business blueprint | Jun 26, 2024 |
Is your mindset blocking your success?

Three insidious mental blocks tend to prevent worthy designers from achieving their dreams: imposter syndrome, perfectionism and money. Identifying how they can have a stranglehold on your firm is the first step toward banishing them from your future.

Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever felt a pit in your stomach when attending events with other designers? Most people have experienced this at least once in their career.

The imposter syndrome impacts designers in many devious ways: You might avoid entering competitions that could result in recognition and publication, or resist going to highly visible networking events that could generate leads. You could fear “selling yourself” when in front of prospective clients, or worry that they might not like your “out of the box” thinking. You might skip industry social events because you don’t feel like you deserve to be in the same room as your peers. Or maybe you’re afraid you won’t appeal to your desired clientele unless you’re wearing the latest fashion and driving a luxury vehicle, or if you’re not making as much money as your clients, they won’t think you’re successful.

All of those statements start with “you”—and they’re about you alone, not the other people you’re avoiding connection with. If you focus instead on the generosity and service you can offer the other person, you’ll soon forget that you feel like an imposter. It sounds simple—and once you’re ready to change your thinking, it is.


The root of perfectionism is fear. We fear loss of approval, or we believe we’re not good enough. Unfortunately, it gets in the way of joy and growth.

Years ago when I was working as a designer, one of my clients called to complain that the distance from the edge of her stair runner to the base wasn’t consistent throughout. (She was a worse stickler than I was!) I explained that if the installer had matched the cut of the runner to parallel the base, then the side of the runner wouldn’t look straight. She finally gave in and said she’d use it as a daily reminder not to be such a perfectionist.

Since there is no such thing as perfection, focus on excellence instead. Do your best and feel good that you’re a work in progress. Each day, you become better, your design becomes better, and your business skills improve.


Most designers don’t start businesses because they want to be business owners. They want to create beautiful spaces, and running a business is a necessary evil. But in my experience, a lack of financial knowledge often leads to poor financial results.

If you’re one of those people who cringes every time someone mentions the term balance sheet, the shift you need to make is from avoidance to confidence. When you learn how to understand your firm’s finances, you’ll find that you make more money. And what’s better than making more money doing what you love?

For insights and analysis on how designers across the country run their firms, download the 2023 Interior Design Business Survey report, presented by Pearl Collective, Interior Talent and Business of Home.


Gail Doby is co-founder of Pearl Collective (formerly Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting), an interior design business consultancy that helps designers, architects and other creatives increase their profitability. Doby ran her own design firm in Denver for nearly 20 years and has a degree in finance and banking. Since 2008, she has been helping designers scale their businesses profitably and reach financial freedom. As a coach, mentor and business transformation specialist, she shares innovative ways to overcome the roadblocks, challenges and detours creative entrepreneurs face. She is also the bestselling author of Business Breakthrough: Your Creative Value Blueprint to Get Paid What You’re Worth. Her goal is to empower design industry clients to differentiate themselves, drive measurable results, achieve business projections, and create personal satisfaction through game-changing strategies and business practices.

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