Episode 113: Advice You Should NEVER Take In Your Interior Design Business

CEO and President Michelle Lynne podcast image

Show Notes: 

In this episode of the podcast, Michelle breaks down all of the worst advice that she ever received when she was building her business, and goes into what you should do and how you should be thinking instead. 

Understanding who to take advice from as a baby designer, and getting plugged in to a community of like minded business owners is a key element to your growth and development in your business. 

Tune in to find out what advice Michelle would never take and you shouldn't either, while growing your interior design business. 

Thank you for listening, and if you enjoy the show, please don’t forget to rate and review it! 



It would be very much appreciated if you would leave a rating and review wherever you listen to podcasts. It really helps to keep the show relevant, and I would love to come back to see some of your kind words. Enjoy this fall weather, and take some breathing time for yourself too!


About Michelle: 

Michelle Lynne began her interior design career after spending more than two decades working in Corporate America. She began in the home staging arena and has since built a successful, award-winning, full-service interior design firm, employing talented designers and serving clients across the country.

In the summer of 2018, Michelle began focusing on a big gap she saw missing in the interior design industry: teaching interior designers how to run the business of an interior design business. She now engages in private coaching and leads an in-depth, 12-month group coaching program, both options focus on teaching designers profitable processes, systems, strategies, and mindset needed to run a streamlined, profitable interior design firm.

Her motto is simple: we rise by lifting others.


Get more info about our year-long mentorship and coaching program: https://www.designedforthecreativemind.com/business-bakery  

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A Podcast Launch Bestie production



Hey y'all, welcome back to the podcast. This is Michelle Lynn, and I am so excited to be here with you. I am sharing with you today some of the worst advice I ever got in the hopes that you can learn from [00:01:00] my experience. So for those of you who are new around here, I have been trying out a new format for my podcast and.

This whole talking just by myself, like talking to you instead of having the interviews, let me know your thoughts on it. Okay, I'm going to try to do about 10 to 12 episodes in this format, but I might just break down and bring out some of the recordings that I have with some. Interviews. So DM me, let me know your thoughts.

Y'all, this podcast is for you, you interior designers. You are my calling. , I know I'm supposed to be here to help you navigate the business of interior design. So if you're finding this content helpful, let me know if you're missing the old format where I'm interviewing individuals. Let me know.

Did you like the hot seat at the end? You know, where we just had this random fast, , acting question and answers like, I'm just making this shizzle up as I go. Okay. So I am requesting your feedback, but until [00:02:00] then, let's talk about some of the worst advice that I ever got in regards to my own interior design business.

And what I want you to take from this is that , if you're starting your business, or even if you've been in business for a long time, people are always going to give you advice. And I want to really, really, really stress to you that who you take advice from is, like, I think Brene Brown says, it's like, if you are in the arena, then you have earned the right to give me advice or, to give your opinion on whatever.

But y'all, if, if people are giving you their opinion or giving you advice that are not. , if they're not owners of small business, if they're not in the interior design industry, or a combination of both, are they really the source of which you need to base your decisions from? I don't know if that was grammatically correct, but you know [00:03:00] what I'm saying, right?

Because let me just say an attorney, a doctor, a CPA, just because they may be viewed as smart Or a high value industry professional. It doesn't mean they know how to run a business. Y'all doctors, they might be able to assess the situation and prescribe some solutions for an ailment.

That doesn't mean they know how to run a business. Just because they are a CPA doesn't mean that they know how to run a business even though they know the numbers aspect of it, same thing with a lawyer.  If you're taking advice, take advice from those individuals that are specialized in their field.

 But if you're taking business advice about how to run your interior design business. Consider the source. Same things, y'all. Same things on the Facebook groups. Oh my gosh, let me just go off on a tangent here. Facebook groups, Facebook forums, y'all know I have one, right? The Interior Designers Business Launchpad.

If you're not there, [00:04:00] you should be just saying, because I go live there on a weekly basis. Plus it's where we hold all of our workshops. But back to the point, , if you are going to a Facebook forum and you are asking questions about your interior design business, how should I handle this? How should I handle that?

