My Creative Business Model and How it’s Evolved

My Creative Business Model and How it's Evolved | Maria Killam

{maybe not this cold} 

Some of you may have noticed that my posts have shifted considerably over the past few months to less rather than more.

In the last year with all the time I’ve spent sitting in freezing cold hotel ballrooms looking at my business and thinking about what to do to make it better, I’ve learned that less is more.

Way better to write a quality post, rather than many little ones that clearly didn’t take as much time and effort.

Many people who teach blogging seem to spend a lot of time talking about how to get more subscribers, but rarely does anyone talk about how to keep people from unsubscribing.

And that’s big for me because my business model depends on my blog.

I was following a thread last week on Facebook where design bloggers were engaged in a lot of dialogue about the lack of comments on their posts, some had turned their comments off entirely so they could focus more on just writing a great post and less on being upset about how many comments each post generated.

I felt lucky and grateful to have you as my reader because when I write a post, it’s not just crickets out there! You’re engaged, you email me, post comments, I have coffee with YOU too on the mornings that you’ve received my post and it’s joyful for me.


Anyway, back to the point of my point.

Instead of having a retail studio or a large design firm like many designers, my store and my business is this site. I am in the business of design and colour and teaching design and colour. It’s why I focus more on training and writing rather than having 5 or 6 design projects on the go at any given time.

So it’s a good thing I like writing because that’s what it takes to keep all of this going.

I find it really hard to create beautiful design projects in Vancouver without shipping almost everything from the U.S. and that gets very expensive unless you can go across the border to a post office and pick stuff up yourself, which is almost impossible unless you live less than 30 minutes from the border like I do.

The choices in this city are really high end furniture stores, or the big box “Buy a couch, get a TV for free” stores. It’s why HomeSense (HomeGoods for those of you in the U.S.) is so big here.

I find that any furniture store worth going to in Vancouver is a U.S. based chain. For years, all we had was Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. There are so many unique home decor stores that have opened and closed.

Even Target couldn’t make it here because it wasn’t cheap enough for Canadians and they certainly didn’t have the kind of interesting products we’d always hear about in the U.S.

One of the reasons these stores don’t last is because real estate in Vancouver is so expensive that by the time most people finally buy a place, they don’t have a lot of money left over to decorate.

Of course there are many high end clients here who can afford expensive furniture but they are not my ideal client because they also need full-service design and I’m not set up for that.

Plus to be honest, I’m not world-travelled and educated-in-art enough to have clients who are willing to spend $10,000 on artwork or a console for example.

Clients who work with me have to be willing to handle the purchasing of a lot of pieces themselves. Which means, they are driving to the border to pick up merchandise if necessary.

Right now I’m working on a project with a really wonderful client who is so excited about the transformation of her house, I’m just loving it and realize how much I miss decorating because I have focused so hard on the training side of my business these past few years.

I’ve always done lots of on-line consulting which I really love as well but I don’t get to see the end result because what I’m doing inside most consultations is giving clients a plan that they can execute themselves.

What I really love about all the on-line work that I do (and I can’t ever give it up) is that it keeps me on the pulse of where colour is in the world, because I have clients from all over the world.

So many people ask me about computer calibration, questions like “How can you possibly choose colour for people when everyone’s computer is different?” and I have one answer for you and it is; to choose colours successfully you have to Understand Undertones™.

And obviously if choosing colour online for people did not work, I would be getting emails and phone calls telling me I suck! And then that would be the end of it.

This past weekend I organized a birthday party for Terreeia (yes she’s a sensitive Pisces) and spoke to two friends at the party who had been job hunting for a while and I realized that in this economy, you have to do a lot of different things in order to be creative if that’s the job you want.

When you prepare and set yourself up this way, It’s easier to shift and change when you notice one area of your business doesn’t work as well as you thought it would.

I’ve noticed that it’s really important to stay true to myself as my business model has changed over the years.

I really am passionate about this business of colour and design and I had no idea that I had so much to say until I started writing this blog over six years ago.

I’m also really happy that I finally have a Visa (they had to give me one when they saw that over 75% of my course participants were from the U.S). If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Thank you for following me! I love and appreciate all of you!

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  1. Maria, like many others I love this post too and totally agree with the less but better quality posts. I am guilty of quickly unsubscribing from posts I receive daily. Your training is on my list of courses I would love to take so hopefully I will be able to cross it off one day!

  2. Maria, this is my fave blog, and I’m happy with it, as long as you keep it coming! I haven’t been able to take your class in person, but have learned SO much from the blog and your e-books. I started my biz as a color consultant five years ago, then found your blog a few months later, which has been so helpful to me.

