Interior Designer

Behind the Scenes: Home Staging

Through my internship, I’ve now had the opportunity to work on a couple of home staging projects. It’s been great to work with my hands and see how we can completely change the feel of a home with some furniture and accessories.

My mentor, Joe, has also been good about giving me tips and pointers throughout the staging process and really explaining why we set things up a certain way.

New Learnings

In my initial post on my internship, I talked about some early guidance I received on home staging. Here are some additional things I’ve learned, working on actual staging projects.

Focus on living rooms and master bedrooms

It’s often said that kitchens sell homes. And while that may be generally true, a lot of that has to do with the counters, appliances, etc. that are already built into the kitchen — so things out of the home stager’s control.

When it comes to rooms that can be completely transformed through staging, that would be living rooms and master bedrooms. And it makes sense. Without staging, these can be pretty empty, blank rooms, with little features. The addition of furniture and accessories can have a huge impact in helping potential buyers picture themselves in the home.

Place your sofa on a full wall

Every home stager may have differing opinions on this one, but by placing the sofa on a full wall, you have the opportunity to place a show-stopping art piece above, making this a real focal point of the room.

Interestingly, this is not necessarily how most people would set up the living room if they are actually living there, as full walls tend to be reserved for the TV/entertainment system. But you hardly ever see TVs included in a home stage.

Think about foot traffic

When placing furniture, it’s imperative to keep in mind how potential buyers will walk through the home, especially during open houses when there may be high foot traffic.

In one home we staged, we had brought a full living room set with a sofa and two large matching armchairs. However, when setting up the living room, we realized that by including both armchairs, we were blocking the natural pathway that buyers would move through the home on their tour. So, we decided to remove one.

Consider which angle the room will be photographed

Staging is not just to make an impact during open houses but also to help bring out the home through its photographs and get potential buyers to the property in the first place.

When arranging a room, it’s good to keep in mind where the photographer will most likely stand. In this bedroom below, we made sure that the comforter length was perfect and the skirt was thoroughly steamed on the side where the photographer would shoot.

Don’t ignore the outdoors

Home owners don’t just spend their time inside the house. There’s a lot of living that happens in the backyard. And with some patio furniture and some strategic accessories, you can help potential buyers picture themselves enjoying this space.

What’s Next

Already, I think I’ve gotten a good handle on how to set up a home stage. I’m still hoping to shadow a consultation and help work through that initial design strategy and selection of furniture pieces.

I’d also like to get some more experience on the business side of things — landing new business, marketing and drawing up contracts.

Interior Designer

I Heart AutoCAD

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know that this past Spring semester, I took a class on architectural drafting. And this was drafting by hand. While it was certainly satisfying seeing the final product, these drawings took hours upon hours to complete.

It’s no wonder that these days, architects, interior designers, engineers, and others in the field now rely on computer programs to draft their floor plans, mechanical/electrical plans, elevations, etc.

There are many different programs out there (in fact my interior design program offers classes on three different softwares), but the program that seems to be the most popular (for 2-D drawing, at least) is AutoCAD. In fact, even when I was searching for internships, about half of the listings wanted proficiency in AutoCAD.

Luckily, Cañada College decided to offer an accelerated AutoCAD course during the summer session, and I jumped on the opportunity to add this to my skill set as soon as possible.

What is AutoCAD?

As the CAD in the name suggests, AutoCAD is a computer-aided design and drafting software. It is used by many different professionals to generate blueprints, floor plans, elevations and other drawings.

And though it may be obvious, here are a few advantages of doing computer drafting over hand drafting:

  • Working with a design team is easier, since drawings can easily be shared digitally.
  • You can draw fixtures, furniture, appliances, etc. only one time and re-use them for other drawings.
  • You can use items drawn by other designers, easily pulling them into your own drawings.
  • You can have a library of items and templates for re-use.

The great thing is: Autodesk, the distributors of AutoCAD, offer free licenses of the software to students and educators.

Thoughts so far

I’m only a week into my course, but as the title of my post suggests, I’m loving AutoCAD. I find it really easy and intuitive to use. And you can draw things so much more quickly than hand drafting. Make a mistake? Just hit undo or delete.

AutoCAD has keyboard shortcuts for all of the commands, which make the work even faster. And even if you’re working on a laptop, it’s good to use a mouse with a wheel, as that provides a lot of capabilities to easily navigate around your drawing (e.g. zoom and pan).

The class itself has been a little slow, since they have to accommodate students who may not be as computer-savvy. But yesterday, we spent the afternoon working on a few exercises and projects at our own pace, and that is when I really got into a good flow. It’s just amazing how quickly you can generate drawings after learning just a few basic commands.

For example, creating these outside walls for a hotel suite took my probably 10-15 minutes:

Drawing the same thing by hand would have probably taken me 2-3 times as long.

A few other drawings I completed:

In many interior design firms, it seems like the design assistants or junior designers do a lot of the drafting, so if I go that route, it’s definitely something I’ll do a lot of, in the beginning. In fact, some large design firm have dedicated drafters.

It’s also something you can do on a freelance basis, as some independent interior designers will outsource their drafting work.

We’ll see what the rest of the course has in store, but if this first week is any indication, working in AutoCAD is definitely something I’ll enjoy and could even become something I decide to specialize in.

Interior Designer

My Introduction to Home Staging

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a number of internships I was looking into, as well as some home staging assistant positions I applied to, in order to start exploring the various paths within the interior design field and build up my experience and portfolio. I am happy to report that as of yesterday, I’ve started an internship with Pink Door Interiors, a home staging and interior design firm.

The bulk of Pink Door’s business comes from home staging, and during my first day yesterday, I got a good introduction to the field. My day was spent at their small warehouse, where they store most of their furniture, art and accessories.

It was quite a sight to see. Racks and racks of canvas and other wall art. Sofas carefully wrapped in protective plastic and stood up on their side to maximize space. Shelves going up to the double-height ceilings, housing chairs, ottomans and console tables. A whole room of just pillows! And another room filled with small accessories like dishes, picture frames, candles, soap, placemats, and more.

Chairs and ottomans and tables, oh my!
Yes, there is a pillow room
Let there be light!

While I technically report to the owner of the business, I’ll be working most closely with the project manager, Joe. Joe gave me a great rundown of the home staging business, as well as some interesting tips.

Home Staging Process

Early on in the day, I eagerly asked, “So, what’s the typical home staging process?” While every project is different, Joe was able to give me a general overview.

Consultation

First, they start with a client consultation, where they tour the house and talk about which rooms are going to be staged and how. In the case of Pink Door Interiors (and I imagine a lot of home staging firms), the client tends to be the real estate agent rather than the home seller. After consultation, Joe and the owner, Alejandra, meet and discuss the plan for the home stage.

Proposal

Before too much work gets started, the next step is sending the client a proposal. This is where they lay out in writing:

  • Which rooms are being staged and to what extent (e.g. full stage vs. partial stage)
  • If any existing furniture needs to be removed
  • Budget
  • Timing
  • Other stipulations

Selecting furniture and accessories

Once the proposal is approved, work gets started on selecting the furniture and accessories. You start with the furniture, of course. They “reserve” the furniture for each project in their online database system. Then, they’ll pull art and accessories, walking through the warehouse and seeing what fits with the overall look they are going for. Accessories and other small items are carefully wrapped and packed into bins, usually the day before the home will be staged.

Staging

On the morning of the stage, contracted movers come to transport the furniture and accessories bins. Fragile things like art and lamps are typically transported by the stagers themselves in their own cars.

Once at the property, the movers bring everything in. I’ll get to experience my first in-home staging project next Tuesday! With Pink Door Interiors, they like to start with unpacking and laying out all the accessories. Then, room by room they get everything set up. Sometimes during set-up, they find that something they selected just isn’t working, and in some cases, they have to go shopping to find better alternatives.

The clients will walk through the staged property and note any adjustments they’d like made.

De-staging

After the home is sold, it’s then time for the de-staging process. Packing everything up. Disassembling furniture, if needed. And getting everything back to the warehouse.

Home Staging Tips

Throughout this internship, I’ll learn a lot of about the best ways to tackle home staging. Joe was able to give me some early advice.

Walk through the home on your own

When you do your initial consultation, tell the real estate agent that you’d like to tour the home on your own. This will allow you to put yourself in a buyer’s shoes and see the home with fresh eyes, without a realtor pointing things out to you or coloring your experience.

Stage to bring out the features of the home

When it comes to choosing the overall look you are going for, don’t worry the homeowner’s design taste or what you think they buyer’s style will be. The goal is for the home to appeal to the widest variety of buyers.

Instead, look at the style of the house itself. Does it have traditional features like crown molding and decorative cabinets? Opt for more traditional furniture. Is it a very sleek and contemporary home? Go for more contemporary furniture. Sometimes the clients will request (or insist) on a certain style, but it’s important to hold your ground — you know what’s best!

Ask for everyone to be out of the house when you stage

This tip is pretty self-explanatory, but I guess it can happen a lot. Staging requires a lot of moving and installing, and it’s hard to work around contractors or other people doing work in the home. And it’s best not to have the homeowner hovering, either. They can be very emotionally attached to the home and might push their own personal preferences on style and set-up.

Be strategic about the order you set things up in

When staging a room, I think most people’s instinct would be to set up the large furniture pieces first and then place all the smaller items. However, you need to take into consideration things that may be hard to set up if the furniture is in the way.

Need to plug lamps into an outlet that’ll eventually be blocked by a large desk? Get that plugged in first! Hanging a piece of art over the bed? Best to hang it before getting the bed set up (keeping in mind, of course, the height of the headboard). It’s a rule that seems obvious after the fact, but you’d be surprised how many people make this mistake.

Label your accessories in a partial stage

Sometimes you are staging a vacant home, but sometimes you are doing a partial stage, where you augment with homeowner’s existing furniture and decor with your own pieces. In these cases, the home staging company’s accessories can easily get mixed up with the homeowner’s. Whether it be a small label or a sticker, it’s good to somehow discreetly mark your accessories.

A lot more to come

I’ll be doing this internship for at least the next couple of months and potentially into the fall. During that time, I’ll have the opportunity to see and work on the full process of a home staging project.

