Kimberley Seldon & What they Don’t teach you in Design School

The first time I saw Kimberley Seldon speak at a designer event (approx. 5 years ago) she polled the room and asked “Who here is charging less than $100 per hour?” At the time I was charging $75 so I raised my hand along with a few others, and she responded “Shame on you! Do you think you have less responsibility than a plumber?”  From that day on, I increased my rates and never looked back.

This past Friday I attended her book launch party at Salari Carpets in Kerrisdale, where she signed my copy of her new book, ‘The Business of Design Part 1’. Inside, Kimberley clearly outlines exactly what it takes to run a design business and her position is clear; design is 80% business and 20% creative, and that is exactly right.

Kimberley Seldon & Maria Killam

Kimberley also talks about systems in her book and how to create them. I love this story: “McDonalds is often the gold standard of an orderly business model.  The hamburgers are consistent each and every time regardless of which province, state or country you are visiting. That’s because Ray Kroc, the creator of the McDonald’s empire, worked on the business, not in the business. In other words, he didn’t make a single hamburger or tie an apron around his waist.  Instead he created a system for making a very specific product – a McDonald’s hamburger.  The system was so detailed and specific any teenager could follow it and produce consistent results each and every time.” Business of Design Part 1

What I love about Kimberley is how warm, funny and authentic she is.  She is a great speaker and has lots of compassion for creative people and the trials and tribulations of running a business. And in her book, she’s really straight about creating systems to have Satisfaction by Design rather than the fallible system of Satisfaction by Luck. It’s a textbook and a workbook all in one, for how to do it right from the start.  By the way, if you want to know how to double knot your pearls like mine, click here for a short video tutorial by my stylist Angie at You Look Fab.

Yvonne Vanderkooy from Layers & Layers
Kimberley also talks about being responsible and how blaming the client allows you to ignore your part in the breakdown by focusing on someone else’s behaviour which robs you of the most valuable opportunity you’ll ever have to improve your business practices. This part I learned on my own from years of participating in Landmark courses. And it’s why I can count on one hand how many ‘bad experiences’ I have had with clients.  Whenever a breakdown occurs I immediately look to see where I might have (as Kimberley says) “made a better choice, taken a more decisive action or circumvented a problem”. Kimberley has a great way of explaining how to take ownership in Section 3: Ignore the Spark and Get Burned.
Anita Junttila from Between you and me and the Fencepost (my sister) and Maria Killam
Kimberley also has 6–not to be missed–sections  devoted to ‘Charging for Services’ which is always a challenge  when first starting your design or decorating business.  Also don’t miss the ‘working business hours’ section, needed by those who work too hard trying to fit your schedule around your client’s instead of setting normal business hours.
Jill McDonald, Reflections Interior Designs & Maria Killam
The best part of this book is that it’s also a workbook.  There’s a chapter on how to create your own personal ‘design for living’ which focuses on your dreams and goals.  She encourages us to “Ask for everything you want.  Even if you don’t know how it’s going to happen”.  Every one knows that goal setting is the easiest and fastest way to achieve what you want in your life but when you’re self employed it sometimes takes a book like this (or hiring a coach as Kimberley did) to get straight about your life and how you want it to look! Click here to buy your copy!
Photography by Luukas Junttila (my talented nephew)

I had a great time at Kimberley’s book launch, wish you were there!

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me for on-line or in-person decorating and colour.

Related posts:
Interior Design may look Easy; It’s Not! (an article from Style at Home that Kimberley wrote)
5 Ways to know if you should quit your Day Job to Become a Designer
Design Lessons from Elizabeth Stevenson
Why you should be Nice to your Suppliers
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38 Responses to Kimberley Seldon & What they Don’t teach you in Design School

  1. kate smtih says:

    Some great nuggets of wisdom especially "about being responsible and how blaming the client allows you to ignore your part in the breakdown by focusing on someone else’s behaviour which robs you of the most valuable opportunity you’ll ever have to improve"

    True about all relationships not just business ones.

