The story behind how Katie Hodges got her first big client is the stuff of dreams for any early-career interior designer. It all began when the Los Angeles–based designer got a referral from a friend to do a paint consultation at a luxury home in Beverly Hills. With her foot in the door, she quickly hit it off with the clients, and soon spun the small assignment into a three-year full-home design project that landed her work in the pages of Architectural Digest.
The business arrangement was unusual—she worked without a contract, making decisions based on mutual trust with her clients—but Hodges was just starting out and didn’t see a reason to mess with the magic of that first project. She proceeded to take on a variety of new ones, before eventually ending up with a client who took her loosely written contract and fee structure and pushed the budding designer far beyond her limits. Suddenly, the flexibility that had worked so well with those first big clients started to work against Hodges. The experience was so excruciating that it prompted her to take a monthslong break from her work.
After some soul-searching, a conference on entrepreneurship and the help of a good business coach, the designer came to a stunning realization: “That client that really burned me was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Hodges tells host Kaitlin Petersen on the latest episode of the Trade Tales podcast. “I understood I needed to grab the bull by the horns and learn how to ride it.”
In this episode, Hodges shares some of the business practices she adopted to get her design practice back on track, highlighting the importance of delegating work; the quiz that nets her the best employees; and how tightening up her contract and fee structure transformed the way she runs her firm.
Homepage image: Katie Hodges | Courtesy of Katie Hodges