How should I price my stuff? Y'all know the people who have enough time to be active on a Facebook forum are usually not very busy. in their business. So why would you want to be taking advice from them? Okay. Think about this. It's good. Go ahead and go out and solicit, get some opinions, get some advice and so forth.

But I highly recommend that the actual advice that you take or opinions that you listen to are by individuals who have walked the walk and talk the talk that you want to. Do the same again. I'm not sure if that's grammatically correct, but I'm just talking to you like you're my bestie. . Or my sister, we're just having this conversation, or maybe you're one of my bakers.

. My interior design business bakery. This is the conversations that we have where we're giving advice to and from[00:05:00] and walking down this path together. So let's just start with a piece of advice that is more than likely. You have heard in your lifetime about the customer, have you ever been told that the customer is always right?

I'm scratching this out. I got a whole checklist here. So if you hear me in the background, scratching things out, that's what's going on. I got a laundry list. I don't want you to miss it. So the customer's always right, babe. I'm here to tell you that's not true. That might be true when you were in high school and you were working at Baskin Robbins, and somebody says they want the cookies and cream ice cream.

And you give them the cookies and cream and they say, I don't want the cookies and cream. I actually want peanut butter and chocolate. And you're like, you didn't order the peanut butter and chocolate. You ordered the cookies and cream. And they're like, no, I didn't order the cookies and cream. I ordered peanut butter and chocolate.

Okay. In that instance, the customer can be right. You can throw away the cookies and cream and give them the peanut butter chocolate with a smile on your face. But when it comes to owning your own business, babe, [00:06:00] it's your business, your rules. . And the customer is not always right as the business owner.

However, it is up to you to navigate these conversations in a diplomatic way so that you're not telling them you're a liar. You ordered cookies and cream, not peanut butter chocolate. Okay, I'm going to be more diplomatic. You're going to share with them your policies, your practices, the contingencies that you have in your contract, the boundaries that you have and so forth.

Okay, so if the client comes back to you and says that as a matter of fact, they decided they wanted a pink velvet sofa instead of a purple silk sofa, and you've already ordered it and paid for it, then you can circle back around and share with them the boundaries that you have in your contract and how it's outlined that , there are not returns or how you navigate your change orders.

Okay. So the worst advice I ever got, the customer's always right. Nope, we're checking that one off. Remove that from the myth.[00:07:00] Another piece of advice that I got when I was starting my business that I'd like to save you from the headache is that you don't tell the customer how you make money. And I'm checking this one off too.

So I moved my notes over here. So you don't tell the customer how you make money. And I find that in my experience and in my opinion, if the customer doesn't know how you make money, there's two things. One is that this is where the clients start shopping you. Okay. Have you ever had a client say, okay, well, I really like what you presented over here, but I think I want to go with this instead.

And they bring you something from freaking restoration hardware. Okay. And you're like, no, you don't want that. It's not nearly as good a quality as what I'm bringing you, but they're familiar with it. If you share with them, you make money from your design fee and from the sales of your furnishings. Then they're going to be less likely to, to go out and shop you because most of the time, they're not shopping you to be jerks.

They're shopping you because they're either wanting to be [00:08:00] helpful or they're having fun, or they stumbled across something or whatever, insert, whatever reason there, but if you share with them, Hey. Let me explain to you my business model. And this is how I work. Then they're going to be less likely to be, trying to throw their opinions or their suggestions into the mix, but also it's, I don't know.

I think it lends to a level of transparency and trust. And I see that because my husband is very critical thinking. Like, he thinks a lot. He looks for the ins and outs. He's like, he's so ridiculously smart, but he's wondering, okay, how are they making money? How are they making money off of me?

So your clients are going to be doing a lot of the same things. How do they make their money? How am I getting charges? So in today's day and age, it's really imperative that our clients trust us. So if they are [00:09:00] understanding that, hey, I shop to trade, I make money off of the furniture, and this is how I do it.

Then they're gonna know that, you're not pulling any funny business. Like they're still getting good value from you. So you're explaining to them, this is where you're paying me. Basically for the design fee, for my design genius, but also for the furniture.

