor in your budding client base, promoting yourself, and protecting your reputation if and when it comes under threat.
But how can you establish this, and what can you do to maintain it?
Create a Personal Brand
Your first step is to create a personal brand. You can do that with the following measures:
- Choose a target audience and style. As much as you might like to, you can’t target “everybody.” Your target audience should be specific to you, to reduce competition and increase your relevance. You’ll also need to decide on a signature artistic style, which may come before or after your target audience. People need to be able to recognize you based on your work alone.
- Claim your social media profiles. Next, make sure you’ve claimed all your personal social media profiles. If you have a catchy name, consider using that instead of your real name, and include at least one good headshot on each profile. You’ll also want to include images and detailed descriptions of your work, so newcomers get an immediate impression of what you’re about.
- Post images of your work. You won’t be able to grow an audience unless you provide them with images of your ongoing work. Publish new content frequently—every day if possible—and keep your followers in the loop with your latest projects.
- Consider starting a blog. While you’re at it, consider starting your own blog. You can use it as a funnel for your social media traffic, and as another place to publish and show off your best work. Later on, you can use search engine optimization (SEO) or other promotional methods to build even more traffic to your brand and work.
- Network, engage, and grow. The real trick to establishing a personal brand is attracting and maintaining more connections. You can do this by connecting with as many people as you already know (including your clients and colleagues), then attending networking events and meeting new people as often as possible. Start conversations with your followers, and always remain open to new opportunities to meet people.
Build a Reputation
Once your personal brand is in place and you’ve started attracting some clients, you can move to the next step—building your reputation. You can do that by:
- Collecting reviews and testimonials. You can only do so much to build your reputation by yourself; most artists and designers grow fastest when other people are building their reputation. Here, you can do that by attracting more reviews and testimonials from your clients, which other prospects will use to evaluate your capabilities, and potentially hire you for more work. Social proof from third parties is almost always more effective than individual efforts of self-promotion.
- Getting featured in prominent publications. You can also improve your visibility and your reputation by getting your work featured in prominent publications. This seems like an impossibility at first, but if you start small and scale upward, it’s actually quite manageable. Write a column or submit work to some local magazines, or niche publications that might feature you, and gradually add more features to your credentials until you’re able to get published in prominent, national works.
- Networking with influencers. You can also jump-start your visibility by networking with known influencers in the industry. It will immediately boost your credibility, and expose you to a new segment of your potential audience.
Guard Your Reputation
Once established, you’ll have to protect your reputation as well:
- Get ahead of compromising news. If you’re ever put in a compromising situation, such as being pulled over for a DWI or facing a lawsuit, try to get ahead of the news. You’ll be able to proactively update your audience, and you’ll have more control over how the facts roll out.
- Respond to criticism. Inevitably, you’ll attract criticism from followers, strangers, and occasionally, from past clients. When it happens, respond directly and politely; learn what you can from the incident, and don’t escalate things.
- Stay consistent. The more consistent you are with your work, the bigger the following you’ll be able to grow, and the less impact negative incidents and criticism will have.
It isn’t easy to build a strong reputation from scratch, but there are some basic tenets that anyone can follow to success with enough time and effort. Don’t be discouraged by ups and downs, or by the amount of time it takes to develop; this is a long-term strategy, and one that will pay off if you stick with it.