How To Start An Interior Design Business – PART 1: The Simple First Steps (And Things You Don’t Need)

How to start an interior design business

Are you looking to start an interior design business? Great, you’re in for an amazing journey! In this article, we discover the most efficient way to launch your interior design business and get it off the ground fast.

Key Takeaways

  • Belief in Yourself: Believing that you can do it is crucial for launching an interior design business. Without self-belief, it’s challenging to grow a successful business.
  • Market Research and Planning: Before starting your business, research your target audience, and competition, and create a financial plan. Understand your market to tailor your services effectively.
  • Prioritize Client Acquisition: Focus on getting your first few clients rather than spending excessive time and money on non-essential activities like setting up an office or complex business structures.
  • Build Your Brand: Define your brand positioning, value, message, and style to communicate your unique value to potential clients.
  • Deliver Outstanding Service: Regardless of your experience level, aim to provide excellent service and experiences to your clients to build a positive reputation.
How To Start An Interior Design Business
How To Start An Interior Design Business

Start An Interior Design Business

Starting and growing a business requires a lot, and it’s not for everyone. Many think that just because they have been a successful employee, such as a designer, for a long time, they can run their own design business.

To be clear: everyone CAN start and grow a business. But, it’s not the same as working for someone. Read more about the differences in work tasks if you are a designer working for a firm vs. a designer running your own firm.

Beliefs – what you need to believe is true to start an interior design business

As a business strategist and growth consultant for business owners, I see a lot of errors happening due to mindset and beliefs. That’s why I decided to add a coaching element to my services when I first got started, and I still do quite a lot of coaching alongside my consulting and implementation of growth systems.

So, what do you need to believe is true?

  • That you can do it. That’s the first belief that you need to have. Without it, you can’t grow a business. Without having the inner belief, other people’s beliefs and support don’t matter. You need to believe you can do it.
  • That there are clients for you. For this to be true, you need to believe that you can deliver value, what you have is valuable to other people, but you also need evidence. This means that you investigate your market and find out how many people could potentially need your service. If the number is very low, you need to figure out how to find more potential clients, and what that means to your interior design business model.
  • That you deserve to charge money for your services. I have no explanations for this other than this: if it’s a business, you need to get paid.

Launching An Interior Design Business – just like any business – Requires A Solid Plan

The first step to launching your interior design business is to start with a solid plan. This plan should include defining your business goals and motivation, as well as outlining your services and process.

I’m going to start with the obvious administrative and legal stuff, and then dive into the fun stuff!

Research And Planning

Before you launch your business, it’s important to do your research and plan accordingly. This includes:

  • Identify your target audience and competition
  • Determine what services you will offer
  • Create a financial plan and budget (This is super difficult when you don’t know how your business will work, so I’d suggest you prepare your business to take more time and money than you initially thought.)
  • Obtain any necessary business licenses and permits
  • Choose a business entity and set up your legal structure

Okay, let’s dive into the fun stuff!

The activities you Want to prioritize When Launching Your Design Business

Most newbie business owners focus on the wrong activities. They might, for example, spend all their time designing a great website, when they don’t even have their first clients. Now, as a marketing pro, I do believe a website is critical for your success, but you can make a simple website very easily, and once you start to grow, then invest more time and money to develop the website experience.

“Do I need an office For My Interior Design Business?”

Most likely not. An office doesn’t make you more experienced, it’s just costly. You can have an office in your car 🙂 take it to meet your clients at their homes, and design a cozy corner in your own home where you can store your materials and focus on doing the work.

What’s quite interesting in the post-Covid era, is that many seasoned design professionals, just like many other professionals, skip having offices altogether. They meet clients at job sites for planning, or restaurants for lunch and host many design meetings through online meeting tools such as Zoom. That’s pretty normal in today’s business environment.

If you have a home with a representable space where you can welcome your clients, by all means, use it. Then again, even if you don’t, renting an office is not something you should consider doing the very minute you launch your business.

Another thing many newbie business owners focus on is all things business structure, how to pay taxes, and how to do accounting.

Again – hugely important things when running a business, but if you have no clients, there are (often, depending for sure on your country) no taxes to report or pay.

So, don’t waste your time and energy on things that don’t matter just yet.

Another interesting thing I’ve seen a lot lately – thanks to us who educate business owners and publish regular content – people think that they need to create their processes and systems from day 1.

