My Creative Business Model and How it’s Evolved

My Creative Business Model and How it's Evolved | Maria Killam

{maybe not this cold} 

Some of you may have noticed that my posts have shifted considerably over the past few months to less rather than more.

In the last year with all the time I’ve spent sitting in freezing cold hotel ballrooms looking at my business and thinking about what to do to make it better, I’ve learned that less is more.

Way better to write a quality post, rather than many little ones that clearly didn’t take as much time and effort.

Many people who teach blogging seem to spend a lot of time talking about how to get more subscribers, but rarely does anyone talk about how to keep people from unsubscribing.

And that’s big for me because my business model depends on my blog.

I was following a thread last week on Facebook where design bloggers were engaged in a lot of dialogue about the lack of comments on their posts, some had turned their comments off entirely so they could focus more on just writing a great post and less on being upset about how many comments each post generated.

I felt lucky and grateful to have you as my reader because when I write a post, it’s not just crickets out there! You’re engaged, you email me, post comments, I have coffee with YOU too on the mornings that you’ve received my post and it’s joyful for me.

Truly.

Anyway, back to the point of my point.

Instead of having a retail studio or a large design firm like many designers, my store and my business is this site. I am in the business of design and colour and teaching design and colour. It’s why I focus more on training and writing rather than having 5 or 6 design projects on the go at any given time.

So it’s a good thing I like writing because that’s what it takes to keep all of this going.

I find it really hard to create beautiful design projects in Vancouver without shipping almost everything from the U.S. and that gets very expensive unless you can go across the border to a post office and pick stuff up yourself, which is almost impossible unless you live less than 30 minutes from the border like I do.

The choices in this city are really high end furniture stores, or the big box “Buy a couch, get a TV for free” stores. It’s why HomeSense (HomeGoods for those of you in the U.S.) is so big here.

I find that any furniture store worth going to in Vancouver is a U.S. based chain. For years, all we had was Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. There are so many unique home decor stores that have opened and closed.

Even Target couldn’t make it here because it wasn’t cheap enough for Canadians and they certainly didn’t have the kind of interesting products we’d always hear about in the U.S.

One of the reasons these stores don’t last is because real estate in Vancouver is so expensive that by the time most people finally buy a place, they don’t have a lot of money left over to decorate.

Of course there are many high end clients here who can afford expensive furniture but they are not my ideal client because they also need full-service design and I’m not set up for that.

Plus to be honest, I’m not world-travelled and educated-in-art enough to have clients who are willing to spend $10,000 on artwork or a console for example.

Clients who work with me have to be willing to handle the purchasing of a lot of pieces themselves. Which means, they are driving to the border to pick up merchandise if necessary.

Right now I’m working on a project with a really wonderful client who is so excited about the transformation of her house, I’m just loving it and realize how much I miss decorating because I have focused so hard on the training side of my business these past few years.

I’ve always done lots of on-line consulting which I really love as well but I don’t get to see the end result because what I’m doing inside most consultations is giving clients a plan that they can execute themselves.

What I really love about all the on-line work that I do (and I can’t ever give it up) is that it keeps me on the pulse of where colour is in the world, because I have clients from all over the world.

So many people ask me about computer calibration, questions like “How can you possibly choose colour for people when everyone’s computer is different?” and I have one answer for you and it is; to choose colours successfully you have to Understand Undertones™.

And obviously if choosing colour online for people did not work, I would be getting emails and phone calls telling me I suck! And then that would be the end of it.

This past weekend I organized a birthday party for Terreeia (yes she’s a sensitive Pisces) and spoke to two friends at the party who had been job hunting for a while and I realized that in this economy, you have to do a lot of different things in order to be creative if that’s the job you want.

When you prepare and set yourself up this way, It’s easier to shift and change when you notice one area of your business doesn’t work as well as you thought it would.

I’ve noticed that it’s really important to stay true to myself as my business model has changed over the years.

I really am passionate about this business of colour and design and I had no idea that I had so much to say until I started writing this blog over six years ago.

I’m also really happy that I finally have a Visa (they had to give me one when they saw that over 75% of my course participants were from the U.S). If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Thank you for following me! I love and appreciate all of you!