Next week, I’ll get experience pulling accessories and packing them up, as well as actually staging a home. Eventually, I’ll see how proposals are put together and other administrative things related to the home staging business. Hopefully, I’ll get to shadow a client consultation and initial home walkthrough. I’ll even get some insights into the marketing side of things.

This internship will not only allow me to build up my resume and portfolio, but it’ll also expose me to the reality of home staging and help me determine if this is a path I’m interested in pursuing.

Interior Designer

Rewriting My Resume

Over the last week, I’ve been looking into interior design-related internships or part-time work, with a few goals in mind:

  • Get hands-on experience and understand the real day-to-day work in this field
  • Explore the various paths within interior design to see what direction best fits my strengths, interests and working style
  • Start to build up my resume and portfolio

Of course, as anyone who has applied to a job or even an internship knows, one key step in the application process — submitting a resume.

But how do you put together a resume when you’re new to the field?

I set off to do a little research, and a quick search of “career shift resume” netted a lot of helpful information. Here were some of the top tips:

Identify your transferable skills

Just because you may be new to the field, doesn’t mean you don’t already possess skills that will help you excel. For me, I had to think about the experience from my past work that would be a benefit in the interior design world. These are things like project management and client service.

I was also able to list some of the skills I’ve gained from my classes this semester, such as knowledge of the principles of design, space planning, and drafting.

And here’s how I was able to present them in my resume:

Write a resume/career objective

This might seem a little old-school, but writing a career objective is an opportunity to show that while you may be new to the field, you have passion as well as a clear direction as to how you want to enter the industry. This can be really helpful for internships or assistant-level work, where it’s understood that you will have little or no experience.

However one good piece of advice when writing this section: it’s not enough to just show passion; you should also touch on your transferable skills and how they will be a benefit to this new line of work.

Here’s my career objective for a home staging assistant position I applied to:

Choose the right format for you

I think many people are familiar with the traditional resume format:

  • Summary
  • Employment history
  • Education
  • Skills, certifications, awards, etc.

In this format, the bulk of the content is typically reserved for the employment history section, where for each job, you list out your responsibilities and achievements.

However, this format doesn’t really work when you’re making a career change. It focuses too much on your employment in a completely different field, leaving your transferable skills buried.

When deciding on the best format for me, I thought about what my strongest selling points were.

I started with the career objective, just to lay the foundation and set some context for the person reading my resume. Then, I moved on to my summary of qualifications and skills, to really highlight how I could be an asset in the positions I was applying to. Next, I included my education, since it would show that I’m currently studying interior design. Finally, I concluded with a list of some of my past jobs. However, for this last section, I just listed workplace, location and dates; I didn’t list the responsibilities, as any transferable skills were also listed up in my skills section.

Here’s what the final resume for my home staging applications looks like:

And the great thing is I can use this same resume for multiple opportunities in the interior design field, with just a few wording adjustments.

Interior Designer

Internships

As I’ve mentioned in a few of my previous blog posts on interior design, I feel like it’s time to augment my studies with internships. Not only will this give me a better look at the day-to-day and realities of the various paths in the field, it will also help me build up my resume and portfolio by the time I complete the program.

What am I looking for in an internship?

When weighing my internship options, there are a lot of nice-to-haves:

  • Paid over unpaid
  • Close to home
  • Well-known firm, designer, etc.

However, I feel like I could compromise on these for the right opportunity. Because here’s the absolute must-have: It must be an internship where I get a full view of the work, learning the ins and outs of the job coupled with hands on experience, rather than just doing administrative work.

What area do I focus on?

Right now, I’d like to start with residential design, working with either an interior designer/design firm or a home staging company.

Home staging is particularly interesting to me, especially for my first internship, for a few reasons:

  • It’s currently spring going into summer, which is a popular time for real estate, meaning it’s also a busy time for home staging.
  • Home staging projects are often faster than full interior design projects, meaning I would have a lot more experience under my belt (and in my portfolio).

So, what’s out there?

As program director, my teacher gets emailed a lot of internship listings. There are a couple of home staging companies and one interior designer that have caught my eye. It’s not clear if any of them are paid.

Pink Door Home Staging and Interior Design

In their internship description, they note: “Interns will learn how to run a staging and interior design business, including how to stage and de-stage a property, give consultations to clients, create proposals, contracts, invoicing, etc.”

They go on to list the specific things that interns will learn how to do.

Pros:

  • Clearly committed to educating interns and letting them be involved in the full lifecycle of a home staging project.
  • Flexible hours.
  • Don’t need any prior experience.

Cons:

  • They are located all the way down in Santa Clara, which is pretty far for me, especially considering traffic.
  • They ask for a six month minimum commitment, which can be a long time, if it’s something I don’t end up enjoying.

Halcyon Home Staging + Design

There was not a formal description for this opportunity; rather the owner of the company wrote a short email, saying she’s in search of a design assistant.

Pros:

  • Top-rated company that works on high-end real estate listings.
  • Located in San Francisco, right off of the Embarcadero BART station, so it would be a quick commute for me.

