Do you think owning your own interior design business is full of glamour, rich clients, private jets and martinis?
When I first started my interior design business, I believed I would be working flexible hours, wearing fancy outfits and making a bucket of money.
Sure, there are days that I get dressed up for a meeting, and my hours are flexible. But as a Creative, you’re working even when you’re home making dinner (because a certain vegetable color combination just inspired you). And while I still haven’t had a martini on a private jet, I am optimistic that’s in my future.
Starting an interior design or decorating business can be full of mystery. And in my experience, there are 4 major myths of owning your own interior design business:
Myth #1 : It’s a glamorous job.
There is a belief that Interior Designers and Decorators sit around in stylish design studios, in their fancy clothes, scrolling through Instagram and flipping through interior decorating magazines with a bottle of sparkling water in hand. I’m here to tell you first hand that THAT image is false.
To begin with, if I am sitting, it is at my desk in front of my computer – and maybe the discarded lunch dish because I ate at my desk. There are endless emails and phone calls to follow up with vendors, new client inquiries to schedule, furniture dimensions to confirm and drop into a space plan, and budgets to work and re-work.
Let’s not overlook that the role of an interior designer / decorator involves frequent site visits. And there is nothing glamorous about work boots, y’all.
Nor is there anything pretty about a furniture installation. HGTV employs a team of hair & makeup professionals to fool the audience. Most of the time, my hair is in a ponytail and comfy shoes are on my feet. I can’t forget the time I was in Austin for an installation and had SIX buggies of accessories two of us were trying to navigate through Home Goods parking lot. This was in the middle of a Texas summer – and was anything BUT glamorous.
Myth #2: There is not enough profitable work out there.
You don’t know what is in your client’s wallet. We all want to feel like we got an overall good value – but you’re also selling an EXPERIENCE. You can buy a Mercedes or a Kia, take a road trip and arrive at your destination – but which one are you going to enjoy more? Mercedes has been in business for almost 100 years, so luxury is NOT going out of style.
You just have to find (or make) your “lane” that is uniquely you and that your clients will be attracted to and will pay good money for. (Well, then you also have deliver a kick-ass design.)
Making a strong profit doesn’t happen as soon as your website goes live. Trust me, I struggled the first five or so years of opening my business. But I’ve created and polished the system that has elevated our experience and I have been financially rewarded for it!
Myth #3: You need an interior design degree.
There IS a difference between interior designers and decorators. I’ve been in the industry long enough to tell you that some people get heated about this topic.
The biggest answer to the question also depends on what state you live in. There are laws, which are different in every state, where they may say that you need a degree to either call yourself an interior designer or work as one.
But the reality is do you know how many times I’ve been passed over for a job because I did not have a design degree? ONCE. And that is since opening my doors in 2008. A decade. And that potential client was so high maintenance I was glad I didn’t get the job.
So. If you have a God given talent, don’t discredit yourself because you didn’t get the degree. You know who else is self taught? Nate Berkus. Jonathan Adler. Vicente Wolf. Kelly Wearstler. Martyn Lawrence Bullard. To name a few. So get over it if you don’t have a degree.
Myth #4: It’s all creative.
Yah. I had rose colored glasses on when I was dreaming up my interior design business. I was imagining the majority of my time would be spent designing dreamy spaces and selecting pretty fabrics. I thought my time would be spent hunting for that “perfect” piece of (you name it) to really make the room spectacular, or taking clients out to lunch to get to know them better and maybe get a referral or two. Trying to figure out if I wanted the paint for the room just one shade lighter, and watching to see how it looked in the different lighting of the day. And maaaaybe I’d have to spend a couple hours a week handling administrative details. But nothing too complicated.
I had it backwards.
In order to be successful, the majority of time is spent ON your business rather than IN your business. 80% of the time is spent on creating and perfecting business processes, procedures, and systems. Not to mention accounting. Well, I don’t perform accounting tasks – I outsource it – but I still have to follow up on the numbers to manage my interior design business appropriately. This work has to be done if you want this to be a JOB rather than a HOBBY. I often have to tell myself to put my big girl panties on and just get it done. No matter what “it” is – because I would much rather be picking out a stain color for the floors of a project or something “fun”.
Keep reading . . . because now that you know the 4 interior design business myths, I’ve created a free YEAR of newsletters to help you with your marketing efforts AND set aside the time to grow your business.
My wish for you is to gain some marketing momentum AND create some extra time so you can create the interior design business of your dreams. I spent almost hours and hours creating these templates so you don’t have to.
I’ve been designing and growing my interior design business for almost a decade and I’ve made MANY mistakes along the way. You don’t need to do the same! I am creating an online course that will walk you through the steps of how and what to do – including my proven processes & procedures, checklists, and all a TON of cheat sheets. Download the newsletters and you’ll automatically be on the list of the first to know when the course goes live. And no, I won’t spam you.
Now, go share this with your other interior design friends and decorating enthusiasts that might need to read this!
Originally published 4 Myths of Owning Your Own Interior Design Business in 2019 by ML Interiors Group.