I have a secret. A secret that I’ve tried to kept hidden for years, but… I can’t do it anymore! I need to admit it!
I… wanted to be a magazine advice columnist!
Nah, just kidding. But reading those reader dillemas can be a lot of fun. While columnists are answering specific questions sent in by their readers, the advice they give usually ends up being pretty universal. I’ve often thought about this when responding to personal messages from some of my clients. They want some advice, and I can’t help but think of how useful that advice could be to everyone I work with, as well as designers I’ve never met.
So, having deleted the name of the person who sent me the message, I guess it’s time for the very first installment of “Ask Deb!”
I recently read your blog about working with Houzz and how you don’t need to be a premium member to get the benefits. There was some great advice in there, but there is something that I wanted to get your take on.
My Houzz profile is currently pretty barebones. I’ve been hesitant to post any new work to it, as I recently discovered that they have been taking user-generated content and using it without the designer’s permission. For example, they have been tagging photos in products without telling the user who posted them, essentially advertising using someone else’s work. Often, they even tag the trade-only and custom items used in designers’ photos with lower quality retail items!
I’ve recently redecorated my own home and was planning to post some photos of it to Houzz, but because of this news, I’ve reconsidered. I’ve heard lots of people in the interior design industry say that posting a profile to Houzz is just selling out and that nothing ever comes from it. But, believe it or not, I just received a lead from my Houzz profile. So… I’m a bit conflicted.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this. It seems like there are a ton of advantages of using Houzz, but is it worth losing control of my content? What do you think?
All my best,
Between a Rock and a Houzz Place
Yeah, I’m not going to lie. This is a tough one.
For those reading who haven’t heard about this and want a full primer on the issue, Editor-at-Large covered it in this article.
As a designer, your work is so incredibly valuable to you. It’s not just your creation; it’s the custom deliverable you created exclusively for your paying clients, as well. This is why I can understand your frustration and hesitation about how Houzz might use your images for their own benefit. If someone took my writing and used it without my permission, I would be furious as well. And even worse, if they used my writing to advertise their own writing products as alternatives to my services, I’d be beside myself!
But there is another way to look at it. First and foremost, I always try to think about things from your client’s perspective. The average Houzz user (your homeowner potential clients) likely know nothing about the nastiness that’s been brewing between Houzz and designers. They are there for one reason only: to find a designer to hire. These users want three things from Houzz: to see designers in their area, to see their work, and to read their reviews. Not having a Houzz profile will keep your work away from these prospective clients.
Even worse, if these kinds of users stumble upon your website and are impressed by your work, they might wonder why you aren’t on Houzz. Are you not currently working/not taking new design jobs? Why are all of the other designers on Houzz, but not you? These questions can be deadly to an interior designer looking for new work.
For most designers, Houzz probably isn’t as much about getting leads as it is about being everywhere online. That kind of exposure legitimizes you to clients. If you’re missing a Twitter, Facebook, or Houzz page, that can set off some alarms you’d rather remain un-rung!
Everyone’s situation is different, but I wonder how much it ultimately would cost you in terms of Houzz ripping you off / tagging your pics with inferior products. Beyond the overall anger from designers for having their industry in some ways compromised – it seems to me that the real problems are when custom furnishings designs are ripped off. I think most of the designers who’ve been in this situation either have a product line or are trying to get one. In other words, they’re not just trying to get paying design work – they’re at a stage where they’re adding different revenue streams to their business model. Which is completely fine and legit, but is it what you’re trying to do right now? Or are you just trying to get found online consistently by great prospects who see you as an expert?
Something I’ve seen from smart and savvy designers who I respect is that they remain on Houzz, but don’t necessarily post their very latest work there. They readily post showhouse work but hold back on client projects for a few years (if they post them at all). I would guess that’s largely based on who the client is and if they would they care or not if products get tagged in images of their homes.
So for you, maybe posting your own new house would be a great way to get current work up there without having to worry about what your clients think. And just a touch more advice about how to manage the issue, you may want to change your service area in your Houzz profile to your new home state ASAP. Houzz supposedly hides product tags when a homeowner in your area is looking at your profile, so that might be a way to have your cake and eat it too!
All my best,
Well, that was fun! I hope it helped both you and my awesome client (love you, BARAAHP, ha!). What questions do you have about marketing, writing, or communicating about your interior design biz? Email me and I’ll answer them personally! If you’re ready to talk about getting some copywriting or content creation help, you can schedule a call with me today. Can’t wait to hear from you!
Kimberly Gerato says
There is another serious problem going on at Houzz that they have been aware of for years, yet have not made this information available to designers and decorators. The business profiles that we provide to Houzz for inclusion in their resource directory and used by legitimate consumers looking for assistance with their decorating desires are ALSO BEING USED BY SCAMMERS. These pathetic individuals pose as homeowners relocating to your area and who are wanting assistance with coordination of home furnishing deliveries, setting up their kitchens, furniture placement throughout the home, etc. They actually call or text you and request a bid for your services. They provide you with an email address as well. When they agree to your bid, they overnight a large check as a portion of down payment for your services. It also includes monies for you to pay delivery people and contractors for work to be performed. They ask you to deposit the check asap and then to let them know. Of course, what happens next is that they contact you to let you know that things are falling apart and they need their money back. So, unknowing victims, have deposited a fraudulent check, then write them a check out of A legitimate checking acct. And they are out that money. There are several versions of this scam, but this is the one they tried to pull with me. I was fortunate in that I did my due diligence and also felt there was something wrong when I started asking questions that they never provided the answers. I contacted Houzz and the CSR I spoke to said she was aware of something that was going on and was eager to get me to a representative in the Houzz Legal dept. They promptly gave me the phone number to the appropriate Fraud Division of the US govt. They also emailed me a copy of a form to fill out and mail to this same US agency. Go to the Houzz website and search for interior design scams. Read some of the comments from people who have fallen prey to these predators. Houzz does not necessarily have their Interior Designers/Decorators best interest in mind. Seems to me that they could have advised us about this Scam so that we could be more vigilant when screening potential clients. This deliberate decision to NOT make our industry aware of what these Scammers are capable of doing combined with the information shared in the original comment about using photos without the owners’ permission leads me to believe that Houzz needs to seriously review and modify their policies and procedures. I’m just saying,. . . I don’t think HOUZZ will be awarded any recognition for “Best Practices”any time soon.
Deb Mitchell says
Goodness gracious, Kim – what an awful experience! Bravo for having your antennae up and not falling for it. It’s unfortunate (if not entirely surprising) that scammers troll HOUZZ. They’re everywhere else online looking for victims so why not there?! I would hope HOUZZ blocks these folks once they’re known, but an even better method of prevention is smart designers like you not only foiling the bad guys but also warning other designers about their schemes. Bottom line is that all of us business owners need to watch our backs and part of that is making sure we have processes in place to help up weed out clients who aren’t legit no matter where they come to us from. Thanks for weighing in and letting everyone know about your experience, Kim. Be well!