Airbnb Design: How to Avoid $1000 Mistake in Hiring an Interior Decorator

Airbnb Design: My two costly mistakes I Made in Hiring an Interior Decorator.

I had hired two different interior decorators. On both occasions, I made two distinct mistakes. I wish I could go back in time and fire them.

I’ll be sharing with you on the costly mistakes that I have made so that you can avoid them.

Airbnb Design: Interior Decorator #1 – Hourly Rate

The first time is always hardest. In anything, whether it’s starting a business, hiring a person, dating, or doing something new. It’s rare that everything will go accordingly and that is okay. We learn in the process.

I used a service called Thumbtack. It is a marketplace to hire professionals from throwing a party, getting furniture assembled or just about anything that you can think of. I heard good things about it, so I decided to give it a try.

What attracted me to Thumbtack was that I could get multiple bids on a project. Once professionals submit their bids, then I could review their previous work to see if I liked their style.

So, I submitted my proposal and waited. Within hours, my email inbox started going off.  It was overwhelming at first. I had about 10 different proposals with a different hourly rate. It ranged from $75 to $125 dollars an hour.

Pro tip: organize their bids in a Google excel sheet, so that you can easily notate.

So, I figured that hourly rate was the standard. As inexperienced as I was, I accepted the standard without much critical thinking. What I should have done was to put on my business owner-hat and think more critically about why all the interior decorators wanted to charge per hour.

After about a week of back and forth, I hired my first interior decorator. She gave me an acceptable proposal and I accepted it. I was happy. Airbnb Design: How to Avoid $1000 Mistake in Hiring an Interior Decorator

It looks decent, right? It makes sense. I even gave her a budget to work with. My budget was $2,000 dollars with a list of things that she would need to shop for.  You can read my previous post on the total costs associated with starting a Passive Airbnb business.

I figured the most I would pay for her service is 700 dollars, which was not bad at the expense of outsourcing all of the design decisions to her. I knew nothing about design at the time, so I was glad to outsource.

What could possibly go awry after a smooth start? Well, just about everything…

  1. She went over with her proposal. I read somewhere on a business forum, or from Bill Gates that you should always add another 30% margin to the estimated time to completion. This was correct. I ended up paying her around $1,100 dollars for her time.
  2. She went over with furniture budget. I ended up paying around $2,600 dollars for all of the furnishings.

If you add it all up, that’s over $1,000 dollars in hiring an interior decorator on an hourly basis.

How to avoid it?

You can only prevent what you can. Furniture costs are less predictable as the market fluctuates from store to store. However, you can certainly prevent from overpaying your interior decorator.

Lesson: pay your interior decorator at a per-project rate

For example, she gives you an estimate that it’ll take 5 hours to complete and she charges $100 dollars an hour, so you should pay her $500 dollars when the project is completed. This way, there is no room for error to overpay.

Airbnb Design: Interior Decorator #2 – Communication and Vetting

This one was a tough one.

She came in as a referral from a trusted friend. My trusted friend was dating her at the moment. I was desperate for a good interior decorator and definitely did not want to overpay again. She fitted into this perfect mold; trusted reference, previous interior experiences, and charged per-project. She even hooked me up with a great rate, which I was beyond excited about. I thought I just got super lucky with her.

I ended up paying her well-below market rate and the math came out to be around $50 dollars an hour. But boy, did I commit some serious mistakes hiring her.

How to avoid it?

Do not be lazy and skip the vetting process. It’s an important aspect of hiring anyone, even a reference from a trusted source.

Lesson: Vetting

I failed to fully vet her out. I failed to test her communication style, how she works, and what she can do to help. But more importantly, I failed to test to see if she could put on a business owner-hat and think from my perspective.

I made a deadly assumption about her work experience. I assumed that she could do what I had asked for little guidance. My previous interior designer overcharged me, but she needed little guidance. Interior decorator #2 was the opposite.

Lesson: Communication

Just to give you a comparison, I had spent 30 minutes talking to my 1st decorator. She was able to get what I was trying to accomplish and drafted up a proposal with a clear course of action.

I had 3 separate phone meetings and she was still confused. What did I say that was confusing? All I did was giving her the big picture of what I needed.

At one point, she became so frustrated and she went behind my back to complain to my trusted friend about my demands. So later that night, I got an angry text from my trusted friend who accused me of being too “demanding.”

I took a few minutes to reflect on his texts. I realized the problem was not me. The problem was that she needed hand-holding and lots of it. Time was of the essence; my move-in date was only a few days away and I couldn’t afford to lose out on bookings. Immediately after realizing this insight, I drafted up a detailed plan that gave her lots of guidance.

Handing her the keys to my kingdom backfired on me. There are generally two types of people: some people can work with little guidance and some people need lots of structure. You have to figure out what kind of person you are working with and modify your plan accordingly.

Final Words

It’s hard to have a perfect plan. It’s easier to get consistency in your imperfect hire. Learn from my lessons!

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