WORK – Interview with interior designer Caroline Ann

ANYONE else find themselves getting sucked down a rabbit hole of interiors on Instagram? If the answer is ‘yes’ then it’s probably best you don’t read this post….seriously envy-inducing images right here. 
This is the wonderful work of Caroline Ann. Today she shares with us her story. Caroline Ann is a former lawyer and mum-of-three who swapped a corporate career she enjoyed for more flexibility and the chance to utilise her creative talents. The business has gone from strength-to-strength and I hope you find her words as inspiring as I do.
And if you want more, check out her blog (link down below or insta )…but don’t do that if you have stuff to do right now, because you WILL lose yourself in a beautiful world of interiors and want every.single.thing
Tell us about what you do…
I run an interior design business which does both residential and commercial design work. I offer a totally bespoke service. Some clients just want/need a couple of consultations to look at specific issues (e.g. flooring, lighting), others want full room scheme designs but want to implement the designs themselves, and others want a fully project managed, turn-key service. I therefore tailor my service to what a client wants.
Bedroom project - detail
Tell us a bit about your business journey
I set up my business three years ago. I am a qualified lawyer and worked in private practice and in a large corporate bank before having my twins 8 years ago. I decided to take a little time out, during which time we bought our current house. This became my first “project” – it was a six-month total refurb (which made for some interesting times juggling newborn twins and builders!) – but I loved it.
I have always loved interiors and design and this reconnected me with my creative side. I increasingly helped out friends and family and decided to do a course with Interior Design Institute in London. When my youngest came along (now 5 yrs) I decided I wanted my own business which gave me the flexibility to work around my family commitments. It was a “now or never” moment.
Although I loved my corporate career, I knew if I went back to it, I would see very little of the children during the week and for me that doesn’t work. So I set up my design business and it has gone from strength-to-strength. It can be hard juggling everything
– I still pick my children up from school everyday, so I spend a lot of my evenings working but for me its worth it as I get this time with them whilst they are little.
 They grow up so quickly!
What have been your biggest achievements so far?
Just getting out there and setting something up that is flourishing! I’m a naturally confident person and have a real “can-do” attitude, however I am used to working as part of a large corporate and having that corporate name to back me up, as well as a team of people to support me. Doing something completely new and it just being “me” was a big change! I have lots of projects I’m incredibly proud of and I love the fact that I help clients enhance their living or work space. It’s great to be a part of that.
What’s been the biggest lesson?
That when you feel completely out of your comfort zone, that’s when you’re growing your business. Pushing yourself our of your comfort zone is an all important part of growing your practice. Whether its taking on a new project which pushes you, or putting yourself out there with a new blog, it’s all part of your personal and business development.
Bedroom project
I’ve realised that most people are feeling their way throughout the process, business ideas change and evolve. It is important to have a focused business plan but accepting, especially in the early years, that you don’t always know your ultimate business destination keeps you receptive to new opportunities
The biggest lesson I’m currently trying to learn is to say “no”. Early on I said yes to everything. Every project. And within the timescales clients wanted. I worked evenings and weekends. Ironically, in trying to set something up to work around my family, I found myself working all the time. I’m now learning to be a little more selective, to restrict the evenings I work (without being inflexible) and to make time for me. In saying yes to everyone else, I realised that actually I was saying “no” to the extra hour playing with the kids before bed as I was on my MacBook desperately trying to finish a design. I’m still not very good at it (I say, writing this as my kids play on their own in the playroom on a Sunday!), but I’m trying.
Caroline Ann Logo 3
What are your goals for the next five years?
I am realistic. I combine my business with some freelance finance and strategy consultancy for an independent boarding school so I am pretty busy.
The design business will continue as it is – doing more of the same. There are lots of exciting projects in the pipeline. As the children get older, I’ll hopefully take on more projects and grow the practice. Immediate plans are to concentrate a little more on my blog. I’m passionate about showcasing independent designers and retailers so I hope to do more of this. And making interior design accessible with tips and commentary in the blog.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking of starting their own business?
Advice? Just do it. I was worried about putting myself out there. What would people think. What would happen if it failed? Do your research, think about your product and service but then just go for it. You’ll never have all the answers before you start out, but you’ll work them out. Be adaptable.
You may need to change what you do or how you offer it so be adaptable and respond to your market. The hardest step is getting out there but once you have I think you’ll realise how supportive people are.
People want you to succeed and will do what they can to help. But don’t be afraid to ask! Oh, and surround yourself with as many supportive people as you can. GTG or equivalent is a fantastic way of making it a much less lonely journey.

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