  2. Erika at BluLabel Bungalow says:

    What an excellent opportunity to meet Kimberley and to get her business advice straight from the source. Sounds like her new book would be an investment into the success of any design business. Great that it's available to everyone online!

  3. traci zeller designs says:

    I'm going to order her book now! And I'll let you reprimand me as necessary ;-)

  4. Splendid Sass says:

    Sounds like a wonderful and helpful book. Thanks for sharing, Maria.
    Teresa

  5. Blondie says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time honey! Hope you had a great weekend! Don't forget to enter my Christmas giveaway before Thursday if you haven't already!

    http://www.blondeepisodes.com

    Kori xoxo

  6. Tamara Nicole says:

    How fun! Glad you enjoyed it, and got to hang with her:-)

  7. From This Perch says:

    Maria! Another fabulous post.
    And I agree that Landmark is a wonderful support for anything you do.
    Can't wait to red this book.

  8. Carol@SofasandSage.com says:

    How fast can I get that book? :) I've been looking for something new like this and I'm so glad you highlighted it. Thanks!

  9. Laura@Developing Designs says:

    Great tips, thank you. I love the one about taking full responsibility for the break down, all aspects of it. It is certainly easier in life to blame others.
    Love that you got to spend time with your sister (her blog rocks). Be sure to tell your nephew, keep up the great photography. xo PS: Love your top too. :)

  10. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    This sounds like an interesting read, Maria! I think I'll be adding this to my wish list! I haven't raised my rates in awhile and have been thinking of doing that after January.

  11. Bruce Barone says:

    Great advice!

  12. Caroline Jones says:

    I just ordered the book – there are only a few left so don't wait if you are interested. I love your blog and appreciate all the fantastic advice you share with us.

  13. Lazy Gardens says:

    Kimberley clearly outlines exactly what it takes to run a design business and her position is clear; design is 80% business and 20% creative, and that is exactly right.

    In any so-called "creative" business, from restaurants to design to landscaping to writing, you have to keep a tight rein on the creative and make sure the business part – the product the customer thinks they are getting – is delivered on time and in budget.

    I've been watching HGTV's "Design Star" shows (talk about train wrecks!) and that lesson reached up and bit quite a few of the artistes in the butt.

  14. Luciane From HomeBunch.com says:

    This is so interesting! I loved reading it. Seems that you had fun! :-)

    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

  15. Lisa @designspotting says:

    Bought this book online ages ago and was the best money I have ever spent! Truly.

  16. Mona Thompson says:

    Great advice. I'm off to order the book.

  17. Sherri Cassara says:

    Thank you Maria for another kick in the pants. I am terrible about managing the hours and even worse about charging. I am not good about the business aspect of what I do and have realized even more this year that if I am going to have a business I had better run it as a business. Thank you and I will go check out her book now! Your posts are growing me as a designer and as a business owner. LOVE reading your blog.
    P.S. I think that being responsible in all relationships for my own part is the best thing I ever started – work on me, focus on my part, stop blaming! ; )

  18. JenniferLeighDesign says:

    I have learned so much from your blog. I just started my own Interior design business a few months ago and finally a blog as well after reading all your tips and tricks. Thank You!

  19. Peggy and Fritz says:

    What a great resource. While I'm not formally practicing design as a business anymore (I tried to start my business but couldn't give up my day job) – I agree your time is valuable and frankly you should be charging $100.00 an hour :) I once interviewed a number of high profile designers and they all said that design is 80% business 20% design. Love that she said that…will have to get this book for the day I can quit my day job – great tip.

  20. Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    Don't we look fabulous dahling ! What a fun night. Thank you for taking us.

  21. Maria Killam says:

    HI Peggy,
    Thanks for your note, my rates now are $200 for 1 hour, $350 for 2 hours and $150 per hour after that.

