I’m in the process of creating a digital course for interior designers about the BUSINESS of running an interior design business. They don’t teach these details in design school, so I’m hopeful it will be of use to many creatives who are incredibly talented designers, but have no idea how to build a business that is fun to run.
(And here is a shameless plug for that program: if you want to be the first to know when my course is live again, you can get on the waiting list HERE.)
But, back to the point. This content creation actually got me to thinking waaaaay back to when I started my business. There are a lot of things I wish I would have known when I started because I am sure I would have saved a LOT of time and money on useless items or endeavors. So – if you’re thinking about starting an interior design business, here are a few tips that might just save you some gray hair and sleepless nights:
1. You will be working all.the.time when you’re launching a business.
I thought for sure I would be able to set my own schedule and make a bucket of money with less work than I was putting in at my regular 9-5 corporate job. Wrong. Plan on your laptop being your best friend for the first few years. And when you’re not putting in screen-time, you’re thinking about the business.
2. You MUST have a website, but you don’t have to have a portfolio.
Whaaaat? Yes. I thought I had to have a portfolio before I launched the biz. Not true. But you DO have to be building one. Get your domain and website up and running, so people can find you. A legit website also adds immeasurable credibility. Once you have this, you can start uploading pretty little vignettes into your portfolio section. You can even use your own home for photos. Offer to help friends and family with their projects and get photos of those before and after images. But whatever you do, do NOT use stock photos…this is misleading to your potential client and misrepresenting your experience even if you “can” create the same look.
3. You must have an interior design degree to make any money.
I thought not having an interior design degree would be a huge obstacle in my business and pricing my services. But only ONCE in the 10+ years I’ve been in business has anybody even ASKED. They may have inquired “how long” I have been doing this, to which I reply “forever…I just decided to start charging for it”. Which is true.
4. Business cards don’t need to be fancy.
You don’t need to spend hours working with a graphic designer to come up with a logo and a full branding package. Just get some business cards with your contact information, including that website I mentioned above, and don’t opt for the cheapest card stock. Vistaprint.com is an inexpensive solution with good quality and great customer service – I STILL use them for our business cards. And once you have those cards, hand them out like crazy to spread the word that you’re “officially in business”. (And no, I don’t get any renumeration by including their link here.)
5. Believe in yourself.
YOU know the drive and the desire that lives in your heart. Believe in yourself and what you’re capable of. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Yes, it’s gonna be hard, but anything worthwhile is going to take some effort. Make forward momentum, no matter how small, each day.
Bonus: Do NOT compare yourself.
In this day and age of social media and highly curated feeds, everything you see online is not always real. This may be your Chapter 1 and you’re comparing yourself to somebody else’s Chapter 12…that isn’t fair to you. And NOBODY has it all figured out. Don’t believe them if they say they do. I promise you that once you think you have it figure out, it changes. Having an interior design business is like any relationship, it’s always evolving.
And if you enjoyed these tips, you might enjoy these myths of owning your own interior design business that I wrote about last year.
Originally published 5 Things To Know When Starting an Interior Design Business in 2019 by ML Interiors Group.