10 Shares

relatedPOSTS

leave aREPLY

Leave a Reply

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

  1. Hi Maria,
    I enjoyed, as usual, your refreshingly honest and relevant post. Thank you!
    I’m excited to hear you plan to teach here on the east coast. I hope you’ll consider a one-day advanced or refresher course for us TCE’s. I’d love to see you and study with you in person again. Congrats on getting your visa!

  2. Thank you for such honesty. This was an encouraging read for me as we just closed our solid wood furniture store. Much of our business model was based upon people choosing the color of stain or paint they wanted on their furniture. What I will miss most of all is the paint and stain sales and education. Although we may be able to continue some aspects of our business it will not be for several months. We have health issues to attend to and I need to start applying for a job that provides some of the benefits we just could not achieve with self employment. It is scary for me as I have not applied for a job in about 24 years! I have really appreciated finding your blog and plan to take coursework as soon as I am able. Your posts are very interesting & we have shared several on our business Facebook page. Looking forward to all you do in the future!

  3. I admire that you always put it right out there. You’re a very honest blogger/writer which I love. I am writing to give feedback to say that I accidentally found your blog about 3-4 years ago (don’t remember exactly when) but enjoyed that your articles were honest and not overly “editorialized.” I even hired you for an online consult because of your honest style. Know that most people who comment online anywhere are extremists – they either hate something or love it and feel compelled to react by way of a comment. Don’t build a business model around them. The majority of readers fall in the middle 80% and are happy and reading but maybe not commenting. But I think they are the most important.

    I’ve always loved the form you’ve had where it seemed like you had a thought on something (i.e. small rooms, whites, exterior shutters, pink beige, shutter sizes, etc etc.) and just posted your intelligent insight on that subject. I only mentioned this because I don’t think you need to change a thing. What you’ve been doing works well and is the reason you’ve grown. Most people follow many blogs and don’t want a long feature. Just a pop article on subject where they learn something and will come back tomorrow for more. This article above felt too long with a lot of thoughts about many different things. Take my comments and throw them away as they are only my own! I’m commenting because it seems like you’re putting up a test balloon on a new blog style so thought I’d share some comment.

    • I couldn’t agree more with your insights. I fall into that 80% group, read all the posts but rarely comment. When I haven’t gotten enough Maria I start clicking on links and reading more, sometimes rereading a few posts so it all soaks in more.
      I rely on the honesty and candor of these posts and that includes the comments. I recently read a blog post (blogger to remain unnamed) who said that bright colors are out. I look at my orchid walls, that Maria specified, and laugh. This blogger doesn’t live in my world so I will disregard her thoughts. I’d much rather be in Maria World with color, contrast, and fun.

  4. Hi Maria, Looking forward to an online session with you in a few months, hopefully!! But you have already helped in so many small ways, thanks! Keep up the honest refreshing and easy to read posts. Kisses from France xxx

  5. Maria, I must say because of you, you have given me more confidence than I have ever had in choosing color in all of my 35 years as a designer! You touch lives that you are not even aware and that is a good thing. As for me I get so much out of your posts just the way they are. I don’t think you need to change anything. I love that you so candid and honest.

    Now that you have a visa you will be so sought after it will naturally change some of your direction. Just go with the flow and get your bottom here to California!! We need you here!

  6. Maria, Somehow when I posted part of my comments were cut off. In a nutshell I said that you have made me more confident specifying color (and I need more help) than I have been in all 35 years as a designer. So yes you can teach old dogs new tricks! Don’t change a thing!!

  7. Hi Maria,
    As you ponder East Coast locations, let me put out a recommendation for the Washington, DC area.

    1. Centrally located, easy hope from NY, Boston, Miami, etc.
    2. Three airports to fly into, BWI, DCA and IAD to lower plane fare costs
    3. Robust design community featuring both Cady’s Alley and the Washington Design Center
    4. Very strong economy with lots of disposable income
    5. Suburban areas outside DC have much lower rent than the downtown area

    Just wanted to share. Good luck with your expansion, it is very exciting!

  8. Hi Maria. Over the several years I’ve followed your blog, there has never been one that wasn’t thoughtful and helpful to me personally. I believe your posts are so successful because you engage with the audience and your personality shines through. I know this for a fact since you are exactly the same person in your blog, that you are in real life (I took your TCE course last year and loved it of course!) Please don’t slow down too much – I would miss your newsy, educational, and inspiring posts.