    On another note, I went to my dentist and was horrified to see that they had re-done the office in dark gray on gray on gray! No color whatsoever, but used a gray plaid fabric on some of the walls, and a frenetic-patterned gray carpet. The lady who worked on my teeth told me she hated it, and that walking down the hallway actually made her feel dizzy from the patterns! It was SO depressing with tube lighting, in a high-rise office building. When I talked with the dentist about it, she commented that they had used an interior designer, and that gray was on trend. It made my heart sink, and I sometimes get discouraged when I hear stuff like this. How much longer do you think the gray trend is going to last?

    • My dentist went in the opposite direction, with intense color and garish pattern. The floor of the room where my teeth are cleaned is neon pink. I hate it.

  3. I’ve enjoyed your shorter posts in the past and don’t feel like they were the usual recycled material and advice you get elsewhere that doesn’t really say very much. Of course, maybe after 6 years you feel like you need to adapt and change, and that’s OK!

    I’m in the fluttering stages of my own online business/blog of products for old homes and you have been an inspiration to me.

    I look forward to seeing the new bathrooms. I had commented on the laundry/powder room awhile ago and was wondering how that turned out.

  4. I don’t often comment because I am not in ‘the business’ but I am always learning valuable information and as a visual learner very much enjoy the example pictures that you post. I also like the ‘problem’ posts based on questions people send to you. The ‘what are your thoughts?’ about what color is the undertone, what would you select, how do you feel about? are awesome and very engaging. I am not a decorator, not affluent but very much want my home to be a home and not just a house. I can’t afford to follow every trend with a full on makeover of my home. Over the years decorating seemed like a luxury for only the wealthy. You are the first last and only decorator/blog I have ever followed/will follow. Thanks to your precious down to earth personality, and gift of being a phenomenal instructor, you have brought decorating into my middle class world and made it seem attainable. Thanks so much for all you share.

  5. Really well written, Maria and totally true. Like all of life’s endeavors, you must be willing to change when something stops working the way it used to. It will all work out!
    xo. Leslie
    Segreto finishes

  6. I always love your blog for info and insights. I can’t remember which year I signed on to receive your email. However, that was the year I went back and read ALL your old posts.
    I’m not in the design business. I do particularly enjoy your comments on blogging, in addition to all the beautiful rooms. Great info for the internet marketing world.

  7. The reason folks post comments is cause you are authentic.

    It feels as if you never post unless you have something to say. I don’t need your blog every day or every week. I just need it to reflect YOU.

    Your willingness to be vulnerable teaches us all how to be brave. Your willingness to be authentic sets the bar for us to follow suit.

    The fact that you are a genius with color is just a bonus for us.

    Maria, it is YOU we are here for. If you don’t want to post for any length of time, don’t, for heaven’s sake. Only post when you feel compelled, and have something to share.

    We’ll wait for you. We’re not going anywhere.

  8. Enjoyed my morning coffee with you, Maria, but then daily life got in the way so I’m just now commenting and I with the group that says “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – it ain’t broke! I love the short posts because they are always themed and purposed with great pics. I love the occasional longer posts such as this one because they are thought pieces from inside your mind and heart that trigger thinking in my mind and heart. And there’s almost always a serendipity in every post. Sometimes it comes from one of the three related posts you reference at the end of the current one or sometimes it’s a highlighted word in the post that, when clicked, brings up something delightful. Today I click on Terreeia and I got to see that beautiful face – makes up for the lack of a birthday bash pic (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TERREEIA!)

    Remember, Arizona is the sunniest state in the country! And although I might never be able to afford your 3-day intensive color course in any state, I’ll never forget what I learned from Summer School for the non-designers among us – not only what you taught us in the first three weeks but your generosity in showing our pics and answering our questions that last week. I really, really do hope you plan to do it again.

    I honestly don’t think there is a designer out there with your combination of understanding of color, your ability to teach and your willingness to help your client love her/his home no matter what your personal preferences. Benita doesn’t have to worry that her orchid will ever be out or that you would ever suggest she change it if she’s still in love with it.

    Whatever you do, Maria, please keep in mind this special-ness of your brand/product. I think it and your are quite unique.

  9. I am waiting very impatiently for you to come to Toronto! You can count me in for your workshop when you do.

  10. Hi Maria!
    I agree with you wholeheartedly that in business you have to be agile! Especially when the world is changing around you at a rapid pace. And it is sometimes hard to stay at the top of your game in terms of the nuts and bolts of your business (for you it’s design, and for me now, it’s makeup!) when you are business trying to share your knowledge with others. I always remember attending the University of Manitoba for Interior Design and feeling like the professors couldn’t really accurately critique projects because they hadn’t practiced in the field for years. We called them Designosaurs!!! So it’s a fine balance between teaching what you know and staying current too.

