How to Run a Small Business Online – Interior Design

Since 2018, Agnieszka Konieczna has been running Ambience, the Interior Design Studio in Krakow. She runs projects online mostly in Poland, but also across the world. Her main goal is to create modern, elegant interiors that provide comfortable living conditions.

Can you tell me how it started?

My career grew organically. I got into a university that gave me the option to be an expert in either cubature architecture or interior design. I ended up choosing the second one. I took my first job for 1 400 zł per month and learned as much as I could. My second job paid more and provided me more growth. When I started working in a third studio, I knew that was my last full-time job, because my wish was to start my own business. And I did that. In total, I have had four years of professional experience.

Did you have any worries that it would not work?

Well, of course. I had never done it before. I had no idea how running your design firm would be like, what would I be doing. I wondered what I should do to make the company flourish and not turn out to be loss-making. I had been trying to prepare myself and learning as much as possible. However, I realized that in the creative industry, there are no objectively good or bad projects. You cannot guess how people will react to your product/project unless you show it to them.

Did you think that you could fail because of the competition in this field?

There are thousands of interior design studios in Poland and all over the world. But it seems like even in the most saturated markets there is always space for the good ones. The only question is whether or not we can actually fulfill the expectations, or are we just too optimistic? The market will verify that.

How old were you when you started the business?

It was two years ago when I was 28 years old.

How did you decide on prices for your services?

At first, I assumed that my projects have to be at market prices but closer to the lower limit. It seemed like a good way to attract potential clients. Before I started my studio I did some projects for individual clients, while working full-time. So I have also developed a portfolio and a small customer base. I also had some recommendations. Immediately after starting my business, the number of clients rose. Thanks to that, I could gradually raise the prices.

How do you advertise your business?

I posted on Facebook groups and started building my brand by writing my blog. Through these platforms, I introduced Ambience before it officially started. I wanted to reach as many people as possible with my marketing strategy, which helped me to start earning from the first month.  I’m still taking care of all the marketing by myself. I use social media, Facebook, and Instagram, I run my website and email marketing. From time to time, I run paid advertisements to reach new users. The customer’s decision-making process is slow so I treat all the elements as a whole.

What does Ambience’s reputation mean to you?

Taking care of the reputation and the brand are the most important things that distinguish an entrepreneur from a full-time worker. Marketing and Branding are the biggest fun in running the business for me. You have to follow your business gut but simultaneously be aware that your customer can have a different view and respond differently than expected.

What are the needs of your customers?

My projects help to solve the following issues:

  • I am out of ideas for furnishing our new flat.
  • I have no time to deal with interior design.
  • I do not know how much I have to spend on good quality but not the most expensive materials.
  • I have a little budget, so I am afraid that it won’t be enough to create a beautiful interior.
  • I do not know any renovation specialist.
  • My first apartment was beautiful but not functional. I learn from my mistakes.
  • I want to have different interiors than my friends have.
  • I am afraid that what I choose won’t be lasting.
  • I am afraid that I would like the project, but its implementation will be too expensive.

How is a home being designed?

The formation of a design project is a multi-step process and usually takes several months. It depends on the scope chosen by a client. The most popular process has the following steps:

  • The customer asks for the offer and pricing. We choose the style and accept it with the client.
  • We create the functional project of what will be in a room, where it will be, and how much space it needs.
  • Start of the visualization process. We prepare projects for all the rooms. They show how the room will look after the realization is finished. We make all the improvements that the client needs and create the final version of the visualization.
  • Then we create technical drawings that show how to implement the project.
  • After the project is approved, we prepare the list of materials and furniture.

What is the inspiration for your job?

The main inspiration for the project is the guidelines from the client: stylistic and functional. A common misconception is that designers look for inspiration in other projects. The most important are the client’s taste and needs.

What are the benefits of running your own business?

There are a lot of them:

  • Bigger salary
  • More control on brand image
  • The possibility to manage offers and prices
  • Communication with the client
  • Flexible working hours
  • The possibility to reject an order
  • Broadening horizons by making new things
  • Higher work rate makes a higher income rate
  • Networking
  • High responsibility

What are the main difficulties?

There will be:

  • Haters
  • Difficult customers
  • Lack of wages
  • Difficulties in decision-making
  • Dealing with plagiarisms of my work

Do you plan your working day/week/month? Which tools do you use for this purpose?

I am not a guru in planning and using new apps. I use Toggl and Asana. Since I started using them, they have become necessary for me. My calendar is filled with projects for a couple of months in advance Each step is planned. All the estimations are based on experience and data.

Do you have time to rest?

I do not work for 60 hours per week and do not plan to do that in the future. I believe the company is for the person and not vice versa. I manage my company in a way that makes me happy, not exhausted. To be able to give 100% of my capabilities, I work 6-7 hours per day.

What goal do you want to achieve in your work?

I intend to establish an office in my current apartment and employ the best architects. Some of them will work with interior projects under the key, which will expand Ambience’s offer. I was tempted by a vision for creating a furniture brand and a showroom. But I am not a specialist so this is a distant dream. Firstly, it will be great to create an author’s collection of furniture for an existing manufacturer with my name on it. We shall see if it works out.

_ _ _ _ _ _
Find more articles from the series "How to run a small business online":