  9. Hi maria
    Funny that you should be writing this as I was also following that thread about turning off comments…..I was also following (and actually initiated) a thread about blogging less and focussing more on the creative process and less about chasing the money. My blog is small, and will probably always be small. And I’ve come to realize that making it bigger takes way more time than I am interested in putting into it. I’d much rather be working on a project or in the garden. So you’re right – less is more. And things change and evolve all the time
    Happy Birthday to Teeria from one Picses to another!

  10. I am also planning to renovate two baths this year, and have found your “be sure your fixed elements are as classic and un-bossy as possible” advice to be invaluable, Maria. I think HGTV, where they need to keep their programs fresh by having their contractors install the newest design trends, has probably caused a lot of people to make hard-to-change decisions that they’ll regret within five years — and who wants to re-do a bath or kitchen every five years?

    I’m in the middle of assembling the elements of the dining room that you and I designed by phone a couple of weeks ago, and will definitely send you photos when everything is in place. It must be hard not to get to see the results of your work.

    (Re. the seminar you’re putting together for the East Coast of the US, how many attendees does the venue need to accommodate?)

  11. I enjoy reading the comments. When comments are turned off, a blog feels more like a presentation than a conversation.

  12. Maria, there is a saying, if it ain’t broke,don’t fix it- the reason you have been so successful, is because of your newsy blogs,they don’t all have to hit a home run in the design area-you have the gift of engaging people and that it is why they want to come to your design color classes,buy your E-books-don’t over think your blogging-just keep being who you are and success will follow!

  13. Maria I love your blog posts. And yes, it’s like having my coffee in the morning with you – and that’s lovely. I truly enjoyed this post as it was indeed thoughtful. I enjoy your candor, your sincerity, and your passion which you share so beautifully with all of us. Something I have learned over the years (I’m a therapist for children and adults with special needs as well as run a nonprofit theatre and arts center) is that people don’t always respond in a way that others can see or hear – it’s processed more quietly, internally. Crickets can sometimes mean simply that – no one is responding, but sometimes it can mean that at least some are really enjoying what you shared, but not commenting. I process more internally so even though I love your blog, I don’t always comment. So today it felt important to let you know how much many of us quieter ones love your blog 🙂 Thanks for your fun and informative sharing.

    • I agree, Mary Ellen! (I really liked what you wrote today, Maria. It made a lot of sense. Keep doing what you’re doing, I look so forward to your posts and all the comments. Always something new to learn from you and your readers!! Thank you!!)

  14. Oh and I pin your blogs all the time on my board – one of your fairly recent ones has gone viral – “Are Your Accessories Dated”. Thousands!!

  15. Nice post, will continue to enjoy them no matter how many you do. As to bloggers who disable reader comments, that’s like having a tea party and only giving your guest a cup, but no tea! Not very gracious, in my opinion. 🙂 You’re a good blogger and hostess!

  16. I have never commented before because I didn’t have anything to add, and didn’t realize bloggers really look for them. So, I wanted to let you know I’ve been following you for about a year and love the information and the dialogues that follow on your blog. And yes, I just finished my second cup of morning coffee!

  17. Good morning Maria.
    I love having you with me when I have my coffee in the morning. And if I don’t have a new blog post to read in the morning, I just read an older one.
    No worries. You do what you need to do.
    And Happy Birthday to Terreeia!

  18. Hi Maria,
    I enjoy your blog and agree entirely with quality not quantity. I’m sure there is a lot of work involved in moderating the comments but the comments that make it through are thoughtful, relevant, articulate, honest and interesting. Please don’t turn off the comments!

  19. (sorry this is long) when i wake up in the morning, i check my email. i have about 80 overnight emails in there, ranging from Gap sales to work-related things. yours is always the first one i open and read. and it’s the only blog i ever comment on. one reason is because…because of you, i took a chance, gave up a big career and chased the thing i love, which is color. i became a benjamin moore color consultant to get the hands-on (sometimes scary) experience that you started with. the feeling i get from helping people make beautiful homes is indescribable and it’s because of you that i even thought to do it. all 50 united states will welcome you with open arms!! anyway, you’re doing fine, keep questioning but stay the course, baby!! 🙂

  20. Maria , I have been following your blog for quite a few years. I save all your emails. I love seeing your own renovation. Love everything you do. I always want to comment, but I never do. I have been paralyzed with any updates to my own home. I think it is because of all the undertone blogs! Every since I learned about undertones I’m afraid of making major color mistakes. I need help! Wish you lived in Chicago!