Cons:

  • No job/internship description, so it’s unclear how much I would learn through the opportunity.
  • Owner indicated she was looking for a design assistant, not an intern, so it may be that they are looking for someone long-term and full-time, which wouldn’t work with my school schedule.

Leslie Karas Design

This is an interior designer rather than a home stager. This opportunity also lacked a formal description but the owner did mention interns would learn both in the field and in the office. She is also a former Cañada student, so she understands what an intern would be looking to gain through the experience.

Pros:

  • Former student, so she would know to make the internship a meaningful learning opportunity.
  • Looks like she works on both residential and commercial projects, so it would be interesting to see the differences.
  • She is open with timing/schedule and level of experience.

Cons:

  • Located in Redwood City, which could be a difficult commute with the traffic.

Next steps

I’m going to reach out to all three to find out more about what they are looking for and what I’ll learn. In addition, I going to look at Oakland and other East Bay-based firms. If I find one I like, I’ll reach out to see if they are interested in taking on an intern.

Interior Designer

New Inspiration with Interior Design

For the past few weeks, I had been having doubts about pursuing interior design. My class assignments had become something to just get done rather than something I was excited about tackling. And I found myself prioritizing other creative pursuits such as theater and the podcast over interior design.

But I became reinvigorated with this path after listening to a guest speaker in last week’s class. Gloria Carlson is a senior designer at Harrell Remodeling and a graduate of Cañada College’s interior design program. And much like many of the students in my classes, she didn’t enter the field until later in life.

Gloria Carlson, CKD, senior design at Harrell Remodeling

It’s never too late

It all started when she was 40 years old and decided to remodel her kitchen. She worked with a contractor to execute the work, of course, but most of the design decisions fell to her. She enjoyed the process so much that afterwards, she asked the contractor if she could work for him part time to get more experience in the field.

Gloria’s work with the contractor consisted of mostly project management, but she also had the opportunity to help clients make design choices. It was during this time that she decided to take some interior design courses at Cañada College. Her original motivation was to increase her knowledge to help her in her position with the contractor. However, she quickly realized that she wanted to be a full-fledged designer.

Gloria continued to work for the contractor while taking classes. It took her five years to complete the program, but she also took almost every class the program had to offer and graduated with every certificate available at that time.

Upon completing the program, Gloria set off to become an independent interior designer. However, she quickly realized that this wasn’t the exact path for her. Finding clients and taking care of the business side took up too much time. She decided she would do better at a firm, and having worked for a contractor she knew she wanted to work for a design build firm — one where the company not only designs the new space but also executes the work.

She had one firm in mind — Harrell Remodeling, a high-end firm located in Palo Alto. Unfortunately, Gloria’s entry into the interior design field was right in the middle of the recession, and her dream firm was not hiring. So, she decided to work for a showroom, Gilmans Kitchen + Bath.

Gloria recounted how when she initially interviewed with Gilmans, the position actually went to someone else who had owned his own cabinetry business for years and had more experience in the field. However, a few months later, Gilmans called Gloria asking her to interview again. Their initial hire had been a dud; while he knew cabinets, he wasn’t a great people-person. And this is where Gloria shined.

Gloria worked for Gilmans for almost three years. But she still had the goal of working for a design build firm, so she kept her eyes open for opportunities. Eventually, the economy started turning around, and Harrell Remodeling was hiring again.

Gloria applied and secured an interviewed. It was a long process with many rounds of interviews and a portfolio review. Ultimately, the position went to someone else who had been an architect for 15 years.

Gloria was dejected and started to resign herself to the possibility that she would never achieve dream, that there would always be someone with more experience. But six months later, Harrell contacted her again about another designer position opening. Her personality had made an impression, and they were starting to rethink their hiring process to not just focus on experience.

And this time, she got the job! Six years later, she is now a senior designer with Harrell Remodeling. In fact, they call her the ‘rainmaker’ for how much business she secures.

She showed us pictures of her designs and the results were inspiring:

Before: a dated kitchen in Los Altos.
After: a super sleek kitchen remodel for these Los Altos clients.
Before: a drab kitchen in Palo Alto.
After: a new, vibrant kitchen for this Palo Alto home.

Learnings and next steps

Listening to Gloria’s story reconfirmed the importance of getting real-world experience while taking classes. When she completed her certificates, not only did she have the design knowledge and portfolio from class projects, but she also had experience on the project management and execution side (plus additional projects to add to her portfolio) through her work with the contractor.

Plus, her real-world experience helped her more quickly find the exact path that was right for her — working at a design build firm. I had already been considering trying to get an internship or part-time job with a designer or a firm in order to better understand the day-to-day, and I’m more determined than ever.

It was also reassuring to know that personality and people skills are just as important (if not more important) than design talent when it comes to succeeding in the field. And this is an area that I already feel pretty solid in. When I was in advertising sales, relationship-building and understanding my clients’ needs was my favorite part of the job.

And, of course, it was inspiring to see how successful Gloria has become and she was even older than I am when she got her start. It can often feel that it’s too late to make a major change, but Gloria is a prime example that hard work and determination can get you where you want to go, regardless of age.