So don't tell the customer how you make money. I firmly disagree with that. Tell them how you make money. Tell them that your procurement fee is not revenue generating per se, or it's not a profit center. Neither is the receiver. Like these are not profit centers. This is just basically what I pass on to you, but my profit center is here and here.

And it's not that scary once you figure out how to do it. Okay. Here's another one. If you are new in your business, and, I've got a story to go behind this one, but I'll share that in another episode. I'm still working on tying all things together, but if you are launching your business from scratch, okay, if you [00:10:00] are just starting out, let me tell you, the worst advice is that you have to have it all done before you launch your business.

This might be advice you're giving yourself. Okay, if you're giving yourself the advice that you need to have it all figured out before you get your business started and everything has to be perfect, I'm here to tell you, no, that is not the case. You do not have to have it all done before you launch your business.

Which, by the way, the next episode I just outlined, and it's going to be, , how you get your business started. Like, like, what things need to get done. So. We're going to go into more detail with that, but you do not need to have it all done. So for example, if you wanted to start your business today, you do not need to run out and get headshots right away.

Headshots don't make you money. So you don't need to have it all figured out. You don't need to have it all done. It doesn't all have to be perfect. Okay. So maybe you have an old headshot that you want to use, and it's just not quite who you are today. Put it up, get it out there anyway.

Just, just do it. . You can go [00:11:00] back and update it later. So it does not have to all be done before you launch your business. There are some key things that you need to have done, which is what we're going to go into the next episode. So stay tuned with me there, but just. Build the plane while you fly it.

Okay. Sometimes you're just going to have to get some of it done , and then, build on that and then build on that and then build on that. And then you can go back and change things later. Okay. So you do not have to have it all done before you launch your business. [00:12:00] Okay, the worst advice I ever got, probably [00:13:00] some advice I gave myself also, okay.

So you have to have a design degree, bad advice, very bad advice. Now I am not knocking anybody who has a design degree or God bless you went through and got your license. The NCIDQ, okay, so, so for those of y'all who have done that, I commend you and bow down because that is so much work. But for those of you who haven't, you don't have to.

Give yourself that break. It does not mean you are anything less than the individual who went to school for four years and then went and got their advanced licensing, testing, and all the things. There's a difference. It doesn't mean one is better or one is worse. You are still highly capable of creating beautiful spaces, even if you did not go and pursue your design [00:14:00] degree.

Nate Berkus does not have his. Joanna Gaines does not have hers. Vincente Wolfe. Okay, there's like, there's so many people, and usually I can name off a whole handful of them, but right now I can't. But if there's advice that you've gotten that says you must have a design degree in order to be an interior designer, that is false.

Whether you've told yourself that advice, or whether somebody else has told you that, or whether you've inferred it from somebody else's comments. Now, I will say that there are some states where you must have either a degree or have your license in order to call yourself a designer versus a decorator.

And in my experience since 2000, well, I launched my business in 2008, but I really went full time in 2010. And then I really went balls to the wall for interior design in 2013. And not once has anybody asked, do you have your interior design degree before hiring me. Or my team. Okay. So that answer is [00:15:00] negatory.

And if somebody did ask, how long, that usually what they'll ask is, how long have you been doing this? And here, you can take this one to the bank. How long have you been doing this, Michelle? What, you mean designing and decorating and stuff? Yeah. Oh, I've been doing it forever. I just decided to get paid for it.

Boom. That's all you have to say. It's gold, right? That's gold. Okay. So. The worst advice you ever got? You must have a design degree? We have knocked that off of the list. So far, let me tell you, just recap, the worst advice. The customer's always right. Nope. Don't tell the customer how you make money. Bad advice.

The worst advice I ever got. You have to have it all done before you launch your business. Or, you must have a design degree. Okay. Those are four pieces of advice that you can just throw out the window. And girl, I got me another one, two, three, four, five and a half. Five and a half. Okay. Bad advice is that you need to know it all or never show [00:16:00] ignorance.

