With a large social media following comes an incentive to monetize it. For some, a high follower count leads to affiliate revenue partnerships or licensing deals, but the newest trend in design is finding ways to charge interested followers for quick, one-off consultations. Over a year ago, designer and television personality Nikki Chu capitalized on the demand for her advice by creating her own service, TeleDesign Pro, which allows fans to book video chats or write in design questions for a fee. Earlier this year saw the launch of The Expert, a platform that connects clients with high-profile interior designers for a flat-fee consultation via Zoom. Now, a new platform called Apricot is entering the game, targeting home influencers, DIYers and up-and-coming interior designers.
Apricot is a chat-based platform where clients can message with influencers in 15-minute blocks at a rate set by the influencer. The app was founded by David Lee, a New York–based architect who wants to make design more affordable to the end consumer. “I saw a huge market for an app like this for home decor influencers and bloggers, people who get tons of inquiries from their followers but didn’t necessarily have an easy way to monetize their expertise,” he says.
Lee quit his job as an architect and designer at SHoP Architects last year, and had planned to pursue a master’s degree in architecture at Harvard, only to have his idea for what would become Apricot get selected for the university’s prestigious Innovation Lab incubator program in the fall of 2020. He decided to put his degree on hold and see if he could make a go of launching a startup.
After completing the Harvard program, Lee secured enough investment to get Apricot off the ground and launched in late May. The app currently has more than 150 designers and influencers using the platforms. Similar to The Expert, Apricot aims to troubleshoot specific design problems and queries, not to replace an e-design service. “We want users to come to us with quick questions that these designers can easily answer in a 15-minute consultation,” he explains. At the moment, Apricot only offers messaging between client and designer, but Lee says that they’ve already begun getting requests to add video chats as an option. “We do plan to expand and offer those in the future,” he says.
He sees Apricot as a marketplace platform like Airbnb, with the company taking a cut of the total dollar amount of each consultation. It’s still early days, but so far, Apricot has seen between 5 and 10 percent growth each week. “Right now, we’re trying to essentially do a sprint over the next few months and see if this is a working product or not,” says Lee.
The opportunity to become an influencer on Apricot is open to any “home decor content creator,” though the guidelines suggest that applicants have at least 2,000 Instagram followers. Once submitted, the applications are reviewed by the Apricot team. At this point, they’re looking for micro-influencers who are passionate about home design.
While the designers and influencers are able to set their own rates, Lee says that the fees currently top out at around $5 a minute. “We’re not going to have people charging $30 a minute or anything like that,” he says. “A main goal of ours is to keep it affordable for the end user.” The accessibility of Apricot is one of the primary ways he feels the app differs from something like The Expert. “We aren’t interested in charging people $1,000 an hour,” he says. “We know that means we’re not a fit for all designers, but we hope to be a solution for early-career designers and everyday people who want design help.”
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