Hey, designer friend!
There are lots of things I wish I knew when I was figuring out how to start an interior design business. For example, I spent tons of money on shit I didn't actually need. I changed my services like every two minutes, and wasted too much time running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to chase every bit of knowledge I came across. I wanted to set my business off into the stratosphere immediately. Instead, I spent tens of thousands of dollars on trial and error first.
There are no shortcuts to success, but if you can start off lean and focus on the important shit, you'll still be in business a year (because your first year is one of the hardest) from now and you’ll be on your way to being a successful interior designer.
Here are the tips I wish someone would have told back-in-the-day me.
1. Just get started. You can do this. But you gotta stop thinking all the time and focus on your own lane.
2. You need a website and a domain. You're going to be wanting a home base online that people can come to, where you can start banking some SEO juice and gain a following. Buy a domain, install Wordpress and use a free theme.
3. You don't need a portfolio, but you need to start one. I didn't have any residential work because I had just come from the land of commercial interiors. I took pictures of my home and shared them. I also shared all of my designs I made with my Minutes Matter software. Or you can create and share mood boards that you can make with Polyvore. Now you're building a portfolio.
4. Screw the business cards. If you're going the eDesign way and don't plan on going out to trade shows or events until you start getting some work in the door, skip the business cards and other stationery. I found direct mail to be expensive and a waste of time.
5. Work from home. More than ever interior designers are working from home and it's totes cool. You don't need to spend money on renting a space. Have client meetings at their home or find a local coffee shop. (Hint: You probably need a business license even if you're working from home, though, so check with your city.)
6. Do not pass GO without a contract or a letter of agreement. When you get your first client, you still need to write out a contract. I can't tell you how many problems this will solve when you get to working on a project and project creep rears its ugly head. Check out this book on Amazon: Business and Legal Forms for Interior Designers
7. A blog is a must, but only if you commit to doing it regularly. If you're gonna blog on Wednesday the 4th and then three months later you blog again, well then you need to fucking forget it. That will do more damage than not having a blog in the first place. People will wonder if you are a flake and untrustworthy. This is one of the best (and practically free!) things you can do to invest in your business, but it's worth jack shit if you don't keep up with it.
8. A newsletter is uber important. Like really. But get a Mailerlite account, because that's free up to 1,000 subscribers. Why you should build an email list.
9. No guru knows it all. And they are a liar if they claim to. You can take all sorts of courses and read all sorts of books, but until you get real intimate with your business, no one can really be super helpful to you.
10. What interior design services should I offer? Well, if you answered everything you're gonna end up bitter and tired. Read my post on what you should offer.
You can do this, and I believe in you.
You're awesome and you do have something unique and special to share. Don't doubt yourself (at least not more than 2% of the time) when you are first starting to figure out how to start an interior design business. Take your time and make sure the business decisions you make feel right in your gut.