    • Get a consultation with Maria. I’ve done over a thousand of kitchen and bath consultations since 2005, but carpet, drapes, pillows, sofas, chairs and lamps weren’t my area of expertise. It was worth the money to get it all pulled together so I could shop and eliminate the things that wouldn’t fit with the plan. Less waste of time and purchases of the wrong things.

      Life’s too short to live with stuff you don’t like. And use your stuff. My sister just got out of the hospital again, is very sick and won’t be able to use the many beautiful things she bought that are in boxes in my guest room and garage. If she hadn’t been sick, I would have worked with her and mom, but mom was taking care of my sister and her degenerative neurological illness.

      Live now.

  21. Holy cow, you are flowing (transitioning) along exactly as needed and I so appreciate your honesty and for letting us tag along! A Visa? Yeah! I must be honest with you too and tell you that I do miss more frequent posts that are SO informative and also the ones which give glimpses of the personal side. Having said that, am I to assume that Terreeia, being not only sensitive but also shy, would not allow even one photo of her birthday bash? Tsk, tsk, Tee! Happy birthday anyway. 🙂

  22. Cait , don’t be afraid. Just keep following Maria and her blogs.
    Plus take every class on line from her that you can.
    I used to be afraid too and all those undertones I was afraid to do anything with color.
    But “….. I kept reading and following and buying paint and making boards.
    Then around Chritstmas time Maria offered us the greates gift her white is complicated( for only 17.00 dollars )
    Wow the way she broke down white , put them in categories what a light bulb moment and a changing moment in my life.
    I might not understand or know every single white.
    But I’m not longer afraid to pick white and know what whites will work together and why !
    That for me was a life changing moment.
    So don’t be afraid hang in there and keep on trying and you too will have that exciting clarity moment!!!
    since following Maria I don’t look at color as I once did. I look first for the undertone it has given me much more confidence
    Thanks Maria more then you will ever know !

  23. Another member of the quiet 80% here. I have been following your blog for a few years now. I don’t comment much (or at all), but I just remodeled most of the ground floor of my home. Medium brown wood floors, white cabinetry, matte black granite, white marble subway tile backsplash. I love it and I love your blog. Just know that some of us aren’t just quietly reading, we are also quietly following your advice.

  24. I have a great idea for you, as far as a location………..the Silver Spring, MD convention center. It’s brand new, 2 walls of glass so lots of natural light, but not so big that it’s overwhelming. Lots of restaurants and plenty of hotels in the vicinity. Nothing prettier then Washington DC in the spring.

  25. I love your posts and will miss them if they aren’t there as often. Your emails are the first ones I look for and the first I open! Thank you for sharing your wisdom, whether that ends up being once a day or once a week.

  26. Maria, like many others I love this post too and totally agree with the less but better quality posts. I am guilty of quickly unsubscribing from posts I receive daily. Your training is on my list of courses I would love to take so hopefully I will be able to cross it off one day!

  27. Maria, this is my fave blog, and I’m happy with it, as long as you keep it coming! I haven’t been able to take your class in person, but have learned SO much from the blog and your e-books. I started my biz as a color consultant five years ago, then found your blog a few months later, which has been so helpful to me.

    On another note, I went to my dentist and was horrified to see that they had re-done the office in dark gray on gray on gray! No color whatsoever, but used a gray plaid fabric on some of the walls, and a frenetic-patterned gray carpet. The lady who worked on my teeth told me she hated it, and that walking down the hallway actually made her feel dizzy from the patterns! It was SO depressing with tube lighting, in a high-rise office building. When I talked with the dentist about it, she commented that they had used an interior designer, and that gray was on trend. It made my heart sink, and I sometimes get discouraged when I hear stuff like this. How much longer do you think the gray trend is going to last?

