Want to Start an Interior Design Business?
Here are 15 Steps to Jump Start Your Career.

Interior Design is a complex business. Anyone who knows anything about this world knows that there are so many moving parts and variables that you need to know before starting a legitimate career in this industry. In my last Blog Post: I shared how my career started…let’s just say I took the path less traveled. I wouldn’t reccomend that path to anyone! I created a 15 step cheat sheet to help anyone who is just starting out. These 15 steps are actionable and the exact steps I took to get started. Multiple 6 figure years later, I can tell you these are the most important!

Step 1:
COME UP WITH A NAME OF YOUR COMPANY AND-FORM A REAL COMPANY. YOU WILL NEED TO SEARCH TO SEE IF THE NAME IS ALREADY TAKEN, AND IT IS SUPER SIMPLE…JUST GOOGLE “BUSINESS ENTITY SEARCH” AND THE NAME OF YOUR STATE. ONCE YOU KNOW YOUR NAME IS AVAILABLE APPLY FOR A TAX ID AND FORMALLY START YOUR COMPANY THROUGH THE IRS. THIS LEGITIMIZES YOU, it makes you more professional, and protects you. This process can be mind numbing…dealing with the IRS and Government USUALLY IS (LOL!) , but it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.
YOU SHOULD ALSO APPLY FOR A RETAIL MERCHANT CERTIFICATE (RESALE ID) AT SOME POINT. THIS WILL ALLOW YOU TO SET UP WHOLESALE ACCOUNTS WITH VENDORS DOWN THE ROAD (THEY ALL ASK FOR THIS WHEN SETTING UP ACCOUNTS).
YOU SHOULD ALSO BUY THE WEBSITE DOMAIN FOR YOUR COMPANY NAME. THIS IS SUPER CHEAP (LIKE $12.99) PER YEAR. I ALWAYS USE GO DADDY TO BUY MY WEBSITE DOMAINS. YOU ALSO NEED A LEGITIMATE EMAIL ADDRESS. A WEBSITE ISN’T NECESSARY AT THIS POINT BUT DO CREATE AN EMAIL ADDRESS WITH THE DOMAIN YOU PURCHASE.
YOU SHOULD ALSO RESERVE THE SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES FOR THE COMPANY…AT MINIMUM FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM.

Step 2:
DECIDE WHAT TYPE OF INTERIOR DESIGNER YOU WANT TO BE. FULL SERVICE, CONSULTING, E DESIGN (OR ALL 3) HERE’S A QUICK DESCRIPTION OF EACH:
FULL SERVICE DESIGNER: YOU WILL OFFER EVERYTHING FROM START TO FINISH FOR YOUR CLIENTS. YOU WILL NOT ONLY DESIGN AND PICK OUT ALL FINISHES AND FURNITURE, YOU WILL ALSO COORDINATE THE SCHEDULE WITH THE TRADES PEOPLE (PAINTERS, ELECTRICIANS, PLUMBERS ETC). YOU WILL PURCHASE ALL FURNITURE ON THEIR BEHALF, RECEIVE AND INSTALL EVERYTHING. BASICALLY BE THERE EVERY STEP ALONG THE WAY FOR YOUR CLIENTS.
CONSULTING: THIS IS WHEN YOU MAKE A FEW FACE TO FACE VISITS WITH YOUR CLIENTS AND COME UP WITH DESIGN IDEAS AND PLANS AND PRESENT TO THEM. YOU USUALLY WORK HOURLY AS A CONSULTANT AND WORK AS MUCH OR LITTLE AS YOUR CLIENTS WANT. THINK OF YOURSELF AS AN ADVISOR OR EXPERT THAT YOUR CLIENTS ARE TURNING TO FOR ADVICE. USUALLY WITH CONSULTING JOBS I LET CLIENTS ORDER THEIR OWN PRODUCTS AND COORDINATE THE TRADESPEOPLE ON THEIR OWN.
E-DESIGN: IN E-DESIGN THIS CAN BE REMOTE OR VIA EMAIL MOSTLY. CLIENTS WILL SEND YOU ALL OF THEIR INFO AND YOU CAN COME UP WITH A DESIGN PLAN FOR THEM BASED ON THEIR INFORMATION. YOU WILL STILL PICK OUT FURNITURE AND COLORS ETC. BUT THIS WILL ALL BE GIVEN TO CLIENTS VIA EMAIL LINKS AND PDF DOCUMENTS.

