How to Start an Interior Design Business

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Image of a modern bedroom

Here’s What You Need To Know About The Interior Design Business

Interior Design Business Overview:

If you love mixing and matching patterns or rearranging furniture, you may want to consider starting an interior design business.

You will work closely with clients to help them decorate their homes in a beautiful and impressive way. Use your skills to help them make a living space that they love.

This is a go-out-of-your-house kind of home business. While you can handle the business aspects from your own home, most of the sales will be done at the client’s home or office as you evaluate the space, match color swatches to existing furniture, measure windows for draperies, etc.

People want to live in a pleasing environment. They want to create a design that makes them happy to be at home, and they want to do this on a budget.

Most people do not have the time to find and coordinate all of the pieces they want to make a room perfect. That’s where you come in.

Before you decide to start, you will have to figure out if there is a local market for it.

If there are successful at interior design, you may want to figure out the rates that to ensure you are competitive.

When you start, you may want to start by giving a few free design tips to show off your talent.

Skill Set:
Employee and Job Consideration During The Start-Up Phase or In The Future:
Approximate Daily Hours Needed:

Normal working hours, 9 to 5 to meet with clients, many projects will need you to put in extra hours

Equipment, Supplies, & Services During Start-up OR In The Future:
  • A portfolio allows the customer to choose a basic design to start
  • Color swatches
  • A high powered computer
  • Interior design software
  • You may want to have swatches of special fabrics that you particularly like.  When you can show these to clients, you can get them excited about the possibilities you have for their particular projects.
  • Essential office Equipment
Monthly Expenses and Operating Costs To Consider:

See our list of common business expenses

Licenses:

See Our Page on Licenses and Permits

Approximate Minimum Startup Cost:

Start-up costs vary. To make a good impression, you should redesign your own home so that you can show people your skills. This could take anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on what you plan on doing.

You should also have a portfolio of your work and examples of what you have done, which will cost some money.

Pros and Cons:

The Pros:

  • It’s a creative business
  • Low start-up costs
  • Every living space is different and you get to work closely with people to make something unique every time that you go to work.
  • You get to experience the thrill of finding great deals as well as the satisfaction of a job well done.

The Cons:

  • You may have to deal with clients who do not know what they want, leaving you to play a guessing game. They may change their minds halfway through a project, deciding that it is going in the wrong direction.
  • It takes time to build a portfolio and customer base
  • Repeat sales are slow, customers usually use your services once or twice
Type of Clients:

Most of your clientele will consist of people who own high-profile homes and businesses.

Statistics:

The opportunities that await interior decorators spread across the map. This field goes way beyond homes. Think restaurants, hotels, spas, art galleries, model homes, corporate offices, and even bed and breakfast inns. You may want to select a market that interests you and specialize in that niche.

The interior design industry enjoys strong demand as people continue to buy or move into new homes, and remodel old ones. According to Home magazine, 46 percent of Americans plan to redecorate or remodel in the next five years, compared with 35 percent in the previous five years.

Revenue:

What is unique about the operation is that you never do the same job twice. It will be hard to place a specific price on individual projects. What you will earn from a job that requires redecoration of an entire room from the carpet, wallpaper to upholstery will be different from a job that requires you to put up drapes to 10 windows.

According to Suzanne Dewalt, author of the book “How to Start a Home-based Interior Design Business,” a home-based interior designer earns an average of $734 per job. If you are working on four jobs per month, you can expect monthly sales of $3,670 per month.

First-year designers can expect to earn about $44,000. As you are able to do more jobs in a month (maybe by hiring an assistant in your second or third year of business), you can increase your sales potential.

Resources

Courses:

Rhodec

Interior Design Degrees and Programs Guide

Forums:

Topix Interior Design Forum

Books:

The Interior Design Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Profitability [Hardcover]

How to Start a Home Based Interior Design Business [Paperback]

Estimating for Interior Designers [Paperback]

Software:

Home Design

Home Designer’s Software