    I’d love to talk shop with you anytime. And I cannot wait until we work together this year – I’m dying to get my hands on that beautiful face of yours! <3

  11. Just love your biog & am so excited that you’re coming to the East coast sometime soon. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I love your blog and ebooks. I love browsing through former posts, discovering something I missed or rereading a post I loved. Thanks Maria

  13. I agree with those who say “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I’m usually very quiet but I love to read your blog. Love the short specific explanations of why you choose what you do. I have also purchased your e books. Looking forward to continuing this coffee club. Would attend any workshop if you ever come to Mid South.

  14. Am so excited that Jan Romanuk will be joining your blog. I need to renovate my little kitchen but am afraid of doing it -worry about the cost, about making mistakes… I’m not that young so I worry about spending too much on custom cabinets versus Ikea. So hopefully I’ll get some good advice and things to think about from you and Jan.

  15. I am so excited you will be coming to the East Coast. Washington DC is centrally located and convenient to travel to with access to the three airports. If you decide you want to come further South I live in Virginia Beach and would love to help you find a venue. 🙂

  16. Great post Maria. I believe in the ‘less is more’ model as well. You have high engagement with your readers because you are real, tell it like it is and fabulous at what you do. Interesting to hear about such a difference in clientele as well as limited sourcing opportunities out west compared to here in Toronto. Thanjs for your tremendous insight!

  17. I really appreciate this post Maria. I had noticed a difference in the last couple of months so it’s nice to hear your thoughts and plans for future posts. As a reader, not a decorator myself, I loved the frequent posts and looked forward to them. I’m sure I’ll love the longer, less frequent posts as well. If you decide to have a training in Chicago, I will be there with bells! I’m only 2 hours south of Chicago. Or if you’re close to Boston or Baltimore or Wilmington on the east coast during the end of May or early June, I’ll be in that area then. I remain a loyal fan even though I don’t seem to be able to take good enough pictures to help you help me!! 🙂 I love your aesthetic and keep it in mind when I try to make choices for my home.

  18. Maria, I love your blog and want to add another vote to not necessarily do away with the shorter, more frequent posts…I’m always excited to see every blog post, whatever the topic…for the reasons others have stated: that you are authentic and real, that your topics are timely and thought-provoking, and that clearly you read and respond to reader comments. 🙂

    One gentle suggestion I would have is that you have someone proofread/copyedit your posts prior to posting. Fairly often I notice spelling and usage mistakes, language that is a bit hard to follow, or captions where I can’t tell if it refers to the photo above or below. Remedying these items would make your blog even more powerful and polished. 🙂

    Recently, I was helping a friend style her living room and tv room/office and found myself saying repeatedly, “Maria would say…” and “Maria would say a trip to HomeGoods is in order” (which we did), and realized I’ve absorbed a lot of your principles and it has improved my confidence in styling and choosing colors at her place and my own. Thank you!!

  19. My favorites bar is full of your posts, just because there is always something, I want to go back and read, again! Love your blog!!!

  20. Hi
    I have eventually decided to follow my passion and am studying interior design. Can’t recall how I tripped over your blog BUT I am so glad I did. I have learnt so much from your insights and teachings, thank you!

    I’ve also applied your teachings as I’m busy updating our home. Unfortunately whilst we have great light here in sunny South Africa (another great venue for colour workshops!!), we don’t have Benjamin Moore paints. I’m so keen on creating the big colour board samples for my own business but need to work out how to identify/get hold of the best selling shades in the various key colours in Plascon/Dulux.

    Thanks for sharing so much!

  21. Hello Maria, I happened to find your blog recently and find it to be right on target and very inspiring. I am Interior Design student trying to figure out my niche…your commentary is enlightening and I look forward to it.

  22. Thanks for the great post, Maria. I’m near Raleigh, North Carolina and would be happy to help you find a place!

  23. Just reading this one now. I love your blog, Maria. In fact, I have stopped following every other design blog I used to follow except for your and Frances Schultz. You both write honestly and frankly.
    One of the most important things about writing well is “voice.” You have a strong and important voice.

    • Just reading this one now. I love your blog, Maria. In fact, I have stopped following every other design blog I used to follow except for your and Frances Schultz. You both write honestly and frankly.
      One of the most important things about writing well is “voice.” You have a strong and important voice. P.S. I will send you “install” pictures soon.