Step 3:
RESEARCH DESIGNER RATES/FEES IN YOUR AREA. DECIDE HOW MUCH AND HOW YOU WILL CHARGE FOR YOUR TIME. HOURLY, FLAT FEE OR HOURLY PLUS PRODUCT MARK UP. DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT ON THIS!
YOU SHOULD ALSO SET UP A SQUARE OR STRIPE ACCOUNT SO YOU CAN ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS.
YOU SHOULD ALSO OPEN A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT. YOU DO NOT WANT CLIENTS WRITING CHECKS OR SENDING MONEY TO YOU PERSONALLY.
Step 4:
YOU NEED PHOTOGRAPHS OF YOUR PREVIOUS WORK! IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANY, TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR OWN SPACE, OR ANY ONE’S SPACE YOU HAVE DESIGNED. THESE IMAGES NEED TO BE GOOD QUALITY FOR A WEBSITE. MOST NEW CELL PHONE PICS WILL WORK WHEN YOU ARE JUST GETTING STARTED. IF YOU DON’T LIKE YOUR SPACES, OR DON’T WANT TO PHOTOGRAPH ANY OF YOUR PREVIOUS WORK, AT MINIMUM YOU NEED TO GET TO WORK PUTTING TOGETHER VIGNETTES OR SMALL SPACES YOU ARE PROUD OF SO YOU CAN PHOTOGRAPH THEM. I DON’T CARE IF YOU HAVE TO GO BUY A LOT OF THINGS TO STYLE A CORNER IN YOUR HOME AND THEN RETURN THE ITEMS. YOU JUST NEED PICTURES. IMAGES ARE EVERYTHING IN THIS BUSINESS. YOU DON’T NEED A LOT, BUT YOU DO NEED THEM!

Step 5:
CREATE A LOGO AND PICK COLORS FOR YOUR BUSINESS. YOU WILL USE THESE CONSISTENTLY ON ALL OF YOUR MARKETING MATERIALS, SO WHY NOT DO IT RIGHT? THIS DOES NOT NEED TO BE EXPENSIVE, IN FACT YOU CAN DO THIS ON YOUR OWN WITH A FREE PROGRAM LIKE CANVA. IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE CANVA OUT, HIRE SOMEONE ON FIVERR, 99 DESIGNS OR LOGO TOURNAMENT.
YOU NEED BUSINESS CARDS. MOST LIKELY YOU ARE WORKING OUT OF YOUR HOME SO JUST HAVE YOUR NAME , NUMBER AND EMAIL ON THESE CARDS WITH YOUR LOGO. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO INVEST IN THIS PART RIGHT NOW THEN GET CREATIVE. WHEN I JUST STARTED OUT I HAD THESE LARGE PANTONE COLOR PAINT CHIPS FROM A LOCAL HOME IMPROVEMENT STORE. I HAD A RUBBER STAMP MADE AND STAMPED THE PAINT CHIPS WITH MY INFO. I HANDED THOSE BUSINESS CARDS OUT FOR OVER A YEAR. PEOPLE ACTUALLY LOVED THEM AND THOSE WERE FREE PLUS A STAMP AND INK.

Step 6:
COME UP WITH A 30 SECOND VALUE PROPOSITION OR DESCRIPTION OF YOUR BUSINESS.
BE ABLE TO DEFINE YOUR BUSINESS NAME, WHAT YOU DO, WHAT MAKES YOU VALUABLE OR SETS YOU APART, AND WHO IS YOUR OUR IDEAL CLIENT? THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT FOR 2 REASONS..YOU NEED TO SOUND CONFIDENT WHEN YOU TELL PEOPLE YOU ARE STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND YOU NEED TO BE CLEAR ON WHO, WHAT AND WHY YOU SERVE FOR ALL OF YOUR MARKETING EFFORTS.
PRACTICE SAYING THIS OUT LOUD. SO YOU CAN REPEAT THIS ON THE FLY, IF NECESSARY.
MY VALUE PROPOSITION: “MY BUSINESS IS CALLED INTERIOR DESIGN THERAPY. I AM A FULL SERVICE DESIGN FIRM BUT I ALSO OFFER FAST AFFORDABLE INTERIOR DESIGN ADVICE AND SOLUTIONS FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO WANT PROFESSIONAL DESIGN ADVICE BUT CANT NECESSARILY AFFORD A FULL TIME DESIGNER.”

Step 7:
LOOK LIKE A DESIGNER. YOU DON’T NEED TO DRESS IN ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU UNCOMFORTABLE. BE YOU..100 PERCENT. BUT YOU ALSO CANNOT WEAR, SWEATS, SLIPPERS AND A TOP KNOT EVERYDAY (WHEN YOU ARE JUST GETTING STARTED). CHOOSE A SIGNATURE LOOK OR “UNIFORM” THAT YOU WILL WEAR CONSISTENTLY THAT WILL HELP BRAND YOU AS A DESIGNER. THIS DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO SHOP!!! IT MEANS YOU HAVE TO BE CREATIVE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE. FOR EXAMPLE: WEAR ALL BLACK WITH FUNKY SHOES OR WEAR JEANS, WHITE T AND COWBOY BOOTS (THIS IS ME USUALLY). OR CHOOSE A SIGNATURE ITEM TO WEAR ALL OF THE TIME: FUNKY SCARVES, BIG EARRINGS, BRIGHT LIPSTICK. LOOKING CREATIVE AND DIFFERENT WILL HELP YOUR BRAND IDENTITY AND GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE WHEN YOU ARE JUST STARTING OUT.

