My ‘start’ in interior design was not glamorous – think dress suits by day and design classes by night rather than Instagrammable moments of luxe wallpaper samples and site visits. Actually, there weren’t any Instagrammable moments, because the platform didn’t yet exist! Instead, I launched my career while working in Corporate America, by focusing on building a strong foundation for my business before striking out on my own.
Lay the Foundation
A strong foundation is integral to building anything – and starting a career in interior design is no different. Focus on your foundation first. Take business and design classes, read blogs, and seek out interior designers in your area for informational interviews. Interior design is more than making a space look great – it requires being comfortable with numbers, sales and marketing. So, don’t hesitate to keep your day job or work for a more established interior designer to learn the industry under the guidance of someone with more experience. However, if you are ready to strike out on your own – part-time or full-time – make sure give yourself the benefit of a strong legal, financial and marketing foundation. Set up an LLC, decide on an invoicing system that works for you, invest in branding, print business cards and scoop up all the domain and social handles.
Build a Portfolio
Building your design portfolio is one of the trickier, but most important parts of starting and growing your interior design career. Initially, I offered design services at no cost for family and friends so I could build my portfolio. And whether it was my own space or a friend’s, I always styled and photographed the end result to display on my website and social media, as well as pitch to local media outlets.
Taking the Next Step
Understanding when you can charge for your design services is a personal decision. For me, it made sense to start charging for my time when people outside of my immediate network inquired about my services. Once you set your rates, continue to expand your network and get your work in front of new eyes. But, don’t forget to continue making specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time for yourself. Investing in a business coach who will help you set and meet these goals is also helpful.
Nurture Your Creativity
In the midst of running a business, it’s easy to lose touch with the creativity that inspired you to pursue a career in interior design. Create habits that allow you to channel your creativity towards your projects, but also nurture your creative spirit.
It’s taken me years to how and when I’m most creative and productive, but now I know that it’s in the morning when I’m in a quiet, inspiring setting. To make even the most mundane settings inspiring, I surround myself with flowers, design books and lots of coffee.
And to nurture the creative spirit that drives my design, I travel. Whether it’s to a museum in town or a continent away, exploring a new space always leaves me refreshed.
Everyone’s start in the industry is different, and there will be challenges to launching your career in interior design, but if you lay a strong foundation, build your portfolio and nurture your creativity, you’ll be off to a great one! Good luck!