My next steps:

  • Touch base with my professor on internship and part-time job opportunities. The program is well known in the field so they get contacted a lot about position openings. I think it might take me 3-4 years to finish the certificate program, and during that time, it would be beneficial to intern or work at different types of places so that I can have a stronger idea of what path is right for me.
  • Research more about design build firms. After hearing Gloria’s journey, I also think I would enjoy working for a firm that manages both the design and the execution of projects. I think I’d feel a better sense of security knowing that I could trust the team building out my designs. And it would also help to have the build team available to consult on the feasibility of my design ideas.
  • Start building my portfolio with pro bono or reduced rate work. I’ll start reaching out to friends and family who want to update a room and have the budget but need help with design.

I still haven’t given up on exploring the other career paths, but I do want to invest more time and energy into this field.

Interior Designer

Update: Interior Design

It’s spring break this week, which means I’m about half-way through the semester. This seemed like good time to reflect on how my classes are going and how I’m feeling about interior design in general.

For those who missed the first blog post about my return to academic life, I am taking a couple of courses through Cañada College’s interior design program. The program is accredited with a lot of professional organizations and is well know to people in the industry in the Bay Area.

My Introduction to Interior Design course combines design theory with practical application and includes a semester-long project where we put together a proposed design for a fake client. In my Architectural Drafting class, we are learning how to do hand drafting of site plans, floor plans, electrical plans and more. Hand drafting is no longer done in the industry but it serves as the foundations for the drafting computer programs.

Career exploration through classes

I have appreciated the structure of learning about a new career field through a teacher-led class. It has forced me to keep a regular schedule and pace with my exploration. I particularly like that the classes I’m taking are focused heavily on practical applications, not just theory.

These classes have been a good way to get a taste of the field. It has opened my eyes to many different career possibilities within this industry. And it’s comforting to know that if I decide to pursue this career path, this program comes with it a lot of connections to interior design professionals.

However, I’m starting to feel like I won’t get a real sense of what it is like to work in this field unless I supplement my courses with an internship or part-time work with an interior design firm (or related workplace). There’s a difference between work with your fake client who is a friend and working with a real client.

Thoughts on interior design

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest learnings from my courses so far has been how many different career paths are available within the interior design field. I’m starting to learn more about which of these different avenues interest me more than others.

I’m very interesting in furniture and textiles. I find myself less interested in kitchens and baths. I’m still interesting in learning more about home staging, a niche that has a lot of growth opportunities in markets like the Bay Area, where real estate is booming.

I like the idea of being an independent designer because of the schedule flexibility it can offer, but the idea of working completely alone is a little overwhelming. Right now, I’m thinking that if I decided to pursue a career as an interior designer, I would want to start at a firm (even if it was a small one) to get hand-ons experience before deciding whether or not to branch out on my own.

More observations

Because my classes meet only once a week, I do feel like it is a prolonged learning period, where I may not get a sense of how I really feel about the courses and interior design as a career path until the end of the semester.

However, one thing I have noticed: a lot of the time, I’ve let other creative pursuits like theater and the podcast take precedence over my interior design classes. I mean, I have still gotten my course work done on time, but I haven’t been rushing to do certain assignments like I thought I would.

For example, for my Intro to Interior Design course, we’re at the stage of our final project where we get to “shop” for different furniture and furnishings for our client. I thought I’d be poring over Pinterest and furniture catalogs by now, but I haven’t even started. Instead, I’ve been focusing on auditions and podcast marketing.

I’m not sure how to read this. Is it that theater and podcasting are more energizing to me than interior design? Or maybe it’s that my theater pursuits and podcast work are things that I have created myself and dictate completely while the interior design projects have been assigned to me by a third party.

Final thoughts

I feel like I’m still not convinced one way or the other if interior design is the career path for me. I will, of course, see my classes through to the end of the semester. And I may see if I can do an internship and temporary part-time work with a firm this summer before making my final decision.

Content Creator

Promoting a Podcast

It’s been two weeks since we’ve launched the Bring Your Own Movie podcast, and we’ve gotten a great response. There have been a lot of positive reviews and comments for the show and a decent number of downloads.

With our successful launch complete, there was no time to slow down, as we needed to quickly pivot and go into major promotion mode. For our initial push, we’re focusing on free tactics, dedicating the majority of our efforts on social media marketing, since we have complete controls over those channels.

Here are a few early learnings and tips:

Start with your goals

Any marketer will tell you that before you put together your promotion plan, you need to identify what you are trying to accomplish.

For us, our top priority is, of course, getting as many downloads and listens of the podcasts as possible.

Our secondary goals include:

  • Getting people to connect with your social media pages
  • Encouraging people to engage with our social media posts
  • Getting iTunes reviews

These goals will help guide the content of our marketing, as well as outline the metrics we should be measuring.

Identify your target audience

Of course, we hope everyone enjoys our podcast! But we think that the show will particularly resonate with people who like to have fun discussions about movies. And for our social media channels, we’re also targeting people who are likely to weigh in with their own opinions.