Step 8:
FIND THE CLOSEST DESIGN CENTER IN YOUR REGION. RESEARCH THE BUILDING AND IF YOU CAN GET THERE, GO AND EXPLORE. IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE DESIGN WORLD IN YOUR COMMUNITY… AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. IF YOU DON’T HAVE A DESIGN CENTER IN YOUR TOWN, FIND ONE IN YOUR REGION. MAKE SURE YOU CALL AHEAD TO SEE WHAT CREDENTIALS YOU NEED TO GET INTO THE BUILDING. SOMETIMES THEY WILL REQUIRE A BUSINESS CARD AND YOUR RETAIL CERTIFICATE.

Step 9:
START NETWORKING WITH OTHER PROFESSIONALS IN THE HOME DESIGN INDUSTRY…GENERAL CONTRACTORS, PAINTERS, CARPENTERS, ELECTRICIANS, PLUMBERS, WINDOW TREATMENT COMPANIES, REALTORS ETC. THESE PEOPLE WILL BE YOUR FRIENDS AND GREAT LEAD GENERATORS FOR YOU. WHEN I WAS JUST STARTING OUT, I WAS IMMERSING MYSELF IN THE DESIGN COMMUNITY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE AND I FOUND THIS WONDERFUL ARTIST. I WAS OBSESSED WITH HIS WORK. I WENT TO HIS STUDIO ONE DAY TO INTRODUCE MYSELF AND SEE HIS PAINTINGS. I SHARED A BIT OF MY JOURNEY WITH HIM AND SENT HIM SOME IMAGES OF MY PREVIOUS WORK. HE LOVED MY WORK AND WHEN ONE OF HIS CLIENTS NEEDED A DESIGNER, HE CONNECTED US AND THAT BECAME A GREAT PAYING JOB. HE HAS REFERRED ME THROUGH THE YEARS AND I HAVE BOUGHT HIS PAINTINGS FOR PROJECTS SO IT IS A WIN-WIN PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP THAT HAS ALSO TURNED INTO A GENUINE FRIENDSHIP! AWESOME!!

Step 10:
YOU NEED A WEBSITE. THIS DOES NOT NEED TO BE COMPLICATED OR EXPENSIVE. THERE ARE A TON OF FREE WEBSITE BUILDERS…I LIKE WIX. YOU NEED A PAGE WHERE PEOPLE CAN FIND YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS. THIS LEGITIMIZES YOU. YOU ONLY NEED 4 TABS: SERVICES, PORTFOLIO, CONTACT AND ABOUT.
YOU ALSO NEED HEADSHOTS. THESE DON’T NEED TO BE PROFESSIONAL BUT PEOPLE WANT TO SEE YOU. THIS CREATES TRUST AND YOU NEED TO GET COMFORTABLE HAVING YOUR FACE OUT THERE. IF YOU ARE LIKE ME AND THE WEBSITE BUILDING IS TOO MUCH TECHIE, FIND SOMEONE ON FIVERR OR UPWORK TO DO THIS FOR YOU. THERE ARE GREAT PEOPLE WHO WORK VERY REASONABLY ON THOSE SITES.

Step 11:
YOU NEED TO START RESEARCHING WHERE YOU WILL BUY YOUR CLIENT PRODUCTS FROM. WHAT VENDORS YOU WILL USE WHEN YOU GET YOUR FIRST CLIENT? WILL YOU BUY RETAIL OR WHOLESALE, WILL YOU FLIP YOUR DISCOUNTS OR UP-CHARGE CLIENTS FOR PURCHASES YOU MAKE ON THEIR BEHALF?
SET UP A FEW VENDOR ACCOUNTS. A LOT OF TIMES IN THE DESIGN CENTERS THERE ARE FURNITURE MANUFACTURERS THAT YOU CAN SET UP ACCOUNTS WITH AND THERE ARE SEVERAL ONLINE OPTIONS AS WELL. THIS IS KIND OF A BEAST. BUT FOR NOW, COME UP WITH A LIST OF VENDORS OR RESOURCES YOU WILL USE WHEN SHOPPING FOR YOUR CLIENTS AND START RELATIONSHIPS OR SET UP ACCOUNTS WITH THEM.

