The Epic Guide to Start An Interior Design Business

If you want to know the steps to start an interior design business the right way, I'm here to help you.

When I first started my interior design business back in 2009, I wanted to use the internet to help me grow. I was at home with my young child and didn't want to be away from the home. Yet, at the same time I didn't want to let my brain go to mush by watching too much Sesame Street.

I'm going in to all the steps in a minute, but before that let me address a couple things.

Figure out your business structure in the legal sense. It's up to you how you want to set this up and it's best to talk to an expert in that field.

Next, depending on where you are located - you may need a license to practice. Some states it just means you can't call yourself an "Interior Designer" and must designate yourself as an "Interior Decorator" or something else you fancy.

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Let's get on to the money making important deets, now.

Steps To Start An Interior Design Business

Step #1 To Start An Interior Design Business- Figure Out Who Your Dream Client Is

This beyond a shadow of a doubt is the most important thing you can do. You must know who this dream client is that you really want to work with and what they need you to do for them. Many designers make the mistake of thinking that they want to design for everyone.

Find a person like this and learn everything you can about them that fits this persona. Ask them all sorts of questions about why they would hire a designer, what problem they would need a designer to solve and what keeps them up at night.

If you're struggling to find this person in real life, invent them. Imagine all parts of their life. Start with the basic demographics and then go even deeper.

Step #2 To Start An Interior Design Business - Figure Out What Problem You Can Solve

When you who this dreamy client is that you want to work with, develop a solution to their problem. Every business is built upon having a solution to a problem.

Seek to be an expert in a very tiny area. People who want to work with an expert like you, don't want a generalist, they want a specialist. Be the master of a small area like...

  • Specialize in paint and color
  • Specialize in vintage
  • Specialize in kitchens
  • Specialize in  Hollywood Glam
  • Specialize in home offices for entrepreneurs

The specialization list could go on and on but take it a step further, if you can. The point of this is because you know who you want to work with, you know very well what problem you can solve for them with your specialized solution.

Beyond knowing how to solve the problem, there is how you intend to do the design work - which comes in the next step - but let me outline a few ways you can go.

Design Locally - You meet a client at their home, assess the project, quote the job, design, deliver and install.

Design Online - You speak with the client via phone or Skype, assess the project, quote the job, design and deliver the finished design.

And these aren't the only two options. There are bunches of ways you can work so don't get tied up in just those two options.

Step #3 To Start An Interior Design Business - Outline The Process + Package It Up

Before you can craft the perfect solution that your client will pay for, you need to go through the design process - from start to finish.

What information do you collect from them at the beginning of the project, at what point do they get involved, what are the deliverables? List all the steps to complete the project and how the client fits into the process. This helps to build trust with the clients because you've thought of everything.

When you've got your process nailed, package that service up. You'll know how much time the tasks take to deliver a completed project and this will help you when you determine your fee for the design.

Step #4 To Start An Interior Design Business - Price It

Before you pick some random price out of the air, please think about your overhead and how much you actually want to make. When I first started I just picked some random number and had no income goals set up at all. I know I left a ton of money on the table.

So with knowing your overhead and your income goals - put in how many hours you actually have available to work. You can't work non-stop so when you figure this out this should give you a great starting place. Then add in a buffer of 30% or more to that figure.

And I will say that flat fees (instead of hourly fees) are preferred in the client's eyes. They like knowing how much the whole shebang is gonna cost. 

Step #5 To Start An Interior Design Business - Position Yourself

You can not be in the everyone business. You can't start a business hoping to work with everyone. Here's why: It takes a lot of energy (and dinero) to market your business to everyone and their different problems you solve. Save yourself a bunch of headaches by focusing on be an expert in one specific area serving a particular client.

Then focus on selling just one of your design services that you want to sell the most of. Yes, you have other services you can offer, but be known and educate your clients about your #1 primo service. They will discover or ask you about the other services, but get it in their mind what you want to be known for.

Step #6 To Start An Interior Design Business - Brand Expert Status

You are a brand. People are buying an experience with you. They aren't buying the deliverables, but having a effin' fantastic experience with you. What you bring to the table is unique and something that no one can copy without failing spectacularly.

Be authentic. Help others. Make sure you're find by the keywords that your peeps are searching for that you have a solution for so there isn't anyone else that can do what you do. Address your clients emotional turmoil they have around a problem. Develop your voice. Oh and it's all about your peeps, not you.

Step #7 To Start An Interior Design Business - Marketing

Marketing can't be an end of the month activity. It's gotta be an everyday thing. I get it, we get busy with jobs and let those things slide. Put some things on automatic to help you with your marketing tasks, but don't ever leave them to the end of the month.

You can use a service like Buffer to schedule posts to most social media platforms. You can batch write blog posts. All of these things require you to schedule it and make it a priority.

And a really big part of your marketing needs to be a visually appealing brand. Make sure it's professional and timeless.

Step #8 To Start An Interior Design Business - Hustle

The word hustle doesn't come up in school, but it is so important. If you're not constantly trying to tell the world how you can help them and why you're different, you're business will die.

There are lots of people who don't hustle and have shit loads of talent. Maybe you don't have shit loads of talent, but butt loads of talent (I'm not sure of the scientific diff) but if you hustle like a mofo, that designer with shitloads of talent won't matter.

Step #9 To Start An Interior Design Business - Fear

You are going to have a fear of failure. There's nothing safe about business. And you might fail. But, if you're reading this I know you got big ol' balls. This gumption paired with your desire to take action and kick-ass won't stand a chance against fear.

Fuck fear.

You aren’t like those designers.

You want to live the dream. The dream that you can’t stop obsessing over.

The difference between you and those other designers is your drive to succeed.

If you don’t hustle, someone else will live the dream you pictured for yourself.

Ready to say "F*ck Fear" and design the life you have always wanted to live? Good. Let's do this.

Alycia Wicker is a business coach for creative entrepreneurs. Her clients land more of their own dream clients and make more cash, period. Celebrity gossip whore. Elvis-obsessed.