  28. I’ve enjoyed your shorter posts in the past and don’t feel like they were the usual recycled material and advice you get elsewhere that doesn’t really say very much. Of course, maybe after 6 years you feel like you need to adapt and change, and that’s OK!

    I’m in the fluttering stages of my own online business/blog of products for old homes and you have been an inspiration to me.

    I look forward to seeing the new bathrooms. I had commented on the laundry/powder room awhile ago and was wondering how that turned out.

  29. I don’t often comment because I am not in ‘the business’ but I am always learning valuable information and as a visual learner very much enjoy the example pictures that you post. I also like the ‘problem’ posts based on questions people send to you. The ‘what are your thoughts?’ about what color is the undertone, what would you select, how do you feel about? are awesome and very engaging. I am not a decorator, not affluent but very much want my home to be a home and not just a house. I can’t afford to follow every trend with a full on makeover of my home. Over the years decorating seemed like a luxury for only the wealthy. You are the first last and only decorator/blog I have ever followed/will follow. Thanks to your precious down to earth personality, and gift of being a phenomenal instructor, you have brought decorating into my middle class world and made it seem attainable. Thanks so much for all you share.

  30. Really well written, Maria and totally true. Like all of life’s endeavors, you must be willing to change when something stops working the way it used to. It will all work out!
    xo. Leslie
    Segreto finishes

  31. I always love your blog for info and insights. I can’t remember which year I signed on to receive your email. However, that was the year I went back and read ALL your old posts.
    I’m not in the design business. I do particularly enjoy your comments on blogging, in addition to all the beautiful rooms. Great info for the internet marketing world.

  32. The reason folks post comments is cause you are authentic.

    It feels as if you never post unless you have something to say. I don’t need your blog every day or every week. I just need it to reflect YOU.

    Your willingness to be vulnerable teaches us all how to be brave. Your willingness to be authentic sets the bar for us to follow suit.

    The fact that you are a genius with color is just a bonus for us.

    Maria, it is YOU we are here for. If you don’t want to post for any length of time, don’t, for heaven’s sake. Only post when you feel compelled, and have something to share.

    We’ll wait for you. We’re not going anywhere.

  33. Enjoyed my morning coffee with you, Maria, but then daily life got in the way so I’m just now commenting and I with the group that says “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – it ain’t broke! I love the short posts because they are always themed and purposed with great pics. I love the occasional longer posts such as this one because they are thought pieces from inside your mind and heart that trigger thinking in my mind and heart. And there’s almost always a serendipity in every post. Sometimes it comes from one of the three related posts you reference at the end of the current one or sometimes it’s a highlighted word in the post that, when clicked, brings up something delightful. Today I click on Terreeia and I got to see that beautiful face – makes up for the lack of a birthday bash pic (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TERREEIA!)

    Remember, Arizona is the sunniest state in the country! And although I might never be able to afford your 3-day intensive color course in any state, I’ll never forget what I learned from Summer School for the non-designers among us – not only what you taught us in the first three weeks but your generosity in showing our pics and answering our questions that last week. I really, really do hope you plan to do it again.

    I honestly don’t think there is a designer out there with your combination of understanding of color, your ability to teach and your willingness to help your client love her/his home no matter what your personal preferences. Benita doesn’t have to worry that her orchid will ever be out or that you would ever suggest she change it if she’s still in love with it.

    Whatever you do, Maria, please keep in mind this special-ness of your brand/product. I think it and your are quite unique.

  34. I am waiting very impatiently for you to come to Toronto! You can count me in for your workshop when you do.

  35. Hi Maria!
    I agree with you wholeheartedly that in business you have to be agile! Especially when the world is changing around you at a rapid pace. And it is sometimes hard to stay at the top of your game in terms of the nuts and bolts of your business (for you it’s design, and for me now, it’s makeup!) when you are business trying to share your knowledge with others. I always remember attending the University of Manitoba for Interior Design and feeling like the professors couldn’t really accurately critique projects because they hadn’t practiced in the field for years. We called them Designosaurs!!! So it’s a fine balance between teaching what you know and staying current too.

