What to Consider When You've Landed a Showcase Home or Event
Make some smart choices before lending your name or work to an event.
In a previous Designer Marketplace post, I shared a general overview of the different levels of projects available to feature your design skills and talents. I would like to help you delve a bit deeper with some good, nitty gritty details to consider, no matter the project's scale. Designers tend to become so excited about participating in creative projects. From experience, I've learned containing some of the enthusiasm has helped me to make wise choices, before lending my work or name to an event.
Before you leap, consider this:
- Who is sponsoring the showhouse? - Is it purely an industry event or is it connected to a charity or non-profit organization? Do they have a good reputation in your community? If it's a charitable event, do you know much about the cause and will the proceeds truly be of benefit? While this might seem a bit cautious, people are paying more attention as to how charities handle their funds and want to feel good about supporting the best ones. To paraphrase Aesop, "You're known by the company you keep."
- Who, how, what, when, etc. - If you're participating in an annual, well-known venue, this might seem to be an easy answer. Some groups have created Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) manuals and pass them along to the next event chair. It's still a good practice to never assume anything and to create a list of questions to review before putting your name in the hat or finalizing a commitment. Remember, this is a huge investment of your time, resources, and talent. One newspaper ad does not create a publicity buzz.
- All about you! - Your marketing materials will be so important in conveying your message. Be sure to plan on having extra print collateral for take-a-ways. You may have to revisit those expensive business cards. (I did an event where over 40,000 were expected to attend in a three week period!) A beautifully done video of you and your work might be a better investment to have looping in the home viewing hot spot. Set up your portfolio in a digital frame. My friend, Ellen, does logo soaps for businesses and they make a lasting impression. Be innovative in order to get the call back!
Fees/Overall Investment Expectations:
This is almost another post by itself but I’ll try to hit the key points.
- Fees - I've done some rooms for a designer society, where I had to provide a room deposit. It indicated I was serious about participating and committed me in the eyes of the group. It was also to be used as a binder for clean-up, repairs, etc. Ask if there are any fees involved for participation.
- Insurance for damages, loss, or injury - Another big consideration is that most insurance policies require a rider for events outside of your daily business umbrella. If you're doing a whole house and have to cover not only the presence of your staff and installers, but the entire contents of the house – from delivery date to move-out date...it can be a huge, hidden expense! When I did a whole house, I required the builder to provide for this. Often these houses will be under construction and many of the contractor's folks still have access while it's being set-up. Because this is beyond the designer's control and adds to their liability, it's a great negotiating point.
- Rent, borrow, or buy? This will probably be one of your largest investments. While you may be able to borrow furniture, rugs, and accents, custom window treatments and bedding are often out-of-pocket. You may be able to recoup some dollars on a designer sale day, but you may also be able to negotiate leaving those items attached and to be reimbursed on a cost basis. Keep in mind, you'll have installation fees, delivery fees and may also need to collect sales tax unless the purchaser has a tax exempt/resale number.
Showcase Schedule and Connected Events:
- Scheduling and prioritizing. What is the time commitment? Are there adjunct events or presentations in which you'll be expected to participate? It's a challenge, at times, to balance current client projects while you're trying to gain exposure to potential clients. Not only do you have the pre-planning and design work to do, you also have the installation, and perhaps, even staffing of your space to consider. Be sure you've got systems in place to be able to step away from the office without damaging the good will you've already established.
The biggest question to ask is if this endeavor is worthwhile? If you're getting great referrals from happy clients, they may actually produce more revenue for your company than a major event. Perhaps keeping your name out in the spotlight, via a tabletop benefit or by providing a stunning piece for a charity auction, would be the ticket. A custom, coffee table book, featuring your work, could go hand-in-hand as a give-a-way item. If you're new to an area and need to make a big splash, then be sure to plan carefully for success. In the end, it's all about making sound business choices.
Wanda S. Horton is a residential interior designer based in the Charlotte, NC metro area and brings a distinct perspective on all things regarding design. She shares her design musings with consumers and interior designers, alike, via her blog, Interior Concepts by Wanda. She also writes monthly posts for Hooker Furniture's, "Experience Your Home". She's an active participant during the nationally acclaimed High Point Furniture Market, including articles in the Designer Lookbook ,and was in the first group of Style Spotters focusing on market trends. She has been included as a guest panelist during several industry social media events. HGTV honored Wanda as one of Five Designers to Follow on Twitter. Her focus on multigenerational interior design has evolved from addressing the various ranges of her clients' lifestyles needs. Wanda has been recently volunteering her time and services in the transformation of her local community shelter, in order to create bright, new beginnings.