Expert Articles & Guides

Get Better Interior Design Clients (and Make More Money) by Defining Your ICA

By Mackenzie Fox founder of

When I talk with interior designers in my Facebook group, the top concern I hear from them is that they don’t have enough clients, money, or income – or all three!

Usually, they think their best solution is to hustle up more projects, so they can charge more clients, sell more furniture, etc. But a much better solution is to actually find and work with better clients.

When I say “better clients,” I’m talking about clients who value what you do as an interior designer and appreciate your unique talent and vision. Clients who are decisive because they already trust you.

This might sound like the holy grail of interior design, but finding clients like these is much easier. In fact, the secret to it comes down to YOU.

Yes, you.

When you’re growing an interior design business, instead of hanging out your shingle and considering every person who contacts you as a possible client, what you want to do instead is identify your ideal client avatar (ICA) and market specifically to them.

Your ICA is a composite character sketch of the exact person YOU want to work with in your business (more on that in a moment). See, as an entrepreneur, you get to decide everything about your business: your business name, your fees, the colors of your website. Why not decide who you will – and will not – work with?

Also, when you create an ICA for your business, you shift from saying “I’m a designer – who wants to work with me?!” to “I’m a designer and I’m looking for a very specific type of client.”

The former says you’ll take anything you can get; the latter says you have standards – which usually causes people to immediately ask themselves if they measure up.

Do you see how, when you position yourself this way, the power belongs with you – and not your audience? This way, you’re planting your flag in the sand and asking clients to come to you, instead of blowing around in the breeze.

Now that we know what an ICA is and how it can benefit your business, let’s talk about how to identify your ICA.

First, though, I have to warn you against creating “unicorn” ICA’s who magically already understand the value of working with an interior designer and have tons of money lying around to throw at a project.

There’s nothing wrong with identifying a client with discerning taste or one who is affluent, but you must understand who this person is as a unique individual. If you don’t identify why someone might already get the value of interior design, you’re missing out on important information you can use to actually connect emotionally with this person. And if your ICA is affluent without you understanding them as a person, you’re basically just asking to play with someone else’s money.

Respect your ICA and your business will benefit. Let’s talk now about how to identify your ICA …

First, answer these basic demographic questions:

  • Age
  • Married or single?
  • Kids or no kids? If so, how many and their ages. If not, why not? Are they planning for it? Why or why not?
  • City of residence
  • How do they earn money? What is their job or do they have a business? Are there other income earners in their household?
  • What is their household income?
  • Level of education

Just a quick reminder, we’re creating an avatar – which is a character sketch of a specific person – not a range. Some of you might be worried about going narrow, that it could alienate someone who otherwise might hire you. But, what you need to understand is that going wide is what you’ve been doing so far, and it doesn’t work. Going narrow allows you to make that connection with an audience which cultivates trust and creates an emotional bond – which creates clients who get you and are willing to pay your fees.


So, back to your ICA …

We talked about who they are on paper, but we also need to understand who they are as a unique individual. Answer these questions:

  • Personality type (Myers-Briggs or other)
  • Personality quirks
  • How happy are they?
  • What do they worry about?
  • What is their primary goal?
  • Favorite magazines
  • Favorite books
  • Favorite blogs
  • Favorite movies
  • Favorite TV shows
  • How do they spend their weekends or off-time?
  • Doe they have hobbies? What are they?
  • Political leanings

In addition, we need to know a few more things …

  • What are their top 3 problems right now? Not just design-related, but what are they facing in life?
  • What is their most desired outcome when it comes to the interior design project you can help them with? What’s going to happen if they don’t get your help?
  • Why haven’t they hired you yet?

This last one is a real question – seriously, why haven’t they hired you yet? Understanding a client’s objections before they have to tell you gets you closer to a sale and helps you avoid “I have to think about it.”

Now, write a 300-500 word narrative about this person – tell a story – then find a stock photo of what the person might look like. This is just for internal use, but it’s an important step, because you’re now going to use that information to create content and position yourself right in front of your ideal client.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “is all this really necessary?” I mean, haven’t interior designers existed for years without having to get this specific about who their clients should be.

Yes and yes.

Yes, this is necessary. Because, while the interior design industry has existed for a long time, it’s changing – fast. And all those designers who started their businesses five or more years ago probably have finally just started building up a referral wait list.

But 1.) do you want to wait five years to start making money? And, 2.) tactics that worked even five years ago are obsolete.

Never before have consumers had access to information and tools like they do now. This is why you must understand your ideal client and position yourself accordingly.

***Looking to grow your audience and get more interior design projects without spending a ton of money on ads or wasting your time posting to Instagram with no results? Sign up for a FREE webinar where I’ll be teaching you how to use Facebook to grow and monetize an audience with ZERO paid ads!

This training is jam-packed full of useful content to help you build a thriving interior design business. Click here to find out more and register.

Bio: Mackenzie is a former interior designer turned digital marketer, online entrepreneur, and founder of the site where she teaches effective marketing for interior designers. She has a bachelor’s of science degree in interior design from the Art Institute of California, Orange County, and spent almost 10 years working in the field of interior design. She understands, from a designer’s perspective, what it’s like to love the career of design and the joy (and sometimes challenge) of working with design clients.
After her career in design, she launched a wardrobe styling brand and quickly took her company online to serve clients virtually all across the world, eventually creating passive income with PDF products and online courses. To help grow her businesses, she has never stopped learning, and recently completed advanced training with digital marketing expert, Julie Stoian, in the Digital Gangsta program.

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