Wow. This October marks 20 years of being my own boss. That's long enough to see some trends repeating!
Lately I've been reflecting over the journey. While it hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows, there is A LOT I am proud of. These are the things that stand out to me:
Then and now...
I was always sure that this was the career path for me. By October 2003, I had worked for a few years in the design and building industry and decided to embark on my own design adventure. I have been reflecting over how much the industry has changed since then and in some ways it is unrecognizable.
I did not start off in an entrepreneurial fashion, I (naively) just wanted to design. I was happy to have contract work from my previous employer and slowly but surely started picking up new work as I went. Like many young business owners I often took on any job before understanding my niche - and I often stood in my own way!
Back then, marketing was vastly different, social media non existent and my jobs were 100% word of mouth referrals. I did not have a website, online reviews, and seldom photographed jobs. It was a steep learning curve from starting off timidly to building a digital presence that is expected in this day and age. For a long time I preferred to hand draft designs and sketch out concepts. In fact, I persisted with the hand drawing until lockdowns forced me to become fluent with 3D sketching!
I was able to take a few years break when my kids were little and tried a side step career change in the childcare space. Whilst enjoyable, it confirmed my heart was in design! So I dived back in again, set up all things website and branding, and in 2016 moved into the current Watsonia Studio. As you can see, it was a family affair.
The extra visibility had an avalanche effect. Partnerships with local builders then increased and we scaled up to suit. Creating a support team was hugely rewarding and very necessary, as it can be lonely working alone and too many hats to be worn!
The next couple of years we turned out more work than I thought possible. Kitchens, bathrooms, window furnishings, alfresco spaces, office spaces, health suites, art commissions, commercial product styling, whole home renovations; you name it. Even an Airstream caravan! We started professionally photographing work, and it was so satisfying in every way. Around then I also had my first solo Art exhibition amongst other pursuits. It's exhausting just reading this list!
For all the 'pinch myself' design moments, team success and rewarding feedback, I did too much at once and burnout ensued (shock!). As with many people, the pandemic saw me evaluating workload and I have since refined the work load to be able to balance my family life and health better; a work in progress. Apparently "you can have it all, just not all at the same time" - Betty Friedan.
The current design scene
Nowadays, it is much more common and valued to use an Interior Designer than ever before. It's also a more popular career, and more service niches are popping up. It can be a complex career, interpreting what clients truly want, acquiring their trust and delivering both inspired and practical solutions for their most significant asset; the home. Notwithstanding the wide product knowledge required, reliable team support and logistics of day to day business. Instagram posts and fancy flat lays belie the intense work behind the scenes.
Did you know? At this moment, the Design Institute of Australia is working on making Interior Design a regulated industry, as it currently is not!
The Australian design industry is so much more abundant than in my early career - which is very enjoyable. There are thousands more products and resources at our fingertips, the demand for designers is greater and clients are generally more adventurous. There is more global 'blurring' as social media tends to mesh and connect people with peers and design influences from every corner of the world.
As it should be, there's more emphasis on responsible sourcing of sustainable and or recycled materials, supporting local Australian manufacturing, and collaboration. We are more aware of purchasing well, rather than short term items bound for landfill. The pandemic, cost of living escalation and inaccessibility of the housing market to our younger generations have all re-shaped the way we use and invest in our home spaces.
All this fascinates me. Yes, I love the artistic side of Interior Design, but also the analytical and orderly aspects. I really enjoy building relationships with clients, the privilege of their trust and sharing life's ups and downs. Providing home design solutions for them with creativity, colour and my love of drawing; still ticks all the boxes!
For me, creativity then and now remains largely unchanged, it's still the most enjoyable aspect. The bigger lesson was that small business is constant learning and refinement, and balancing with personal life. It can be super challenging, but if you enjoy the service you deliver - and I do love art and design - then the mechanics are worth getting right.
I am proud to say that as I write this, we have approximately 8 whole home renovations / new builds in progress with various builders, as well as smaller scale ones, multiple decorating projects and bespoke furniture. I can't wait to share our new works with you.
Please excuse the self indulgent personal post, but I've worked hard for it! That is literally hundreds of home visits. There are SO MANY people to thank on my journey; clients, mentors, colleagues and family alike. Thanks for reading along, and if you've been part of my journey; thank you even more!
P.S Special shout out to my husband Steven, for the 20 years of listening to my work stories and endless support.