I am working on a wedding cake and the bride wants IMB and then she wants a pattern on the sides and beaded border for each layer. The frosting is so soft that I can't work with it very well and if I put it in the fridg to firm it up it doesn't seem to work as well either. Unlike regular buttercream you can smooth it out oce it sets for a short time. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Not sure what complexity you mean by a "pattern on the sides", but things like dots/scrollwork are fine to do in IMBC. (See my pics below, all IMBC). The best advice I can offer is to pipe on cold cakes. Just ice your cake with IMBC smoothly, then leave it overnight or at least a few hours in your fridge. It's easy to pipe onto cold tiers and it's MUCH more forgiving to remove a line or dot if you make a mistake than it would be from a room-temp iced cake.
It's not really possible to pipe with cold IMBC icing. Another trick is to fill a few piping bags and rotate between them. You'll notice that your warm hands make the icing thinner and softer, so do a few minutes with each bag to avoid it getting liquidy from the excessive heat of your hands.
If she wants something super-intricate....I'd suggest offering her fondant instead, or charging her a per-hour fee for lots and lots of time spent hand-piping something. That's only fair.
If she only wants an IMBC-iced cake, couldn't you just use a template or something to imprint the pattern on the sides first, then just trace it in buttercream?