Designing Your Business

Money Mindset
Andrew Mitchell, The Design Coach2023-05-07
Andrew Mitchell, The Design Coach2023-05-07

From Contributing Editor, Andrew Mitchell, director of MR. MITCHELL, Interior designer and founder of The Design Coach.

As business owners, a healthy relationship with money is not an option. It’s a requirement. Recognising outdated, harmful beliefs about money can help business owners change the way they think, act and operate, and can help them take control of their financial destiny.

For those of us working in the design industry, Money Mindset issues can show up on a daily basis, often without any awareness on our behalf. The most obvious area of influence is around how we charge for our services, or framed differently, how we value our talent, skills and experience. As a coach, I am consistently working with interior designers and architects to improve confidence around estimating and communicating fees. It’s no surprise that the majority of people running design practices are significantly undercharging for their work, and heaven forbid a client should challenge proposed fees or extra charges such as variations and additional options!

Another common casualty of a limiting Money Mindset is the discomfort designers experience when talking with clients about project budgets. When confronted with the ever-looming question of “How much will this cost?”, most designers deflect or avoid rather than taking the opportunity to open an honest conversation about the clients’ expectations and giving it their honest appraisal. Often this behaviour is driven by a fear of “getting it wrong”, stemming from a lack of confidence and knowledge. Unfortunately, the longer-term consequences of not having these conversations at the start of the project will most likely lead to disappointment down the track when expectations and actuals don’t align.

So, what are we meant to do about these Money Mindset challenges? As with any solution-based approach, the first step is to indeed acknowledge that there is a problem. Below I’ve provided 6 Tips for Improving Money Mindset. None are intended as a quick fix, as Money Mindsets are often deeply rooted in our sub­ conscious and ingrained in our daily habits.

Tips for Improving Money Mindset

1. Identifying Existing Mindsets

Get inquisitive about your pre-programming and consider what shows up for you on a regular basis. Are you consistently struggling to enforce variations? Do you take an interest in the financial performance of your business, or do you just focus on design and hope that rest takes care of itself? Do you believe that you deserve to be financially successful?

Before you can take any actions to improve your Money Mindset, you first need to be aware of your current beliefs, thoughts and habits.

2. Reframe Your Internal Dialogue

Most limiting Money Mindsets are accompanied by a negative internal dialogue that reinforces “can’t do”, “not worthy of” and “less than” thought processes. When you become aware of these existing thought patterns, you can catch yourself before the thoughts become words or actions. From that point, you can choose to reframe the conversation to a healthier mindset of curiosity and enquiry.

From a negative place of “I can’t possibly charge that much”, you can choose to move toward a more curious approach of “How can I explain my value to the clients so that they understand my fees?”

3. Have a Solid Process and Strong Contract

A well-resolved, consistent design process that delivers successful project outcomes builds confidence. The more confidence you have, the more you value your contribution and the more comfortable you are around conversations about money.

Having a really well documented scope of work and a clear and transparent way of calculating your fees gives both you and the clients peace of mind and sets manageable expectations about what’s included in your services, and how much that will cost.

Setting boundaries and providing guidelines for your inclusions and exclusions through a strong, well-written and easily explained contract will further reinforce those conversations about money. A good contract will also be your fall-back when you start to wobble around extra charges and changes to scope. If you don’t have a contract, consider the TDC Client Agreement.

4. Give Yourself a Time-Buffer

When confronted with a situation that triggers confidence issues about money, don’t provide an answer on the spot, as you will most likely default to past behaviours of people-pleasing and avoiding confrontation. Give yourself some time to digest and consider any requests or demands made by other people around finances.

Once removed from the immediacy of the situation, and the panic associated with being put on the spot, you can come up with a strategy or approach that will be in line with a more empowered way of being. Provide the other person with a suggested date that you will get back to them, and if you feel that you’re likely to be more assertive in writing (rather than on the phone or in person), let them know you’ll reply to their request via email.

5. Empower Yourself With The Facts

Get interested in money. Read about basic business operations. Ask your bookkeeper or accountant to educate you about business reports and spreadsheets. Find out about the health of your business. Track your hours and compare them against your estimate. Are you making a profit on your jobs? If so, how much profit are you making? How could this be improved?

Consider taking courses to learn formulaic methods for calculating your fees and estimating budgets, rather than taking a stab in the dark. This will give you and your clients more confidence in your money methodology.

6. Do The Work To Improve Your Mindset

Invest in your personal and professional development. Work with a financial coach to educate yourself and implement systems that you know work and create magic for your clients. Keep developing new ways of thinking, and eventually healthy new habits will replace limiting, damaging old habits.

In October 2023, The Design Coach is hosting their next Retreat in Queenstown, New Zealand. At the Retreat, delegates will participate in a series of transformational Money Mindset workshops with Psychotherapist Rebekah Key. To find out more about the 2023 NZ Retreat, visit our website here.

This month The Design Coach have launched their second-ever Scholarship Program.

Representing over $20,000 in value, the program is open to all members of the design community (from students to established business operators) and will culminate in an all-expenses-paid prized place at the TDC 2023 Queenstown Retreat. This transformational week will provide the Scholar with the opportunity to further extend their learning, whilst forging lifelong relationships with like-minded designers.

The winner will be chosen by a judging panel selected by The Design Coach.

To find out more about the Scholarship Program or the 2023 Queenstown Retreat, head to @thedesigncoach_au or

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Welcome to The Design Coach's insightful guide on transforming your Money Mindset as a design professional. In the dynamic world of design, understanding and reshaping your relationship with money is pivotal for sustainable business success. Our comprehensive tips will empower you to navigate financial challenges with confidence and clarity.

  1. Identifying Existing Mindsets: Begin by introspecting your current beliefs and habits surrounding money. Recognize patterns that may hinder your financial growth, such as undercharging for services or avoiding discussions on project budgets.
  2. Reframe Your Internal Dialogue: Challenge negative thought patterns and reframe them into empowering beliefs. Shift from self-doubt to curiosity, asking yourself how you can effectively communicate your value to clients.
  3. Have a Solid Process and Strong Contract: Establishing a structured design process and clear contractual agreements instills confidence in both you and your clients. A well-defined scope of work and transparent fee structure set realistic expectations and mitigate misunderstandings.
  4. Give Yourself a Time-Buffer: When faced with financial decisions, allow yourself time to evaluate and respond thoughtfully. Avoid impulsive reactions by proposing a timeframe for your response, enabling you to approach the situation with clarity and assertiveness.
  5. Empower Yourself With The Facts: Take proactive steps to understand the financial health of your business. Educate yourself on basic business operations, track your performance metrics, and invest in courses to enhance your financial acumen.
  6. Do The Work To Improve Your Mindset: Prioritize personal and professional development to cultivate a positive Money Mindset. Collaborate with financial coaches and engage in transformative workshops to adopt healthier financial habits and strategies.

Transform your approach to money and unlock new levels of success in your design career with The Design Coach's expert guidance. Start your journey to financial empowerment today.