Knowing who we’re speaking to will not only influence the topics we post about, but also the tone of our posts. Which is a great segue to …

Find your brand’s voice

We also needed to think about what we wanted the tone of our social media posts and other written promotional materials to be. In general, we want the Bring Your Own Movie voice to be humorous and irreverent. We want to avoid sounding too serious or high-brow. We want to feel like the type of easy-going, funny people that you’d love hanging out with at a party or a bar, grabbing a few drinks with, and having a lively, but light-hearted, discussion about films with.

See things from your audience’s perspective

When it came to brainstorming the type of social media posts we wanted to make, I thought about the types of posts I tend to engage with.

I tend to comment on posts that ask me to weigh in with my own opinions. I will often ‘like’ posts that include some interesting fact, a funny meme or cool art. And I tend to share posts that feature big news that I think other people need to know about.

I also think about podcast-specific posts that I engage with or that I see get a lot of engagement. Those are things like episode discussion threads and fan art/merchandise posts.

From there we were able to brainstorm some post ideas for Bring Your Own Movie, such as:

  • Special guest bios
  • Movie trivia
  • Episode discussion threads and/or polls

Create your calendar

Now, it’s time to get everything in place and figure out a good cadence for your marketing plan. For us, since we’re releasing new episodes every two weeks, it made sense also to have a two-week marketing cycle.

In the week leading up to each episode’s release, we’ll have posts introducing that episode’s special guest, as well as teasing the movie that will be discussed, asking people to comment with their guesses on this episode’s film. After the episode goes live, we have a week of posts promoting downloads & listens, as well as encouraging engagement with our posts through discussion threads, polls, and fun, shareable content.

Find the right tools

In order to execute a marketing plan smoothly and efficiently, it’s important to have good tools at hand. We, of course, are using a ton of tools, but here are a couple that I want to highlight:

Calendar

When planning out a social media plan, it’s helpful to create a marketing calendar with information on when you’ll post, what channel(s) you’ll be using, and what will be contained in each post. Any spreadsheet tool will do the trick (Excel, Google Sheets), but we find that Airtable gives us some extra capabilities that are particularly useful.

With Airtable, it was easy for us to organize and separate out posts by social media channel. We were able to customize our column, like one can with any spreadsheet, so we could include information of the topic, the date, and the copy for each post. We were also able to include a column where we can drag in the images we’ll be using.

Scheduler

Anyone who’s run a robust social media plan will tell you that having a scheduling tool can save a lot of time. Instead of manually posting every day, you can queue up your posts in a scheduling tool ahead of time and then the tool will publish your posts at the scheduled date and time. This means, for example, that instead of having to take time out of your day every day, you could dedicate, say, one day a week to setting up all your posts for that week.

There are many scheduling tools out there, and a lot of people are familiar with Hootsuite. We ended up going with Buffer, partly because they have a free account option, while Hootsuite does not.

Measure your results

Next, it’s time to see what worked and what didn’t. Even though our main goal is episode downloads and listens, it’s actually difficult to attribute those metrics to our social media posts. While we’ve included links to our website and the episode page on our site in some of our posts, people will typically download, subscribe and listen to podcasts in their app of choice. We, of course, can try to correlate this. Do we see a spike in downloads on a certain day? We can look at what posts were made that day.

We also look at our secondary goals, particularly engagement. Unsurprisingly, our big podcast launch post has received the most engagement. After that, big winners were our guest announcement post, our posts about our iTunes reviews, and a post that featured a funny Rotten Tomatoes review. I think it’ll take a few months to see if there are any strong patterns in the types of posts that get the most engagement.

What’s next?

We’ll continue with our social media plan and track engagement. We’ll fine-tune along the way, as patterns start to surface as to what’s working best.

We’d also like to explore other free marketing avenues, such as co-promotions with other podcasts and getting featured in related email newsletters.

Have any ideas yourself? Feel free to leave a comment!

Interior Designer

San Francisco Design Center

Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the San Francisco Design Center, which houses about 100 showrooms, workrooms and other design-related businesses. It was fascinating to discover all the touchpoints an interior designer might have when working on a single project.

It was also an illuminating, behind-the-scenes look at the interior design realm as a whole, and how the professionals in this field work together to protect the integrity of the work. For example, while the showrooms are technically open to the public, they will only sell to “people in the trade”. In fact, as an interior designer, you would need to prove your credentials before a showroom will deal with you (e.g. business license, business website, portfolio, etc.).

Laurel Sprigg

Our tour began at Laurel Sprigg, a sewing workroom dedicated to soft furnishings, such as curtains, pillows, and bedding. This was where it first became clear that even a seemingly small interior design project might require coordination with many parties.

Let’s take curtains, for example. Say, you’d like to add some custom-made curtains to your client’s room and have a certain design in mind. Before you even start dealing with a sewing workroom like Laurel Sprigg, you need to pick out your fabric and hardware. Oh, and while you’re selecting the hardware and fabric for the curtains, you better make sure the window was framed in a way that it can support the weight of these new curtains.

So, you might be dealing with an architect to make sure the framing can support the weight of the curtains; a showroom to purchase the hardware (e.g. rods, rings, etc.); another showroom to purchase the fabric; the curtain installers to make sure you have the measurements and are ordering the correct amount of fabrics; and the sewing workroom to fabricate the curtains.

That’s a lot of people just to install some new curtains!