You can’t, nor should you even try.

When to start defining your Interior Design processes and systems?

Once you have experience. And by experience I mean you have had customer cases, you have learned from them, you know what works and what doesn’t, and then you can start systemizing your business.

If you start systemizing your business too early, you might be building the wrong systems, which is also a huge time and energy suck.

Of course, if you already know how you want your business to operate, particularly if you come from the design industry, then it’s quite simple for you to model your business based on your experience.

But, if you’re new to the industry (hello, and welcome!), then you need to start with an open mind and flexibility, and then systemize when you find out what works and what doesn’t!

Taking a course helps too. We offer many beginner-level courses to design entrepreneurs – check out the boutique.

But, what are the activities then? Here’s a simple list of the activities you should prioritize.

Define Your Ideal Client

An important step in defining your interior design services is identifying your ideal client. Who do you want to work with? What are their needs and preferences?

By understanding your target audience, you can tailor your services to meet their specific needs and preferences. This will help you attract the right clients and build long-term relationships that lead to referrals and repeat business.

But, when you just get started, it’s far more important to get the first clients – literally any clients – through the doors, and once you start growing, you will need to get back to defining your dream clients!

Decide your brand positioning, value, Message, and style

This will most likely change too, but you need to be able to communicate the value you bring to your clients, and how your business is different.

  • Positioning: who you are to your clients – what makes you different?
  • Value: what value do you bring to your customer – why would they need to hire you in the first place?
  • Message: how do you communicate your value?
  • Style: identify the style that you want your business to be known for

Learn how to design (if you are new to the industry)

If you already work as a designer, then you most likely know how to design. Then focus on building the portfolio of your most outstanding work.

If you don’t have previous experience, taking a course in design is a great first step. Here are some of the best interior design courses and education you can take.

Get one job done & photoshoot it

The easiest is to redecorate your own house or just a few rooms. Do you need professional photography? It depends on your photo skills, but if you can take pictures that look fresh and representative, then skip it. If you can’t, then get a photographer to take a few pictures you can use in your marketing.

Another great way is to create moldboards and add them to your website to showcase your aesthetics.

Get your first 3 clients

Why focus on 3? Because if you only mentally focus on getting one client, you will automatically stop focusing on client acquisition once you have signed your first client. So, the trick is to always focus on the next 3 clients.

This will keep you putting effort into marketing and sales even when you are busy with your current projects.

Deliver an excellent experience to your clients

Even if you’re a beginner, you can figure out the activities you can do to make the complete experience as fantastic as possible.

Download our 7-step system for creating your signature client experience. While it’s designed for mature brands and businesses, you can get a lot of great tips for designing your signature client experience.

Launch a blog

I think launching a blog is still the best thing you can do! It’s not the fastest way, for that, you can take the steps below. But to build a long-term growth system, a blog is a must.

Think about this: Your marketing strategy always needs to have a set of short-term activities and a set of long-term activities. Establishing partnerships is a fast way to get clients, while blogging takes time, but is 100% worth the effort!

How to get your first 3 Interior Design clients

The best and most efficient way is to start talking about your new business with your friends and family members. If you have kids, then school gatherings can be a great place to get the word out. The most important thing to do at this stage is to share what you do and ask people to keep you in mind when they talk to their friends.

Create a partnership with a local business. Your local area most likely already has companies that offer services and products to your ideal client base. This, of course, requires you to know who you actually want to target, but as said earlier, you need to test and try different types of clients and projects before you know how to narrow down your interior design services.

Create a simple package – often just a consultation with a design plan – that you can sell to many people. This is a great offer to start with, you will get lots of bookings and you can start to have relevant conversations. Set a fixed price and timeframe, and allow people to book it directly on your website.

Also, you might want to activate one social media channel where you share your ideas, skills, and inspiration.

Simple steps to getting your first interior design clients

  1. Share your new business with anyone you know
  2. Create partnerships with local businesses
  3. Create a simple package that is easy to sell and buy
  4. Activate one social media

What do you need to do once you are ready to grow your business?

As soon as you have figured out the first steps, and you know you want to grow this business, you should start setting up the necessary systems and processes to grow and scale your business.

We’re talking about having an online presence, sophisticated marketing systems, and tools and processes that make your business grow and scale.

You can continue to PART 2 to learn about the next steps – how to take your new interior design business to the next heights!