You’ve decided to go it alone in the world of interior design. Great job – you’ve already taken the most important step. The good news is that there’s plenty of work out there – interior design, and design in general, is growing as an industry and is forecast to continue growing in the coming years.
This doesn’t mean that starting your own interior design business – or any business, for that matter – isn’t a daunting task. There are a whole host of factors to consider if you want to grow a successful business with long-term stability – on both the operational and marketing sides. Here are some of the most important tips that will help steer you in the right direction when setting up your interior design business.
Don’t over-prepare – start now
Preparation is important when starting up any business. However, too many prospective new business owners get bogged down in the detail during the planning stages and often end up never even launching. While assets such as a solid business plan and accounting software are important when starting up an interior design business, they’re not as important as the work itself. After all, isn’t that why you wanted to start your own business in the first place?
Start looking for clients the second you decide to go it alone, even if you don’t yet have an office or a website – all you need is your contacts book and a portfolio of your best work to show what you’re capable of. You’ll have plenty of downtime to put all the operational assets in place once you’ve booked in your first clients.
What is it that you do really well? What skills or particular areas of expertise set you apart from other interior designers? Most importantly, what type of work do you really love doing? All of these questions are a great starting point to figuring out what you should specialize in.
The reason why specialization is so important is that potential clients have a hard time believing designers who claim to be good at everything. Do a little research – if there are already a number of designers in your area who excel in your specialization, you may have to work a little harder to win clients. At the other end of the scale, you may find a lot of potential clients in your area have been crying out for a designer with your exact skill set.
Know what to charge
This will come down to a few key factors. Your experience level, your reputation, and the strength of your portfolio will largely dictate what you’re able to charge. If you’ve worked on some impressive design projects in the past and have over ten years’ experience, you’ll have an easier time charging premium rates than if you’re just starting out.
The area that you’ll do most of your work in will also influence what you can charge for your services – if you live in an affluent neighborhood, you may find that your client base has the cash to pay for high-quality work. Again, do your research – you may be up against some fierce local competition, so think carefully about whether undercutting their rates is a smart move.
Start negotiating supplier discounts
Supplier discounts benefit everyone. You’ll get a healthy reduction on fixtures such as shutters, doors, and fireplaces that you can pass on to your customers, and the supplier gets a new stream of revenue – they should also be open to pushing their customers your way if they’re in need of an interior designer.
Start reaching out to local suppliers whose furnishings you love. It’s important to bear in mind your chosen specialization and your likely price band when making your choice – there’s no sense opting for a discount supplier if your clientele would rather pay for a higher standard of furnishing.
It’s never too early to start marketing your services. Word of mouth is still by far the most important marketing tool for interior designers, but it’s also increasingly important to ensure that you have a strong web presence. Again, there’s no harm in getting a professional-looking website set up before you have all the details of your ten-year business plan down on paper.
Along with a website (which just needs to be basic for now – a single page with shots of your best work and your contact details will suffice), set up social media accounts and keep them updated – it’s free and offers a potential goldmine for new business.
Hopefully, these tips have been useful and will help you on your way to setting up your interior design business – good luck!