The interior design industry is a competitive field, especially more so in recent years, where an abundance of renovation shows have inspired people with their own home or commercial design project ideas to try their hand at it. It takes a few years to become certified as an interior designer, and requires plenty of experience in order to become a respected name in the business. While some disagree that a degree is necessary, some state laws require you to obtain a certification or license that allows you to officially designate yourself an interior designer, rather than an interior decorator.
How to Start an Interior Design Business
If you have the talent and the instincts to become a successful interior designer, you may consider starting your own interior design business. However, it takes much more than a keen eye for decor to run an interior design firm.
- Determine your brand identity. Some interior designers only do kitchens and baths, while others can take on an entire house. Have a clear vision for the work you intend to do, focus your time and resources towards building that for your own business, and find the ideal clients for your niche. If you live in a densely populated city full of rentals or commercial businesses, interior designing for those mediums might be more lucrative than trying to remodel entire homes. Refine your marketing strategy to reach your target demographic to maximize exposure.
- Pick a business name. Your design business needs a simple name (and/or logo) that people will think of when they think of interior design. Come up with a memorable name to give others an immediate idea of what you specialize in, like if your business focuses mainly in eco-friendly design or vintage decor, try to come up with a name that can be easily promoted to reflect that to potential clients. Many interior designers also use their own names (like ‘Kelly Wearstler Interior Design’) to help turn themselves into a brand.
- Build a website. A clean website with artful and impressive photography of your design work is helpful for bringing attention to your styling capabilities. At first, this may only be design projects around your own home, or expertly crafted moodboards. However, the more projects you accomplish, the more experiences you can add. If you can, publish testimonials from free design work you’ve done to help others find and recommend you as a designer. The more people directed to your services, the faster your business can get off the ground. Make it clear what you’re offering to people, and all the other services you provide. Do you excel in rustic style? Are you a pro at minimalism? Your website can help you solidify your brand, which can help you get more clients who are looking for exactly what you can provide.
- Promote yourself. When you’re first starting out, you’ll likely have to take on smaller projects (or even a few free ones) from new clients in order to start building a trusted reputation. Saying ‘yes’ to more projects in the beginning (as long as you can handle them all) will help you build a potential client base, or at least a pool of people who can reference your interior design services to others. This, along with social media, can help promote your new business and get the word out to others about who you are and what you do. The more of a household name you become, the better.
- Figure out your rate. Know what you’re going to charge for your services. Are you providing tiered design packages? Are you charging by the hour? Do you use high quality materials, or materials on a budget? In order to get an accurate view of how much your design fees should be, you first have to know how long it takes you to complete a particular project, along with the general overhead of the project. This will help you fairly price out what it will cost to complete a design plan with labor and materials included, so you don’t end up losing money and creating an unsustainable business.
- Network. Build relationships with suppliers, contractors, and appliance distributors to create familiarity with your business. Attend trade shows and make personal contact with reputable designers in your industry and build your business through word of mouth. Hand out business cards with your contact information on them to those you network with, and gather as much information and advice as you can from successful interior designers.
Learn interior design from award-winning designer Kelly Wearstler. Make any space feel larger, cultivate your own distinct style, and create spaces that tell a story with the MasterClass Annual Membership.