Daniel Hopwood | Architecture and Interior Design, London

Studio Hopwood
86 Gloucester Place
London
W1U 6HP :

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studio@danielhopwood.com
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Made by Six

British Institute of Interior Design Member
Networking in a post-Covid world
03—2021

Networking in a post-Covid world

In the second instalment of my blog series on running an interior design business in a post-Covid world, I would like to focus on a topic that I consider crucial for success – networking. The interior design world use to be about who you knew rather than what you knew, consequently those at the top of the tree weren’t necessarily the most talented. Thankfully today, with the advent of the internet, success is more accessible. However, a certain approach is required to make your website and social media work to generate clients.

Keep social media social

 

While it can be fun to interact with, social media can be a massive drain on resources and attention. The question is: is it worth it?

My take is that if you are selling a product then social media can be a great tool as it’s a direct click and sell, simple. If you are selling a service such as interior design, social media needs to be a tool to direct viewers to your website, where it is possible to show the different facets of what you do.

As a designer if you post a series photos of a project on Instagram you are just giving away expensive images for free. Instead create stories on social media that induces the reader to click on to your website.

Your website, your story

 

I was an early adopter when it came to a professional website. When I started my career I didn’t have an extensive network to draw from, and I believe that good design emerges from training and experience, and not exclusively who you know. Creating a platform to exhibit my projects allowed me to get my work out there, and this experience showed me that interior design is all about connection.

I strive to keep my online presence feeling fresh and up to date. When it came to finding a web designer, I was approached by established companies who told me that they worked with lots of interior designers to create their sites, and contrarily, I made the decision to avoid them.

Instead, I invested my money in younger designers and gave them carte-blanche to create something new and exciting. Much as we interior designers like a client who trusts us and our skills, I wanted a web designer with their own viewpoint. Sometimes it really pays to remember where your professional skills lie, and to let other experts guide you.

Taking this approach resulted in a successful website that has returned the investment I made by bringing in projects. What was critical to me was that my site and the content was not just about design, but told the story of my clients, the people I was creating homes for, rather than spaces and solutions. Most clients don’t want to read about the clever spatial planning but want to be able to recognise themselves in your work and your client base.

This goes to show that your website should also highlight the personality of the company, people buy people after all. I find blogs can be a valuable way to tell a story and get your perspective across. It can be hard to find time to write them, and I only tend to do so when I have something to say.

Showcasing your people is also important as it demonstrates that your studio is about collaboration and not just one dominate force.

Focusing on content that I know my clients want to see and connect with, allows my website to generate revenue, and gives me the option to invest further in necessary improvements as technology moves on.

«Sometimes it pays to remember where your professional skills lie, and to let other experts guide you»

Get the shot

 

Content is king, and professional photography is a non-negotiable for me. If finance is tight, good photography should be still held on to. Especially as once a project is completed there is only a short opportunity to shoot it, and once that opportunity has passed it will prove difficult to get it back.

I sometimes see interior designers’ websites with poor photos, often taken by the designer themselves with an iPhone. A great photographer can create something beyond your wildest expectations and adds the magic to an otherwise static space.

My team and I put a lot of time into styling. While we are backstage behind every shoot, I always let the photographer explore the space and find the best shots. Often when we’ve spent so much time looking at a project, we miss its best angles. When you find a good photographer, trust them. They are always right, and importantly, worth the investment.

Meet cute

 

When I started my business websites didn’t exist, yes it was that long ago, and my portfolio of work was slim, as I had done little work. Instead to find projects I had to get out there and meet people and I believe that it is still true today.

Speaking to people about what I was doing forged connections. You can never guess where the next project will come from. It could be the second or maybe even third party, but what I have observed is that knowing an interior designer and being able to recommend them is a form of social currency.  And regardless of industry, people love to be able to share a contact.

The takeaway for budding designers is that you need to be receptive to everybody, from friends of a client to the team at reception of a building. Even the school gate can be a useful form of networking, and people love to hear about interior design. Some prolific designers seem to be so well connected in certain circles that they are never without work. And while in the end it’s a designer’s skills and experience that gets them hired, what we don’t see is the effort they put in to get there.

«Social media can be a massive drain on resources and attention. The question is: is it worth it?»

In my last post I mentioned how interior design has shifted from purely high luxury to something more democratic, so it pays to think about who you appeal to and the kind of clients that you want to connect with. So many people value great design, so finding your niche as you network is paramount.