Oh, if I knew it all and didn't have some sort of ignorance, do you really think I'd be sitting in this podcast room podcasting? Well, maybe because I just enjoy sharing. But if I knew it all, y'all seriously, and that's , it's just not realistic. It is just not realistic. How am I supposed to know it all when you hire other experts to talk, to come in and assist with.

Okay. So what I mean by that is you, you walk into an initial consultation. . Or somebody signed your contract and you're going for your first onsite visit or whatever. And they ask you a question. You're like, Oh, I don't know. Okay. So, Hey, what if we move this wall? I had this idea. I saw it on HGTV, blah, blah, blah.

What if we did this? Okay. Well, I don't know if we can move that wall because is it a load bearing wall? Okay. Now, maybe you don't know. What you don't know, but you know that there's something that might be there that you don't know. Did you [00:17:00] follow that? What I mean by that is maybe your gut saying oh, I don't know about moving that wall.

It seems really complicated. So your instinct is telling you there's something else that I, but I don't know. Babe. You don't know. It's okay. That's when you would say basically, oh, you know what, we'd have to check with the general contractor or, you know, at some point you'll learn. A structural engineer will probably be the one that they call in.

Okay. It's okay. You don't have to know it all. And it's okay to say you don't know. So if somebody says, Hey, what if we move that wall? You can say, Oh, that's, I kind of like that idea. Let me explore that. They don't know that you don't know. They don't care. . They just want you to hear it and consider that as an option.

And you know what, girl? You can just go back to your car as soon as you're done with that initial consultation, visit, whatever. And you can Google the heck out of it. What does it take to move a wall? Okay, just, just go to Google and then that's going to teach you or, you know, call your friend if they're another designer.

It is a [00:18:00] beautiful, beautiful relationship to have with other designers that you can pick up the phone and call and discuss what you don't know. I highly recommend finding people that are of like minds. And are willing to share and will provide you with good guidance when they can, if they don't know that they'll tell you that as well.

There are enough ugly houses for all of us that there should be community over competition. Okay, so you do not need to know it all. Give yourself permission because that's also going to take away part of the, um, posture syndrome that we all get. A bad piece of advice is that you need to know it all and not let the client know that you don't, that you know it all.

Or don't let the client know that you don't know it all. Don't show ignorance. And that myth is busted.

Another piece of bad advice that I got. Directly, I can tell you who said it, but I'm not going to call them out, is that you have to have money [00:19:00] to make money. And I call that BS. I have bootstrapped all of the businesses that I've ever started. So whether it was ML Interiors Group, Designed for the Creative Mind, we just launched StudioWorks this past summer, and then also SideMark, which is a really awesome sales and marketing software.

You'll, you probably hear the commercial here. As a podcast, but none of these did we have investment investors for we had nobody who was handing us cash Or handing me cash in order to get the business started now full transparency I did have a corporate job where I was making good money as I launched ML Interiors Group, but I didn't have I did not take a bucket of money and apply it towards starting the business because honestly in 2008 is when I started the business.

Um, 2008, let's see. , my fiance at the time, we bought a house. And [00:20:00] then we got married and then I launched my business. Okay. Brian, the handsome husband was like, what? What? You're launching a business. What? Wait, wait, we just bought a house and we just got married. You didn't mention anything about starting a business.

And I was like, I didn't think about it. I wasn't going to. So, I didn't have a bucket of money. Plus in 2008. Is when the market crashed. So even the 401k, the, the investments that I had, like in, before I got married, like those all got eaten. Thank you, uncle Sam or whoever it was that aided the 2008 recession.

I think it was the housing market. I don't know what it was. It was just a mess. So my point is, I did not have a bucket of cash to start things. I started, you know, I started my website on GoDaddy. 27 a month. Okay. So I, what did I do? I probably stopped ordering some Starbucks or I didn't get a pedicure that month or something like that, whatever.

So you don't have to have a lot of money to make money. Now, if you want to go fast, Then yes, having some financials will [00:21:00] make financial support will make you go faster. But if you just need to, you know, mosey into it and not feel like you're going into debt in order to get this started, or if you don't, if you don't have the cash reserves or anything along that line, you do not have to have money to make money.