    I’d love to talk shop with you anytime. And I cannot wait until we work together this year – I’m dying to get my hands on that beautiful face of yours! <3

  36. Just love your biog & am so excited that you’re coming to the East coast sometime soon. Thanks for sharing.
    Michelle

  37. I love your blog and ebooks. I love browsing through former posts, discovering something I missed or rereading a post I loved. Thanks Maria

  38. I agree with those who say “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I’m usually very quiet but I love to read your blog. Love the short specific explanations of why you choose what you do. I have also purchased your e books. Looking forward to continuing this coffee club. Would attend any workshop if you ever come to Mid South.

  39. Am so excited that Jan Romanuk will be joining your blog. I need to renovate my little kitchen but am afraid of doing it -worry about the cost, about making mistakes… I’m not that young so I worry about spending too much on custom cabinets versus Ikea. So hopefully I’ll get some good advice and things to think about from you and Jan.

  40. I am so excited you will be coming to the East Coast. Washington DC is centrally located and convenient to travel to with access to the three airports. If you decide you want to come further South I live in Virginia Beach and would love to help you find a venue. 🙂
    Cate

  41. Great post Maria. I believe in the ‘less is more’ model as well. You have high engagement with your readers because you are real, tell it like it is and fabulous at what you do. Interesting to hear about such a difference in clientele as well as limited sourcing opportunities out west compared to here in Toronto. Thanjs for your tremendous insight!

  42. I really appreciate this post Maria. I had noticed a difference in the last couple of months so it’s nice to hear your thoughts and plans for future posts. As a reader, not a decorator myself, I loved the frequent posts and looked forward to them. I’m sure I’ll love the longer, less frequent posts as well. If you decide to have a training in Chicago, I will be there with bells! I’m only 2 hours south of Chicago. Or if you’re close to Boston or Baltimore or Wilmington on the east coast during the end of May or early June, I’ll be in that area then. I remain a loyal fan even though I don’t seem to be able to take good enough pictures to help you help me!! 🙂 I love your aesthetic and keep it in mind when I try to make choices for my home.

  43. Maria, I love your blog and want to add another vote to not necessarily do away with the shorter, more frequent posts…I’m always excited to see every blog post, whatever the topic…for the reasons others have stated: that you are authentic and real, that your topics are timely and thought-provoking, and that clearly you read and respond to reader comments. 🙂

    One gentle suggestion I would have is that you have someone proofread/copyedit your posts prior to posting. Fairly often I notice spelling and usage mistakes, language that is a bit hard to follow, or captions where I can’t tell if it refers to the photo above or below. Remedying these items would make your blog even more powerful and polished. 🙂

    Recently, I was helping a friend style her living room and tv room/office and found myself saying repeatedly, “Maria would say…” and “Maria would say a trip to HomeGoods is in order” (which we did), and realized I’ve absorbed a lot of your principles and it has improved my confidence in styling and choosing colors at her place and my own. Thank you!!

  44. My favorites bar is full of your posts, just because there is always something, I want to go back and read, again! Love your blog!!!

  45. Hi
    I have eventually decided to follow my passion and am studying interior design. Can’t recall how I tripped over your blog BUT I am so glad I did. I have learnt so much from your insights and teachings, thank you!

    I’ve also applied your teachings as I’m busy updating our home. Unfortunately whilst we have great light here in sunny South Africa (another great venue for colour workshops!!), we don’t have Benjamin Moore paints. I’m so keen on creating the big colour board samples for my own business but need to work out how to identify/get hold of the best selling shades in the various key colours in Plascon/Dulux.

    Thanks for sharing so much!

  46. Hello Maria, I happened to find your blog recently and find it to be right on target and very inspiring. I am Interior Design student trying to figure out my niche…your commentary is enlightening and I look forward to it.

  47. Thanks for the great post, Maria. I’m near Raleigh, North Carolina and would be happy to help you find a place!

  48. Just reading this one now. I love your blog, Maria. In fact, I have stopped following every other design blog I used to follow except for your and Frances Schultz. You both write honestly and frankly.
    One of the most important things about writing well is “voice.” You have a strong and important voice.

    • Just reading this one now. I love your blog, Maria. In fact, I have stopped following every other design blog I used to follow except for your and Frances Schultz. You both write honestly and frankly.
      One of the most important things about writing well is “voice.” You have a strong and important voice. P.S. I will send you “install” pictures soon.