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The Guide to Interior Design Project Management

The Guide to Interior Design Project Management

Most interior designers did not enter the field of interior design because they were focused on project management. Rather, they were focused on the creative design process and the ability to find design solutions for client challenges. But it’s what goes on behind the scenes that assures those solutions will come to fruition. It’s effective design project management that creates a loyal client who is more likely to enthusiastically refer you. 

The process of design project management involves overseeing a variety of interior design projects usually at different stages of the design process. Project management assures that every project will flow as smoothly as possible from concept to conclusion. Clients need to be wowed by an outstanding design that comes in on time and within budget. That result will establish loyalty and create positive referrals.

Establishing a project management workflow helps create the results clients want. It also makes life easier for you and your team by establishing processes to streamline tasks. As your business grows you may want to hire a project manager but first, you need to define what those duties involve.

Identify the specific tasks and streamline the process

The responsibilities involved in project management may differ with each firm, but the following suggestions of what could be included will help you get started.

Initial interview process

Have a process to clarify that you and the prospective client are a good fit. Once that is confirmed, have key questions ready to identify your client’s goals and objectives and their “vision” for the final outcome of the project. Clarify the financial investment they are willing to make to complete this project as well as the timeline they expect. Review how your firm’s design process works, including your responsibilities as well as the client’s responsibilities. 

Site visit and review

Depending on how you work, the site visit may or may not be combined with the initial interview above. Thorough measurements as well as detailed notes and plenty of photographs are important. Consider bringing an assistant to allow you more time to communicate with the client. This is also the time to ask for as-built drawings – if they have them. 

Design development and process specifics

Once the contract is signed, identify the specific tasks to be completed. Identify resources required and the timelines for each task identified. Identify who is responsible for what tasks which might include:

  • Draft proposals according to client requirements with specific scope of services listed
  • Plan, budget and implement project from start to finish
  • Design conceptualization
  • Research products, obtain samples, etc.
  • Prepare project estimates
  • Conduct site visits as stated in the scope of services
  • Manage schedules and update as needed

Communication Process

  • Set up regular communication process with clients, vendors and others involved in the project. Breakdown of communication is usually at the heart of most problems, whether with your clients or those involved in the project itself. 
  • Document your team and your client’s preferred method of communication. 
  • Provide project updates and directions for tasks. At a minimum, weekly client updates as well as internal updates will help ensure a smoother flow for the project. Regular communication will help build client loyalty and comfort with the process.
  • Coordinate with your team regularly to ensure the project is on time and on budget – have scheduled check-ins.

Assessment Process

Include a process to assess every project. There is always room for improvement and learning how you might be even more effective and competitive. Ask for client feedback with specific questions and do the same with your team. 

Using Project Management Tools

If you’re still using to-do lists, checklists, voice reminders and sticky notes to manage your projects, consider switching to a project management tool. Streamline your processes by incorporating one of the software programs on the market. Yes, there is always a learning curve. But the time you invest upfront will be worth it. You will be compensated many times over with greater control, fewer errors and missed deadlines, and improved productivity. Here are some key features to look for in project management software for interior designers:

  • Project Organization: A centralized platform to manage multiple projects, including task assignments, deadlines, and progress tracking.
  • Client Communication: Tools for client collaboration, including messaging, file sharing, and project updates.
  • Task Management: Ability to create and assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress.
  • Time Tracking: Accurate time tracking for billing and invoicing purposes.
  • Accounting and Invoicing: Integration with accounting software for seamless invoicing and expense tracking.
  • Product Sourcing: Integration with product sourcing platforms for easy material selection and ordering.
  • Reporting and Analytics: Insights into project performance, including budget tracking, time spent, and client satisfaction.

Project Management Software Suggestions

Several programs used by some of our Pearl Collective clients are listed below. There are multiple programs available, so do your research to find what will best fit your needs.

  • Trello – a cloud-based product that you can access from your computer, tablet or smartphone and can work well for smaller projects or solopreneurs. Created for those who are more visually oriented, it uses a board environment to set up and manage projects.
  • Asana – also cloud-based. Use Asana to manage your own tasks and/or to manage projects and teams. It allows you to group tasks into projects or initiatives, or to breakdown projects into tasks that you then can assign to various team members; attach files to tasks; set deadline dates and times; and track progress. Great for bigger teams.

Two other programs to consider for additional project management capabilities:

  • Studio Designer: A leading digital project management, product sourcing, and accounting platform for the interior design industry.
  • Design Manager: This platform helps interior design professionals source, specify, manage projects, propose, invoice, track time, perform accounting and more.

Finally, stay up to date. Continue to research processes and tools that may help you to remain competitive and help you save time while increasing your bottom line. 

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