Starting your own interior design business

When studying design, it’s easy to get lost in the detail of your projects and forget about the business side of the industry. If you have any aspiration of moving beyond interior design as a hobby, then I recommend starting to think carefully about this. Remember, an interior design business with no income cannot succeed. 

How many times have you looked at a design and thought, “I could do that!” or even, “I could do better than that!” And yet someone else was able to secure the work. While it might be difficult to consider when you are in the middle of your studies, your success as a designer is directly related to your success as a business person.


Building your business skills

Starting your own business involves risk. You have to experiment with methods to find and approach clients, analyze their projects, present a proposal to them and secure their work. I recommend drawing up a list of ways that you can attack each of these phases and analysing their strengths and weaknesses. Of course, if you have an income from outside your business, you can take greater risks in your approach than if you don’t have any extra funding. 


What type of work should you accept?

A key consideration is the type of work you should accept. If you work on projects that are not right for you or your business, you may end up getting less from them than you expected.

When you are starting out, you might want as many clients as possible to build your portfolio and experience, but even if you are desperate for business, there can be good reasons to walk away from a project. For example, if you think a client will be difficult, if you don’t think your skills or style will be best used by the project or if you think the work is not suitable for your overall business plan, it might be a good idea to pass on the work.

The important thing is to always consider these aspects and not blindly accept anything that comes to you. Difficult when starting out on your business journey, of course, but something that will become more important as you progress.


Specialising in your area

At some stage, you will have to decide what area of business to specialise in. It’s easy to say, “Oh, but I can design anything!” And you probably can. However, there will be an area where you are more skilled, meaning that you will be more efficient and find the work more satisfying. By specialising, you can more closely tailor your supplier list and better meet the demands of your projects. If you move outside of the field you are used to, it will take longer to find products and materials and you can also find yourself scrambling for knowledge.

Clients are also more comfortable with someone who can show expertise and has a track record of success in a specific area. While they may like you and your portfolio, they are really looking for someone who has creative input for their project. Being able to show a diversity of solutions to a similar problem will help build their confidence in you.


Plan for your future success

While there will certainly be challenging times, making a solid plan and keeping worry to a minimum will lay the foundation for your success. Recognize that your design skills are going to make you a living. Examine these skills carefully. Consider your cash flow. Look at where you live and what potential clients are around you. Think about your dream job and balance that with what you can practically achieve. Don’t limit your dreams, just make sure that you have a viable path that leads you to them.

We would love to hear about any of your tips or insights on starting your own interior design business.

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Written by: Twyla Howse

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