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

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.

How To Start An Interior Design Business
How To Start An Interior Design Business

Key Takeaways

  • 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.
  • Before starting your business, research your target audience, and competition, and create a financial plan. Understand your market to tailor your services effectively.
  • 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.
  • Define your brand positioning, value, message, and style to communicate your unique value to potential clients.
  • Regardless of your experience level, aim to provide excellent service and experiences to your clients to build a positive reputation.

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.

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

Managing & Growing Your Interior Design 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.

Managing Your Finances

Managing your finances is crucial to the success of your interior design business. You need to keep track of your income and expenses and create a budget to ensure that you are not overspending. It’s important to set aside money for taxes, insurance, and other expenses that may arise.

Consider hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to help you manage your finances and keep your business on track.

Again – remember we talked about doing the right things at the right time? Getting into the weeds of accounting and legal is not what you need to do at the beginning of your business, but when you grow, it’s that time.

Building Connections

Building connections is essential for growing your interior design business. Attend networking events, join professional organizations, and connect with other interior designers in your area. You can also reach out to local businesses and offer your services for their office or storefront design.

Building relationships with suppliers and contractors can also help you get better deals and discounts on materials and labor.

Expanding Your Business

Expanding your business is important for long-term success. Consider offering additional services, such as virtual design consultations, and packaged services, or going into new markets such as commercial design. You can also expand your business by hiring additional staff or partnering with other interior designers.

Keep an eye on industry trends and adapt your services to meet the changing needs of your customers.

Growing Your Brand

Growing your brand is key to standing out in a competitive market. Develop a strong brand identity, including a logo and website, that reflects your creativity and skills as an interior designer.

Use social media to showcase your work and connect with potential customers. Encourage satisfied customers to leave testimonials and referrals to help grow your business and reputation.

FAQ – How To Launch An Interior Design Company

Start an Interior Design Business

How Do I Start an Interior Design Business?

To start an interior design business, begin by assessing your design skills and experience. Develop a strong business plan that outlines your services, target market, pricing structure, and marketing strategies. Ensure you have the necessary qualifications, which may include a degree in interior design and certifications. Register your business, obtain any required licenses, and invest in insurance to protect your enterprise.

Start an Interior Design Business

What Are the Key Components of a Successful Interior Design Business Plan?

A successful interior design business plan should include an executive summary, a company description, market analysis, organizational structure, a detailed description of services, marketing and sales strategies, funding requests (if applicable), and financial projections. It should clearly define your niche, target demographic, competitive advantages, and how you plan to grow and sustain your business.

Start an Interior Design Business

How Much Capital Do I Need to Launch My Interior Design Business?

The required capital can vary significantly depending on the scale and scope of your business. Basic expenses may include licensing fees, software, a website, marketing, and office space if not working from home. Some designers start with minimal investment, especially if they already have a computer and design software. However, it’s crucial to have financial reserves for unexpected expenses and slow initial client acquisition.

Start an Interior Design Business

How Do I Attract Clients to My Interior Design Business?

Attracting clients involves effective marketing and networking. Create a strong online presence with a professional website and active social media profiles showcasing your work. Engage in networking by attending industry events, joining professional organizations, and connecting with related businesses like real estate agents or contractors. Referrals from satisfied customers can also be a powerful tool to attract new business.

Start an Interior Design Business

Do I Need Special Certifications or Licenses to Start an Interior Design Business?

Requirements vary by location, but many regions require interior designers to have specific certifications or licenses, especially if they plan to work on commercial projects. Even in areas where it is not required, certification from a recognized body, such as the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) in the United States, can enhance your credibility and attract more clients.

Start an Interior Design Business

How Should I Price My Interior Design Services?

Pricing can be based on several models: hourly rates, fixed fees per project, cost-plus (marking up furnishings and materials), or a retainer model. Research local market rates to ensure competitiveness while also covering your expenses and providing for profit. Be transparent with clients about your pricing structure and the value you provide.

Start an Interior Design Business

What Are Some Common Challenges in Running an Interior Design Business?

Common challenges include client acquisition, maintaining a steady pipeline of projects, managing client expectations, and balancing creative work with administrative tasks. Economic fluctuations can also impact clients’ willingness to invest in design services. To mitigate these challenges, maintain strong client communication, offer exceptional service, and stay adaptable to market changes.

How To Start An Interior Design Business
How To Start An Interior Design Business

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