How to start an interior design business – 6 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.

We cover

  • what you need to believe in to be able to launch your design firm
  • what activities you need to prioritize
  • how to get your first 3 clients (and why that matters)
  • what not to spend your time and money on
  • and what you need to do to grow your revenue and business

Beliefs – what you need to believe is true to get started

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.

The things you need to believe are 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 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.

Research And Planning

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

  • Conducting market research to identify your target audience and competition
  • Determining your niche and what services you will offer
  • Creating a financial plan and budget
  • Obtaining any necessary business licenses and permits
  • Choosing a business entity and setting up your legal structure

Business Entity And Finances

When starting a business, it’s important to choose the right entity and set up your finances properly. This includes:

  • Deciding on a business structure, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation
  • Opening a business bank account and obtaining any necessary financing or funding
  • Creating 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 it to take more time and money than you initially thought.
  • Tracking your expenses and income, and keeping accurate records

The activities you Want to prioritize

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?”

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 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 your 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.

Defining 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 deifning 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. And 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.

How to get your first 3 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 niche 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.

Start an Interior Design business & get your first clients fast
The Designeur Courses – Start an Interior Design business & get your first clients fast

In this course, I will show you exactly how to do that, and how to create a simple website for your business.

This is not about design – this is about getting your first clients fast.

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!