Step 12:
START MARKETING YOURSELF. SET UP THE SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES FOR YOUR BUSINESS AND POST ON A CONSISTENT BASIS. CREATING THAT CONSISTENT CONTENT WILL SHOW POTENTIAL CLIENTS YOU ARE SERIOUS AND THAT YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.
PICK A SUPER SPECIFIC NICHE AND BECOME AN EXPERT ON IT. FOR EXAMPLE, DO YOU LOVE PICKING PAINT COLORS? ARE YOU REALLY GOOD AT PROJECT MANAGEMENT? OR MAYBE YOUR NICHE COULD BE A SPECIFIC DESIGN STYLE. POST ABOUT THIS NICHE OFTEN.
MAKE SURE ON SOCIAL MEDIA YOU ARE AUTHENTIC AND DON’T TRY TO BE SOMEONE YOU ARE NOT. DON’T COPY ANY ONE ELSE. PEOPLE SNIFF THIS OUT AND IT IS A HUGE TURN OFF.
A HUGE PART OF MARKETING YOUR SELF IS TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE CLEAR ON YOUR IDEAL CLIENT. CLEARLY DEFINING YOUR IDEAL CLIENT IS SUPER IMPORTANT SO YOU CAN KNOW WHERE TO FIND THEM. ONCE YOU DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE, GO WHERE THEY HANG OUT AND INTRODUCE YOURSELF. FOLLOW THE SAME GROUPS ON FACEBOOK AS THEM, POST CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA THAT SPEAKS TO THEM OR SOLVES A PROBLEM FOR THEM. START GATHERING NAMES AND EMAILS OF POTENTIAL CLIENTS.
SEND OUT AN EMAIL TO YOUR NETWORK OF FRIENDS ANNOUNCING YOU ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

Step 13:
START RESEARCHING INTERIOR DESIGN PROCESSES, FIRM UP YOUR STEPS TO DESIGNING A HOME AND PRACTICE SAYING IT OUT LOUD. WHEN I SAY INTERIOR DESIGN PROCESSES, I MEAN, HAVE A STEP BY STEP PROCESS IN PLACE THAT YOU CAN CLEARLY, QUICKLY, AND EASILY EXPLAIN TO POTENTIAL CLIENTS SO THEY KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN THEY HIRE YOU. ON MY WEBSITE AND IN MY WELCOME PACKET FOR CLIENTS I HAVE TWO IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS: A LIST OF FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND A LIST OF NEXT STEPS. THESE HAVE BEEN SUPER HELPFUL FOR CLIENTS AND POTENTIAL CLIENTS TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THEY HIRE ME.

Step 14:
TALK WITH ANY PROFESSIONAL SERVICES PEOPLE NECESSARY. ESTABLISH RELATIONSHIPS WITH ACCOUNTANTS, BOOKKEEPERS, ATTORNEYS, AND INSURANCE PROVIDERS. WHILE NOT THE MOST FUN, THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT SOMETHING TO SKIMP ON. YES, YOU CAN DO A LOT ON YOUR OWN WHEN YOU ARE JUST GETTING STARTED. HOWEVER, HAVING THESE RELATIONSHIPS ALREADY ESTABLISHED MAKES THING SOOOOO MUCH EASIER WHEN YOU NEED THEM.

Step 15:
GET A PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE OR EVEN CREATE YOUR OWN SIMPLE SPREADSHEETS TO TRACK YOUR PROJECTS. THERE ARE SOFTWARE PROGRAMS CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR INTERIOR DESIGN. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND INVESTING IN ONE OF THESE SOFTWARES AFTER YOU GET YOUR FIRST PAYING CLIENT OR TWO. USING THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE MAKES YOU LOOK SO MUCH MORE PROFESSIONAL. INSIDE OF THEM YOU CAN CREATE TEMPLATES FOR INVOICES, RECEIPTS, PURCHASE ORDERS, TRACK ALL OF YOUR ORDERS AND KEEP YOURSELF SUPER ORGANIZED.

Bonus Step:)
DON’T FEEL OVERWHELMED, AND DON’T DO ALL OF THESE STEPS NOW!! START WITH STEP NUMBER 1. LUCKILY, FOR YOU I AM CREATING AN ONLINE COURSE THAT WILL GUIDE YOU THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE PROCESS OF STARTING YOUR NEW INTERIOR DESIGN BUSINESS FROM SCRATCH. BE SURE TO FOLLOW ME ON Social Media to find out when I launch the course!
Email: angie@interiordesigntherapy.com
FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/InteriorDesignTherapy
INSTAGRAM : idtxangiewilson
***INTERIOR DESIGN THERAPY, THE PODCAST, COMING SOON***

Interior Design

If you don’t know where to even begin starting your Interior Design Journey, I am hosting a live Workshop to give you everything you need to Build a Solid Business Foundation, Gain Confidence and Get that first Paying Client. Get the info here on how to register for the Workshop on October 29, 2010 at 1pm ET.


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