My Mom was going out of town this past weekend but I received a text from her at 5:19 AM Saturday morning. If you’re not a Fin, you won’t be able to read half of this so I’ll translate.
“Maria, come visit, I’m watching some amazing ted talks.”
“But you’re going?” (I thought she was leaving really early)
“Not for two hours, come now”.
“Do you have coffee?”
My Mom writes and speaks in half Finnish and half English. It’s quite charming really. Terreeia calls it Finglish. My Mom didn’t come to this country until she was 19, where she met and married my Dad right away. She stayed home to raise us girls, and kept to a small family circle so her English is flawed, but it adds to her charm. Whenever she says something wrong, I rarely correct her because I love listening to my Mom talk and since she has always spoken both English and Finnish to me, I understand her perfectly.
She had the Ted talk by Sir Ken Robinson on her screen when I arrived, watch it here.
This is an excerpt from my favourite part of his talk:
“I meet all kinds of people who don’t enjoy what they do, they simply go through their lives, ‘getting on with it’, They get no great pleasure from what they do, they endure it rather than enjoy it and wait for the weekend.
But I also meet people who LOVE what they do and couldn’t imagine doing anything else, if you said to them ‘Don’t do this anymore’ they’d wonder what you were talking about because it isn’t what they do, it’s who they are, they say ‘But this is me, it would be foolish for me to abandon this because it speaks to my most authentic self.’
And it’s not true of enough people, in fact, on the contrary it’s still true of a minority of people.
Often people are good at things that they don’t really care for, it’s about passion and what excites our spirit and our energy and if you are doing the thing that you love to do, that you’re good at, time takes a different course entirely.
You know this, if you’re doing something you love, an hour feels like 5 minutes, if you are doing something that doesn’t resonate with your spirit, 5 minutes feels like an hour.” Sir Ken Robinson
I recently received an email from a reader who told me she was having a small mid-life crisis, or more accurately wanted some career change advice she said:
“I have done very well for myself in my career but am missing passion for the work. I truly want to help people make changes in their lives that make them happier. I know my home brings me joy and there is nothing I like better than improving it.
I was considering taking your True Colour Expert Training in Charlotte, but while I think I would love the course, I’m not sure if that would be the wisest place to start. I found that we have an Institute here that offers a BSBA in Interior Design, but I already have an MBA and hold down a demanding full time job. I don’t envision going back to school full time for ~4 years. I want to make sure I’m maximizing my time and money and have a solid plan to build my expertise as quickly as possible.
In short, I value your advice and hope that you can find some time to point me in the right direction.
I think there’s more than one person reading this blog who might be asking the same question, so here are my thoughts on how to go about gaining expertise and training in the design industry when you’re no longer at the beginning of your career.
When I was 30 years old and having my mid-life-I-can’t-do-this-mind-numbing-corporate-job-for-one-more-day moment, I was basically single and still had to support myself. So going to school for a 4-year degree was not an option for me.
I’ve spoken with many interior designers with a 4-year degree who told me that it’s too much education for a design business focused entirely on residential anyway.
Those of you reading this who have a 4-year degree, might want to chime in here. But before you do, please know I am talking about a mid-life degree versus a younger person starting out in the design world where the 4-year degree serves both residential and commercial design.
via thouswell.co (classic fireplace mantle)
So here is my best advice on what to do when you are starting a design/decorating/colour consulting business later on in your career:
And first, let me state the obvious: the biggest sign that you should pursue a design career is that your friends and family already look to you to help them with their house and you’ve decided, it’s time for you to get paid!
Follow your nose
There are so many new ways to get educated these days, the four year degree model looks a little lumbering and stuffy by comparison. There are general decorating and design courses online and every imaginable aspect of the business is covered out there, either by designers sharing their expertise, or via more formal programs. What is going to work best is going to depend on who you are, so follow your nose.
Who’s advice are you drawn to? Who’s work do you admire? Are you particularly good at layout, or colour? There are many niches in the design and colour business and you need to find yours. The best way to find your niche is to listen to your gut. That’s what got me here.
I’m talking about my events in this post of course, but go with your intuition when choosing your path.
Find a Mentor
I don’t have a 4 year degree. My expertise comes mostly from experience. If I had to choose now between being highly educated in this industry or the invaluable experience I received working at a paint store conducting thousands of consultations over a 4 year period, I would choose the latter.
It’s how my Understanding Undertones™ system was born.
So my 4-year degree was earned in a paint store as a colour consultant and as a result, I have been in more homes than most interior designers or decorators will ever be in the lifetime of their career.
Because of this, there’s rarely a question about the world of specifying colour that I don’t have an answer for when you arrive at my event.
But it wasn’t always this way and when I didn’t have enough experience to be able to answer a question or I just got stuck, I made sure I had a mentor I could ask for support.
I wrote about each of my mentors I’ve had over the years here. I recommend looking for someone local so that you can work with them and find opportunities to reciprocate. So try to figure out a way you can contribute to them in exchange for their mentorship. I helped one of my mentors MOVE and that cemented our relationship.
If you can find a job working, or even volunteering for a designer or firm that you admire, that is one of the best ways to gain experience and of course to benefit from the experience of others. Isn’t that the essence of mentorship? You provide value, they provide the valuable insight and experience that you need. There is no better way to learn than to immerse yourself to gain experience quickly and learn from the experience of others.
You need to get involved and connect with people doing what you are interested in doing.
Every graduate of my Specify Colour with Confidence™ event gets access to a free Private True Colour Expert Facebook page surrounded by like minded designers and where they can post questions if they are in a situation where they don’t have the answer.
There is nothing wrong with explaining to your client that you will get back to them with the right answer. I’ve never had a client who was upset by that. They were just happy that they were going to get the right advice in the end.
via La Dolce Vita (Classic exterior)
Define your aesthetic as fast as possible
When you’re starting out, you give your clients pretty much exactly what they are looking for because you don’t have a look yet.
But the faster you develop your own aesthetic, the more money you’ll make because your clients will hire you for that reason.
If you have to reinvent the wheel and learn a bunch of new things each time a new client hires you, you’ll spend way too much time doing that instead of what you’re really good at. It’s impossible to go from extreme contemporary to super traditional and actually be good at both.
I know this post will sound like I’m plugging my training but that’s because it covers a lot of what you’ll need in order to figure out what you’re good at.
The reason my course is so successful is because I teach it from my classic and timeless aesthetic, when it comes to colour in hard finishes. It’s hard to argue with that because the principles of timeless design are pretty universal.
When you learn how to give advice from that perspective, you’re already starting your career with a foundational look and feel even if you haven’t figured out exactly where you’ll land.
That is way more powerful than flailing around on your own, trying to figure it out.
Every design choice you make is a colour decision first.
You can go to design school for 4 years but you still won’t learn there what you’ll learn in my course in 3 days.
Who else will teach you the 9 undertones you’ll see in everything after you leave? Hard and soft finishes, everywhere in the world. Who else has the answer to every single colour question in your head? Well, you’ll find it here.
Plus on day 3, you’ll learn the business of colour, what to charge, how to sell a consultation, how to specify colour for paint and finishes for online clients and much more.
So get really good at choosing the right colour, look at your design from a classic and timeless perspective and you’ll already be halfway there.
If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.