Osborne & Little

Osborne & Little is a fabric and wallpaper showroom. So, looking at our example from before, this could be a place where you’d buy the fabric for those curtains.

It was interesting to see how much consideration needs to go into the selection of a fabric. How will the fabric be used? If it’s going to upholster a highly-used chair, for example, you’ll want to select a fabric with a high rub count. Will the fabric be exposed to the sun often? Better stay away from silks, as these fabric disintegrate quickly in sunlight.

I also had two realizations in this shop:

First, I really enjoy dealing with textiles. Maybe it’s my art history background, but I loved looking at all the patterns and colors. It really got my creative juices flowing!

Second, I was drawn to many of the bold and even funky designs, so I may want to explore commercial restaurant or hospitality design, where I would likely have more freedom to use these types of textiles.

Purcell Murray

Our next stop was Purcell Murray, a kitchen and bath showroom specializing in high-end brands, which is actually just up the street from the Design Center.

Insider secret: kitchen showrooms are where you can often get fed! In order to show off the appliances, these showrooms often have working ranges and ovens. For our tour, they had prepared our lunch.

We had a look at the various appliances in the kitchen, with some good insights and things to consider when working with your client to select new appliances. While interesting, I didn’t feel particularly passionate about it.

Maybe kitchen design is not my path, which is a shame because it’s probably a speciality where you can get the most work.

Kravet

Kravet was another fabric showroom, that also sells their own line of furniture (apparently, a growing part of their business!). The rep from the store gave a lot of good advice on how to work with a showroom as an interior designer.

First, when you walk into a new showroom for the first time, it’s helpful to greet the staff and let them know what you’re looking for. The staff can advise you on how the store is organized and certain sections you may want to focus on. They can also let you know what information from the tag you should write down in order to request samples (or what’s known in the industry as memos).

We also got really good information on additional considerations for selecting fabrics, particularly upholstery fabric. Selecting a print to reupholster a chair? You’ll want to check in with the upholsterer on their recommendations for how much yardage to buy, which will depend on the print itself and where it will be cut in order to be best displayed on the piece of furniture. Along those same lines, you’ll need to indicate to the upholsterer which part of the pattern should be the focal point on the furniture.

HEWN

Our last stop was HEWN, a high-end showroom selling a variety of interior design products, such as home furnishings, fabrics, wall coverings, lighting, rugs and furniture. They pride themselves on carrying hand-made, customizable products from smaller businesses and craftspeople.

I found myself really drawn to the furniture — the various styles, the techniques used to make them, the materials. This reinforced my interest in furniture design, and I want to prioritize exploring that area a bit more soon.

Takeaways

There was definitely a lot of information thrown at us during the tour, but here are my big takeaways from the experience:

  1. Building relationships — not just with clients but with showrooms and other professionals in the field — is vital for an interior designer. You want to be confident in the showrooms and workrooms you deal with, making sure they fit with your aesthetic and preferred work style and provide good, reliable service.
  2. I’m drawn to eccentric fabrics, wallpapers and other furnishings that you can often find in hip restaurants or hotels. I want to research more about design firms in the Bay Area that specialize in these types of projects.
  3. I appreciate the art and beauty in handcrafted furniture. I’ve talked to my husband in the past about attempting to build our own furniture and seeing what starting a business would look like. I’m going try to do some of that exploration soon.

It was fantastic to get this opportunity to tour the San Francisco Design Center and get so much insider knowledge about the field. I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the showrooms.

Content Creator

Launching a Podcast

Well, I’m just going to cut to the chase — today, we officially launched the Bring Your Own Movie podcast!

I know it’s a cliché, but this was a true labor of love. From being brought on as a producer and putting together a full project plan to working with the team to record our first official episode, it’s been an interesting journey with a lot of learnings.

One big learning — just because you’ve recorded your podcast doesn’t mean you’re anywhere close to launching.

Here’s a little glimpse of what is takes to get your podcast from audio file to public launch, along with some of our stumbles and learnings along the way.

Choosing a media host

Much like you would choose a service such as WordPress or Squarespace to host a website, when it comes to having a podcast, it’s recommended that you select a media host where you’ll store all of your audio files. Why is that? Well, audio files are big, and if you upload through your regular website hosting service, you might slow down your entire site.

Also similar to website hosting, there are a lot of media hosting services, many of which are specifically geared toward podcasts. There are an overwhelming number of choices, in fact. I read countless articles comparing the options. I joined the Podcasters Support Group on Facebook and searched for past posts about the hosting services.

To find order in all of the chaos of possibilities, I had sit down and identify our top needs. For us, the biggest priority was having enough file storage at a reasonable price point, having a service that was reliable, and choosing a host that would make it easy to upload and submit to podcast directories.

We narrowed it down to Libsyn, Blubrry, Podbean or Buzzsprout. I read through the capabilities and pored over reviews, noting the top features and competitive edges for each service. Buzzsprout seems to have the most intuitive interface, while Podbean has unlimited storage. Blubrry has one of the easiest integrations with WordPress, and Libsyn is probably the most established and widely used service.

