Marc Müskens and Sven van Buuren Institute of Interior Impact
Sven van Buuren // Institute of Interior Impact
3 min

I thought I knew it all...

3 min

When I opened my interior design studio back in 2007 I thought I knew it all. I’ve studied at the well known, renowned Royal Academy of Arts, so had one of the best educations in interior design possible. The world was waiting for me!

And there it was, out of the blue! A dream job: design a fancy new mens clothing store in a former bus terminal! 

And along came my first question: what do I charge??? Nobody ever told me that at the academy. Not a single lesson about running a business. Nothing about entrepreneurship. Nothing about what to charge. The only thing they practically taught me was how to be more creative and have a good architectural eye.

So, instead of trying to figure out what my new client really needed, I started doing research on what to charge. I knew a bit about hourly wages and had soon figured out what I wanted to charge per hour. That wasn't that difficult. But with that new questions arose... How long would a project like this take? And the construction? How often are I needed? At school they gave me a quarter of a year, huge amounts of hours per week, but I assumed my client was willing to pay that much. Also, my client asked me for a total price. Not an hourly tariff without knowing how long it would take me. So he needed security. So did I. And now what? 

I did some calculations and some more. I figured that if everything was going smooth, it would take approximately 100 hours. I looked it up 😆. 

The client quickly agreed. Of course, as there was hardly any risk for him. But I soon found out that I am a very, very positive guy. I invested way more time in the project than I anticipated. In fact it would have made more sense to just work at a supermarket. They would have paid me more per hour...

But hey, it was my first project. And after this many more would come… Because this project design was really cool! I got featured in magazines with it, I got interviewed. Got into national newspapers... The world was waiting for my designs! 

And then there was… nothing. 

Nothing at all. Not a single person found its way to me. Nobody was waiting for me. Sven, the great designer. Why? What were they missing? What was I missing? Come on, I tick all the boxes… Book me, I'm here!!!

To make matters worse, I got sued! The owner of the shop complained about the colours that got mixed up and he blamed me. I was glad the judge ruled it wasn't me who messed things up. I wasn’t guilty, but this project took way more time again an costed me all of the money I had saved.

But hey, there is no such thing as bad publicity right? 

Still, no new clients… 

Come on, I have a website, I have one project in my portfolio. One famous project. Find me, buy me. Pay me. Gimme your money! I need it. And you need my design! Come on!

No one showed up. So back to the confines of employment as there was no more money in my pockets. And I needed to pay my rent. 

I thought I knew it all, I knew I knew it all! Well, except for what to charge and how to make a proposal. And except for what my client really needed. And how to get clients. And how to get them to pay me money. 

And then it dared on me!

I needed someone to teach me all of this. I needed to study again. Not that I wanted to... But I needed to study. Not about how to make better designs, but how to run a business. 

I know the questions I was asking myself are the questions you have figured out by now, but you know as well as I do, that these aren’t the only questions. 

You never know what mistakes that are slowing you down, are the mistakes you take for granted.

In every phase of running an interior design firm, new questions show up. So, start ask yourself questions. Questions like: "What do I want to achieve this year?" And: "What do I not know on how to achieve this?" And: "Who can help me with this?" And then, only then, If you want, give me a call as we can probably help you with it. We all need a coach to guide us over the bumps back onto the main straight. It’s really a weird idea to just figure it out by yourself, spending your valuable time and energy on it. Energy better spent in things you’re good at. 

Marc and I have created a coaching program that will help you get back onto the main road again, making you prosper. No one should do it alone. The wheel has been invented. Don’t try and reinvent it again. You’re way too creative for spending your creativity on that!