But that goes back to the worst piece of advice is that you have to have it all done before you launch your business. Okay, if you want to have it all done, you need to get their headshots, you need to get your portfolio, you need to get your website, you need to get your business cards and all of that BS, then yeah, that's going to take some money.

But if you can just ease into it and be graceful with yourself and know that done is better than perfect, well then you can still move forward without having a bucket of money. If you are in another job in order to just make the bills. You can still start your business as a side hustle and it can start outweighing your income and eventually you can jump.

That's what I did with corporate. It took me a year and a half, almost two years, to stair step out of [00:22:00] management and make enough money to replace, or it didn't replace my salary, but it did pay my bills. Because remember my husband was freaking out when I told him I was going to start a business. My brand new husband, God bless him.

 So, you know, I had responsibilities and you do too. So you don't have to have money to make money. Does it make it easier? Yeah, actually, it does. But whoever takes the easy route. Okay, the worst advice you ever got, you have to have a portfolio in order to get started. Or at least you have to have an extensive portfolio.

And the answer to that is that no, neither of those are true. You do not have to have a portfolio, nor do you need to have an extensive portfolio. If that was the case, would there ever be an interior designer who ever started because we don't have a you can start your business with, , with images of vignettes.

That you can take around your own, your own house. The smartphones that we have in our pockets today. Oh my gosh. 10 times better than those flip [00:23:00] phones. Like a bazillion times better than the flip phones. , and you don't even have to wait to get your film developed. Like you used to with a real camera.

Okay. So you can start with various vignettes. You can start with mood boards. To promote like, this is what I would do ... .You can create renderings. You can create elevations. There's so many different things that you can do.

You do not have to have an extensive portfolio. Now this will limit what you can charge your clients because you don't have , that Of what you can deliver, , because it takes time to create, implement, deliver, and install the design, and then photograph it, , so it's going to take time to build a portfolio, but

you don't have to have it, there's ways around it. Okay, so that's for your website as well as for your social media. An extensive portfolio is necessary. Myth busted. Okay, next, that an expensive website is [00:24:00] required. Something fancy. And y'all, I just told you a minute ago, I started mine on GoDaddy. I started mine on GoDaddy, and when I started StudioWorks, this co-working space that we have here in the Dallas area for interior designers and contractors and builders and architects and all the things, y'all, I did that website in about a weekend.

On, on the GoDaddy. So I started my ML interiors group business back in 2008 on GoDaddy. Okay. And that one, that one was really bad. Thank the Lord that GoDaddy has improved the templates that they offer and that I actually have a clue now. So now I kind of have a better idea as to what that looks like before.

I was just such a baby, not knowing anything, but bless my heart. Right. So when I created StudioWorks, It took a weekend basically to get the website framework started and then I built it out so within two weeks I pretty much had it done. Now, do I recommend that? Oh, hell to the no. But my point is, you don't have to have an [00:25:00] expensive website in order to get your business started.

Or ever. Okay. It needs to be something that, you can build in your SEO, your search engine optimization, so that people can find you through the Google, but it needs to be able to load quickly with your images, it needs to be able to, , showcase , your basics, your FAQs, your about your services, like just the things, again, you don't have to have a bucket of money to invest.

In a 10, 000 website that has all the bells and whistles, okay? Or at least until you have a viable proven business. Like why go sink in 5, or 10, 000 or more into a website when you don't even know how to run a business? Don't spend money that you don't have. Or if you do, spend it wisely because If you lost it, you don't want to be homeless.

You know what I mean? Okay. So an expensive website or a fancy website is [00:26:00] required is false. And finally, the last point and a half that I have for the worst advice I ever got is that you should work for free until you're established. That's the point. And then the half is that you should test your skills on friends and family.

Okay. So this is kind of a two pronged. rebuttal to that. Work for free until you're established.

If you're working for free, nobody's going to value what you're doing and they're not going to follow your processes, your procedures. You're just not taken seriously when you're, when you're given something for free. Or when you're giving something for free, they need to have some sort of skin in the gate.