    But 5 years ago I immediately raised my rates to $100 per hour from Kimberley's talk.
    Maria

  22. Jil - Reflections Interior Designs says:

    I had such a fun night hanging out with you Friday!
    I'm 1/2 way through the book already – although I didn't realize it's a workbook, until you mentioned that. Now I'm doing the worksheets and getting a lot out of it. My decision last night was no more working until 11pm! 7pm is now my cut off! And yes, I'm definately increasing my rates!
    Say hi to Sis for me, she's a hoot!

  23. Laura Casey Interiors says:

    Glad you had such a good time! I will have to get Kimberley's book for myself.

  24. Design Elements says:

    Sounds like a great advice. I ordered "Start With Why" after reading your post about it. It was an amazing book. I'm sure, I'll like this one too.

  25. Anonymous says:

    What a great business book. I would love to read it even though I am not a designer. The McDonald's guy never flipping a burger-no way!
    p.s. Thanks for your color selections, Maria. The house came out great.I almost have pics ready & I want your help with the insides. Have you done a post on curtains? Think I need your advice…
    Jenny
    lil' red house in Australia

  26. Cristin says:

    Great advice… sounds like the book is worth buying too.

    xo,
    cristin

  27. Annie Wilcox Designs says:

    How do you charge for a rural area. I know I am way too cheap but I am getting calls left a right now. When do I make the jump?

  28. Renae says:

    Great post Maria! I am going to look for her book, we all need inspiration no matter how long one's been in business!
    xx

  29. angie says:

    Another insightful post, Maria!

    Can I just say that I am so proud of how you knotted your pearl necklace. Also fabulous to see you in that KILLER dress :)

  30. Lauren says:

    on the Christmas list!!! what a valuable book!! neeeeed it.

    xoxo,
    lauren

    ps- love your knotted pearls!!

  31. Anonymous says:

    I have a question. I have read your wonderful blog and learned a lot about color, including the fact that I am bad at it and need professional help. Since it is sadly the case you do not live near me, how do I find someone as good as you are? I want someone good and understand my house is my home, not someone who wants to see how avant garde they cam make my house….

  32. Anonymous says:

    I have to say I am shocked by how much an interior designer/colorist charges per hour. If one works 40 hours a week at $100 an hour, that is $200,000 a year. Wow! that is more than most other professions that require much more education. Many doctors and lawyers don't make that much!!

  33. sarah@realestatestyle says:

    thank you for sharing this! i am not a decorator/designer, but have a new, small furniture store. this will help me figure out how to offer "design" services, and how to organize them. also, i sell real estate, and i'm sure i can apply some of her wisdom to that!

  34. Lazy Gardens says:

    Anonymous said, "If one works 40 hours a week at $100 an hour, that is $200,000 a year. Wow!" If it were only that easy.

    That would be gross business income, not spendable money, and the thought of having a steady 40 billable hours a week would send most designers into paroxysms of delight.

    From that lovely large figure, deduct the following business expenses … advertising, travel costs, conference costs, local sales taxes on your services and products, office rental and equipment, business supplies (fan decks aren't cheap, nor are sample books), bad debts from scum clients, etc.

    Then from what is left, deduct (in the USA) 15% social security tax and whatever federal, state and local income taxes apply.

    What is left after expenses and taxes can be applied to things like food, rent, utilities and fabulous clothes.

  35. Maria Killam says:

    Hi Annie,
    I understand that in rural areas you need to charge what the market will bear but if you are busy now at your current rate then I think it's probably time to raise it at least by $25 per hour.

    Hi Anonymous,
    If a designer could save you $500 would that be worth $100 of their time?

    Maria

  36. Maria Killam says:

    Anonymous #1, I also do on-line consults and it works very well in most cases (unless you actually want to hire a designer to decorate your house).
    Email me for details, info@mariakillam.com
    Thanks for commenting!
    Maria

  37. Lila says:

    I graduated in business and the Mcdonald's story is so true. They drill that into you from the very beginning. She sounds like she knows exactly what she's talking about!
    xoxo
    Lila Ferraro

  38. Darcy from The I.Design Box says:

    I ordered my book today! Yey, for the Barnes & Noble 30% Black Friday discount. :-) Thanks for the tip.

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