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Starting Your Own Interior Design Business: Making Dreams Reality

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Productive Discussion of Interior Designers

            Are you drawn to the aesthetics of a well-designed space? Do you find yourself constantly rearranging your room or furniture? Do you love coming up with color schemes and fabric patterns for everyday use? If so, then you might be drawn to a career in interior design. Taking on a career in interior design is one of the most exciting that you can have, but it requires a lot of careful planning to get started! We’ll walk you through all the steps of opening your own interior design business, from charting out your career course to continuing career education and more.

Starting Your Own Interior Design Business: Steps

Phase One: Building a Plan for Your Professional Path

            Interior design is a broad category that encompasses a number of duties and directions, so knowing which one you’d like your business to focus on is important. Stretching yourself too thin across a wide variety of subject matter is a surefire way to guarantee that your performance will be lacking in every area, so it’s important to decide where you want your business to go. Some of the major phases of interior design work include:

  1. Space Planning
  2. Product Research
  3. Project Investors (homeowners, contractors, vendors)
  4. Project Development
  5. Project Construction
  6. Project Management

As a creative, interior design offers a world of possibilities for your genius to explode. Picking one or two of these areas to specialize in as you begin to grow your business is the best way to ensure you’re producing quality products and output without sacrificing your time and effort in the process. As your business grows, you can add more elements of interior design into your company, eventually becoming a full-service, one-stop-shop interior design business.

Phase Two: Build a Portfolio

            Building a portfolio of interior design is one of the most important ways to get your foot in the door of the interior design world. Whether you’re hoping to get started as a self-taught freelancer or hoping to apply for admittance into a school of interior design, creating and expanding a portfolio is a necessary part of your job and application process. Every project or product you take on will show off your developing eye and expertise as well as establish your reputation as a professional, all of which will establish your standing in the eyes of admissions committees and land you more clients in your personal work.

            Never created your own interior design portfolio before? Not to fear- there are plenty of educational resources and guides available to walk you through your first portfolio creation. One industry standard, written by Maureen Mitton, is titled “Portfolios for Interior Designers: A Guide to Portfolios, Creative Resumes, and the Job Search”. This hefty tome will take you through the ins and outs of application processes and how you can design a creative and attention-grabbing portfolio that will wow your clients and any potential employers.

Young handsome student learning in coffee shop

Phase 3: To Attend or Not To Attend Interior Design School

            These days, it feels like having any sort of college degree is a necessity. Technically, you do not need a degree in interior design to enter the workforce. Through experience and on-the-job learning, you might be able to find a position within the field of interior design that does not require a four-year degree.

However, having a degree in interior design will give you a competitive advantage for many reasons. Primarily, many programs or job positions require at minimum a bachelor’s degree, if not more education in the field of interior design. Many states also require you to pass licensing exams or similar program accomplishments in order to practice, all of which are easier to complete if you have a bachelor’s degree. For example, the National Council for Interior Design offers a qualification exam with certification, but in order to even take the test you’ll need to demonstrate that you have a bachelor’s degree and two years of on-the-job experience.

Interior design programs can also offer major portfolio building experience and career guidance that will help set your interior design company on the path to success. Finding a program with industry-specific accreditations and guidance will be a big advantage to you, so look for interior design curriculums that cater to the specific type of interior design you’re interested in,  be it commercial, residential, independent, or firm design. Popular interior design schools include:

  1. New York School of Interior Design
  2. Savannah College of Art and Design
  3. Parsons School of Design
  4. Pratt Institute
  5. George Washington University

Phase 4: Build Your Business Trajectory

            Once you’ve graduated with a degree in interior design, it’s time to decide what niche your business will focus in. While Phase One also covered this concept in detail, it’s helpful to take a step back and reflect on your career goals after your education has completed. Have your priorities changed? Do you have a new niche interest? Where can your business best serve clients, and what types of services are needed in your area?

            Once you’re set on your business plan, you can begin to construct a website and digital portfolio that will draw in customers and wow your potential employers or clientele. Focus on cross branding your work, emphasizing common themes in your designs and highlighting the content that makes your interior work unique. From home decor businesses to interior design, every component of your design plan speaks to who your business is, so make sure you’re telling that story on every page of your website.

Phase 5: Continue Your Education

            The most important step in an interior designer’s life is to keep on educating yourself. Interior design is an ongoing process that constantly innovates and creates new ideas and techniques. Many of your accreditations will require completing continuing education credits in order to maintain your licensure, but you should also seek out additional learning opportunities on your own to make sure you’re staying at the top of your game when it comes to interior design.

            Becoming a licensed interior designer may seem like a daunting task, but the rewards make the journey well worth the cost. When you start an interior design company, you make your dreams come true by taking control of your professional and personal destiny and pursuing your passions through creative exploration and design. From start to finish, your journey to beginning your own interior design company should be grounded in your fierce desire to create and express, a joy that will follow you throughout your entire career.

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