Now, I will say that there are going to be some times where you just, as you are potentially testing, am I really good at this? I think I'm good at this. I like my house. People tell me they like my house. So I'm good at it. People ask, Hey, um, like the way I started my business is like, I will work for wine.

So my friend would call, my friends would call me up. Hey, Michelle, can you come on over and help me? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like we'd be [00:27:00] rearranging furniture and drinking Cabernet or. I don't know, was it White Zinfandel at the time because I was like 12 years old? Maybe, but anyway, if you are working for free, so if you are promoting on your Instagram or to a networking group or whatever, that I'll come over for free so that I can get some images.

It's a waste of time. So that was advice that I got is, Hey, you should work for free and do this by, and it was from an, again, it was from somebody in a different industry. Who didn't understand how much work goes into what we do. . And also to test your skills on friends and family.

I will say that testing your skills on friends and family to a certain extent gives you a little bit of confidence in a safe environment. But then also working with friends and family is something that I don't recommend. They never understand the level of business that [00:28:00] you operate. I've got a family who I will just say, Hey, don't hesitate to give me a call because I'd be more than happy to help you with this, that, and the other.

And I happen to have contacts. Well, it's two things. One is like, they either give you a call and they want to just like take advantage and take for granted and like run all over you. And they don't listen because they don't believe that you're a business person. They just believe that you're like little Michelle.

It's a nightmare. Okay. So, working with friends and family can test your skills. Minimally on your friends and family. And then put your big girl panties on and go out to the general public and offer your skills for sale. Do not offer them for free. If you're going to a networking group and there's a plumber who needs to have, , some bathroom redone and he's going to do all the work but he needs you to pick everything out because it always starts a fight between him and his wife and you want to go do it for free because then you think you're going to get a great portfolio finishes and images and stuff like that.

Babe, you're never taken seriously [00:29:00] if you give it away. Heck, even prostitutes charge. Okay. So, don't give it away. Don't give it away. Don't give away the milk for free. So all the things that my parents taught me when I was growing up, don't give it away. So, it's true business to y'all.

It's true business. So, , the worst advice I ever got, let's just recap this real quick. The customer's always right. Don't tell the customer how you make money. You have to have it all done before you launch your business. You must have a design degree. You need to know it all and never show ignorance.

You have to have money to make money. An extensive portfolio is necessary. An expensive website is required. Work for free until you're established. And test your skills on friends and family. I hope that when you're done listening to this podcast, that you can avoid some of the pitfalls that yours truly had the joy and the pleasure of going [00:30:00] through.

And I say joy and the pleasure of going through now, because it really is a joy and a pleasure to bring it to you so that we can elevate our industry and we can just. Enjoy our job and be valued. So let me tell you, get clarity on your next best step in your business today. . If you are struggling to figure out how your day to day hustle is supporting the bigger vision that you have for your interior design business, it's time to put on your CEO hat and revisit your business's foundation. I'm offering you this.

Free of charge. Although I just said, don't give anything away for free. Well, here's the deal. You're not going to ask for your money back and it's just a download. So if you don't like it, you can put it in the trash, but what it is, it's a free interior design business review and planning guide. Okay, y'all This is free, but it's bad ass.

You're going to get crystal clear on what's working in your business and what's not, and you're going to create an action plan that you can start implementing today to get you closer to the business of your dreams. Okay. Head on over [00:31:00] to my website designed for the creative mind designed for the creative mind.

com. And then you're going to get a little, I think it's a forward slash and it's called review guide. Okay. Head on over there, download this, Review and planning guide. I use it once every couple of years. I was using it once a year for a while. It's really, really helpful. Okay. So when you're done with that, then also I've got a quick ask, please head on over to wherever you listen to your podcast and drop us a review and then.

You know, it'd be really cool to take a screenshot and send it to me via DMS. I would very much appreciate that. I actually check my DMS on design for the creative mind on Instagram. So I will see you there and I will be back next week with the next episode of what, what are some of the key things that you need to do to get your business started?

I've got 13 of them outlined right now. I'm looking at it. I'm going to go see if there's more and then I'll be back. So [00:32:00] until then, take care.

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