How to Become an Interior Designer
Everything you need to know about becoming an interior designer
Research & Refine your Business Idea
If you have the right education and some experience, starting your own interior design business will make a lot of sense. You will have freedom, flexibility and a chance to take the concept in any direction you fancy.
The term interior design is quite generic but there are multiple sub-sectors you can specialise in.
Determine what your knowledge will enable you to do best.
Furniture refurnishing, retail design, office interior design, home furnishing, interior architecture – these are just a few of the possible niche areas to pursue. Apart from focusing on what you like doing, it’s also a good idea to learn about the specific audience and the types of clients in each niche.
Other than doing that, you don’t have many other aspects of setting up the business to handle. An interior designer can begin working from home and eventually grow. While you’re establishing your reputation, it may be a good idea to form partnerships with suppliers and sub-contractors who will give your customers access to a wide range of solutions.
Once all of this is handled, you’re free to begin focusing on putting together an attractive portfolio and marketing your business.
Creating your Business Website
A business website is an absolute essential for an interior designer.
Statistics suggest that 97 per cent of customers look for information online before buying products or services locally. This means that if your business isn’t represented properly online, it’s almost as if it weren’t in existence.
A good corporate website will present both your portfolio and the range of services you’re capable of offering. In addition, a corporate website is the stepping stone upon which you will build your digital marketing campaigns.
There are several reasons why you need to work on a quality, modern and clean interior designer website. Here are a few of the primary essentials:
- A website enables you to establish your expertise and build your niche reputation
- Your online portfolio will give potential clients a chance to acquaint themselves with your work
- You’ll make it easier for customers to book an appointment or make an inquiry
- You can use your website content for search engine optimisation purposes
- You can use your website content to set up social media marketing and other online promotional campaigns
Even if you’re a newcomer to the field, a well-made website will help you set yourself apart from the competition.
Setting up a website isn’t as hard as it may sound, in-fact, many hosting providers have tailored their service around small businesses who may not be tech savvy. We suggest going with BlueHost to host your website, they’re service is simple and easy to use/setup and they’re currently offering 60% off hosting, including free domain registration.
Additionally, creating a blog on your website is also a great way to attract organic traffic and expand your business. Checkout our full guide on the best and easiest way to setup a WordPress blog here.
Get Ideas for your interior designer business name!
Marketing Your Business
Interior designers can market their skills and competences in a whole host of creative ways.
Trying to do marketing on a budget? In that case, you should definitely look forward to establishing your online presence.
Internet-based channels are highly cost-efficient and they enable you to drive targeted traffic to your content. Targeted traffic is much more limited than a general audience but it consists of people who are already interested in the services you have to offer. As a result, the conversion rate will be much higher.
Social media marketing, SEO, pay per click (PPC) campaigns, influencer marketing and content-based campaigns can all deliver excellent results. E-mail marketing is considered somewhat of an older approach but it can still work exceptionally well. For the purpose, you will have to segment your audiences and send tailored newsletters to each group.
Apart from doing online promotion, you can rely on a few additional strategies to get your name out there:
- Announce free assessments or consultations to attract potential customers
- Participate in industry events and fairs – an excellent networking opportunity
- Partner up with other professionals (contractors, landscape designers, etc.) who will recommend your services to their clients
- Distribute flyers and brochures (old-school marketing can often be a good choice for local promotion)
Setting Goals and KPI’s
Key performance indicators (KPIs) provide important information about how your business is evolving. Are you growing at the rate you feel comfortable with? Do you have enough customers and sufficient revenue? To answer these questions, you will have to start tracking the right KPIs.
Interior designers can rely on a few niche KPIs that will provide relevant information about the health of their company:
- Estimated vs. actual project time: this is a measure of efficiency. Are your projections accurate? If the actual project time is a lot longer than the estimated, you’re reducing your chance of scoring new projects and increasing the range of customers you work with.
- Client satisfaction: a survey can be used to determine whether the customers are satisfied with the service they’re receiving. Tracking the complaint ratio is also a good indicator of quality and whether your customers are happy with the delivery.
- Number of new contracts over a given period of time: if you have set a certain goal for the future growth of the business, this KPI will be vitally important to track.
- Profit to earnings ratio: profit is the part of the earnings that remains after all expenses have been covered. The profit to earnings ratio will let you know whether your company is currently financially stable.
Plan your Finances
Doing financial planning is as important as setting the right growth goals for your business. You need to have realistic expectations and a good understanding of your budgetary needs in order to discover an adequate funding source.
The startup costs for an interior design business can be broken down in the following way:
- Office and utilities (even if you work from home, you will have to spend a certain amount on getting the business established)
- Legal expenses
- Taxes, certificates and license issuing
- Advertising and PR costs
- Transportation and vehicle-related expenses
- Salaries and wages
As you can see, the list can be quite long, depending on the size of the business and the scope of services you plan to offer.
Using your savings and assistance from loved ones is the best approach. A bank loan can be difficult to get and you will also have to take the interest rate in consideration.
Crowdfunding, peer to peer lending and finding an angel investor could also help you address the financial aspects of setting up your interior designer business. In these cases, however, you will need to start out with a strong concept and a proposal that will lure the respective party into funding your project.
Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Interior designers are creative individuals. To be successful in the cutthroat business world, however, they’ll need to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset is all about being strategic. You need a clear vision and an understanding of every single step you’ll have to take to get there.
Some people are born with entrepreneurial skills but others can learn how to develop a successful and sustainable business concept. Luckily, there are dozens of books, courses and podcasts focusing on the nurturing of entrepreneurial skills.
Three excellent business books that focus specifically on the interior design niche include The Interior Design Productivity Toolbox by Phyllis Harbinger, Branding + Interior Design: Visibility and Business Strategy for Interior Designers and How to Start a Home-Based Interior Design Business from the home-based business series.
Other things to consider when starting your
To start an interior design business, you will need a license and professional insurance.
The requirements will vary from one country to another. Checking with the respective authority to make sure you have the right set of documents is vitally important. You can also get some help from a corporate attorney to establish your activities in the best possible way.
You will need to sign a legally-binding contract each time you begin working with a new client. These contracts should be customised to address the specifics of your work process and the interactions with customers.
Accounting & Bookkeeping:
Keeping track of finances will give you a good idea about where your business is headed. In addition, accurate bookkeeping is needed to ensure regulatory compliance.
Hire an accountant to manage the process for you. Outsourcing bookkeeping to a professional will give you more time to focus on the strategic aspects of running your business. Hiring an accountant doesn’t have to be expensive. There are tailored packages for small businesses and you can also opt for the services of a freelance accountant.
You will still need accounting software to create invoices, handle corporate expenses, inventory and payroll. Xero is a good choice because it offers a lot of flexibility and a wide range of features
As an interior designer, you will typically work on your own.
Work on developing a network of sub-contractors and suppliers you can partner up with on specific aspects of project execution.
You will also have to handle marketing, popularity establishment and customer service. As your business grows, you can either outsource these processes or hire a couple of company employees to handle specific aspects of the work process.