In the end, we went with Libsyn. Being one of, if not the most used media hosting service for podcasts, we knew it would be reliable, and it accommodated our file storage needs.

Developing the artwork

Yes, this is the fun, artistic and creative part of launching a podcast, but it’s also an absolutely vital step. First of all, you must include show artwork in order to submit your podcast to iTunes and other podcast directories. And there are strict specs you have to follow.

Secondly, this is a way to brand your podcast and help you stand out from the competition!

Show artwork must be square, and when submitting to iTunes, the file must be a minimum of 1400×1400. However, while the original file size is large, you also have to consider how it will look as a small thumbnail image.

One of the co-hosts, Sam, is an amazing artist. He and I worked closely together to develop the artwork. We knew we wanted to feature our abbreviation — BYOM — because it would be easy to read when sized down small. We also wanted to hint at the two main elements of our podcast — movies (of course) and alcohol (did I mention the hosts and guest are all drinking throughout the episode?).

It took a lot of iterations. We made sure to send it to people unfamiliar with the podcast to get their impressions. And in the end here’s the final artwork:

I love how we were able to hint at the drinking element of our podcast through the martini glass that serves as the “Y”. And we referred to the movie part of our podcast with the popcorn olive and the film reel “O”. I also like how much the orange pops against the blue.

Setting up our online presence

Very early on, we secured a Facebook page, Instagram profile and Twitter handle. We also purchased a number of website domains that will all redirect to our main site.

Once we had the artwork secured, it was time to get all these pages set up. For Facebook and Twitter, you want both a profile pic and and cover/header image. For Instagram, you need the profile image. For all three platforms, there are also areas to list a description of your podcast (with various word count restrictions, of course).

For the website, we decided to just start with the free website (or Podcast Page, as they call it) that Libsyn provides as part of our media hosting subscription. It’s a simple template with limited customization capabilities, but it serves our needs for now. We figure that eventually most people will just find our podcast in their podcast app or directory of choice and not necessarily come to our website. While the Podcast Page has a Libsyn-branded URL, we were able to set up redirects for the domains we purchased, so that we can use those shorter URLs on our promotional materials.

Uploading the episode and submitting to directories

This is one of the last steps to getting a podcast live. It’s also the part of the process that was difficult for a newbie like me to fully comprehend until I actually started digging into the system.

First, I had to go into my show settings in Libsyn and set up our profile. The most important things here are confirming the public-facing name of the podcast, including a show description (which will be used by directories like iTunes), uploading the show artwork, and connecting our related online properties like our website URL and social media profiles.

Then, I had to set up our RSS feed. This RSS feed URL is what you use to submit your podcast to most directories. During this step, I had to select our categories (TV & Film for our primary category, Comedy for our secondary category) and designate our rating (our podcast is Explicit).

Next, I needed to upload our episode. You need at least one episode uploaded in order to submit your podcast to the various directories. Here you bring in your audio file and enter your episode title and description.

After this last step, the episode was officially live and available for listening through our website. But that’s not how people typically listen to podcasts. They don’t go to each individual website of the podcasts they follow to listen to the episodes there. They download and listen to podcasts through their podcast app of choice. And these apps pull in from the various podcast directories (a good number of them pulling in from iTunes).

So the last important step is submitting your podcast (using your RSS feed URL) to the various directories. iTunes is the most important one, followed by Stitcher, Spotify and Google Play Music. There are specific instructions for each directory. Luckily, Libsyn has a lot of support materials and integrations to make this submission process easy.

However, this is where I underestimated the amount of time to allow. Once you submit, it can take a few days to be approved. And then once approved by a directory, you still need to be indexed. Essentially, being indexed is what allows your podcast to be discoverable via search.

If I launch another podcast in the future, this is where I will give myself a little more time. We just got approved by iTunes today, the day of our launch, but it still might take a couple of days for us to be indexed. That means, today it might be hard for people to find us by searching, so they will either need to listen to our episode through our website or add our RSS feed URL manually to their podcast app.

Promoting the podcast

Even though our first episode was technically available to listen to a few days ago, when I initially uploaded the file, today was our big promotional push day.

We drafted posts for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, along with a fun image. We also put together an email to share with friends or family who are not active on social media. We prepped the guest, Carla, who is featured on our first episode and let her know our launch plans so that she can share with her network.

In the next few weeks, we’ll do a lot more to promote.

The co-hosts, Sam and Tonya, will be hosting entertainment at an Oscars viewing party on behalf of our podcast. We will ask friends and other influencers to share with their networks. We’ll ask movie-themed groups to send to their email list. We’ll ask other podcasts about co-promotion, shouting each other out on our respective podcast episodes. And we’ll try to do a big push (maybe with some give-aways) to get iTunes reviews, which can help us get featured.

I’m sure we’ll try a lot of different things. This is the part where we’ll experiment, test, and learn.

So, how can you listen?

You can first try to search for “Bring Your Own Movie” in the podcast app you usually use. If we don’t pop up in your search results, you can head straight to our website to listen: byomcast.com.

You can also manually add our show to your podcast app of choice Just find the option to add a new podcast via URL and paste in our RSS feed: https://bringyourownmovie.libsyn.com/rss

I hope you enjoy!