Interview with Susan Pakman-Abramson
Principal Interior Designer, Toronto Designers.February 2, 2012
|Susan has great talent and an incredible eye for Interior Design. The articles and advice on her blog are full with fashion sense and timeless design for any type of environment. Her experience had led Susan to face and conquer many challenges, always with great taste and beautiful details on the warm decors she has done so far.
Susan’s metier is very close to mine, we both deal with forms colours and shapes for different types of needs and people. I suggest you read her blog to get a sense of her tasteful style, every time I do I got inspired by the photos and trends she post there. With 20 years of interior designing, real-estate staging and professional personal organizing behind her, Susan knows how to help you create a balanced living environment while staying true to your personal taste and budget. Susan was kind enough to participate on the interview and share her thoughts with us.
1- Where do you work and what do you do?
2- What are your main basic steps to manage a project?
It is important to be very organized, and that is the first step in making sure I can manage each client according to their specific needs. It always starts with keeping a neat file for each client, which includes visuals as well as floor plans, colours and fabrics. Then keeping a clear calendar of expectations is also key. But no matter where any project goes, it always starts with an initial consultation to establish how much we plan to work together on any given project.
3- Where do you find inspiration?
Wow – all over the place! Magazines, TV and the internet are key factors, but I also just keep my eyes open, snapping photos on vacations and around town, and just always taking in creative ideas. It all helps form great inspiration for my clients’ homes (and myself, where I often experiment with new ideas, colours and displays).
4- What do you think makes someone an Art Director, a Senior or Junior Graphic Designer?
Experience. Over the years I realize how learning from mistakes is the biggest piece of knowledge you can share with your clients. Once a mistake has been made, you don’t do it again, and when you have so many things to think about from beginning to end of any project, there is always bound to be some errors, if not caused by me than suppliers, contractors, etc. It is unfortunate, but is seems to part of the business. A senior designer just knows all the questions to ask and because I also think very practically, I go through scenarios with each new design.
For example, a client really wanted a white sofa – we discussed her way of life and realized she probably couldkeep it quite clean (no pets, no kids…). But she did wear blue jeans often, so the next day we took jean fabric to the white fabric, rubbed them together and she was convinced a white sofa was not in fact for her. We ended up with white pillows on an orange sofa instead… and she loves it! (I know, people are saying ‘what about slipcovers in white?’ – but she hated slip covers). In other words, this was an error we avoided and thus the experience of knowing all the details to explore was good.
5- What has been the best way to find good clients for you?
Word of mouth for sure! When people come to see me they always come with a notion that they will already like me – which starts the conversation on the right foot.
6- Which Social Media tools will you recommend for designer interaction?
Twitter has been the best for me. Questions asked and answered have been components of that, and I learned about some great websites through twitter long before others knew about them – pinterest.com, olioboard.comand houzz.com are three of my favourite tools now, on top of twitter and the expected Facebook business page. Blogging is key too as every blog entry is of course another page on the internet, which is great exposure, but it also is a lot of give and take for designers. We end up sharing a lot of photos from around the web, and we all interpret them differently, which is awesome.
7- What do you think is the best way to deal with an unpleasant customer, or a late payment?
I have never had an issue with late payment that I couldn’t handle before having to get forceful (collection agencies), so I’ve been very lucky. Most late payments are from clients that are really just not very organized, so I forgive them the tardiness and I always end up getting paid. It’s important to keep a bit of equity in the company for expenses so that late payments from clients don’t interfere with my own payments. As for unpleasant customers, I just choose to not work with them. Again, I have been very fortunate to have had mostly excellent clients, but I can’t love them all. Some are pleasant but I just don’t like them – they’re easy to handle as I ultimately still love my job and want the best for them. The nasty ones – they don’t get far with me. I politely ask for payment after our initial consult and then don’t book anything further. This only happened once, and I think they got the message as the feeling was mutual. As a sole proprietor I have the privilege of only taking on clients I want – the money would never be enough compensation for an unpleasant customer – life is too short for that!
8- What do you think is the hardest thing in the industry right now?
Getting new business. There is so much competition out there and clients are becoming very knowledgeable with all the TV shows that are out there on this subject, so getting people to commit is hard. There is less money floating around for designers in general because of the economy, and there are no lack of designers. That is why word of mouth referrals is so important – those are always the best clients for me. But I am constantly working on social media tools, and trying to stay current with them as I think that is key to any business right now, not just designers. It’s a fast paced world, and we have to stay on track or we risk becoming invisible.
As well as this bouquet of web discoveries: