3 Skills Of The Most Successful Interior Designer In 2023

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Becoming an interior designer is not a simple task. You need a certain set of skills, from mastering the software to budget management, and the list only starts here. If you want to have a great career, you must master the following 3 skills to become the most successful interior designer in 2023.

Basics, Basics, Basics.

You might have dreamt of becoming an interior designer ever since you were little and discovered The Sims (no? just me?), or when you’ve moved around your bedroom furniture once a month (still only me?). Or perhaps one day you just felt burnt out and stuck in your job, which made you want to change your career pathway. And that’s when you decided - “interior design it is”.

It doesn’t matter how you started, whether you have an appropriate degree or you’re a passionate self-taught designer. Because what matters the most is a set of skills you can master, some passion, and a lot of practice.

If you want to work as an interior designer (and not a decorator) you need to know the basics of the trade - how to measure a room, how to create not only eye-pleasing but also ergonomic layout, you need to be well-oriented within the basic technical issues that are an integral part of the construction, able to use some kind of drawing or modeling software, and so on, and so on. If you understand these, you’re halfway there. 

But these are not the only abilities you need to have. I’ve prepared a list of 3 important skills of the most successful interior designer that you should master. You might be surprised that they are so-called soft skills. Because, well, in 2023, technical skills, though important, are not enough. 

Let’s dive in!

1. Time management

I will start with a no-brainer. I’m not subscribing to the hustle culture but life can indeed be quite hectic nowadays. And even if you’re all in for the work-life balance, your clients might be the proverbial hustlers that always need everything for yesterday. So time management skills will help you keep your projects on track, and your clients satisfied. Because nothing creates tensions on the designer-client line like delays. And if the delays are your fault - that’s even worse

Time management is important when creating a timeframe for your project so that you’re able to coordinate everything with contractors, subcontractors, etc. Especially when you’re juggling more than one project at once. You need to be able to create working schedules for each of the projects, according to your capacity and skills. 

Plus, you should control the amount of time you work in a day. Remember, rest and sleep are not optional!

*TIP: If you’re a beginner, I would recommend working on one project at a time, until you get more experience and are confident about how much it takes to finish various phases of the project.

picture of a calendar with time blocks. time management is one of the skills of the most successful interior designers

One thing a good time manager knows - you should always add at least 20% of the time you think something will take. And always plan for the unexpected. So if you use the time blocking technique, instead of packing your calendar up to the minute, create empty time slots for all of the unpredicted - random phone calls, urgent site visits, or even coffee spills. Because you never know.

Task batching (also mentioned in the article I linked) is also a very useful technique. Multitasking is overrated and it robs you of the focus and momentum needed to work efficiently. Task batching does the contrary - dedicating a whole day to one or similar types of tasks will improve your concentration and help you perform your tasks with a better flow.

*TIP - When I plan for my week, I always leave one day empty. I manage the tasks that need to be done that week, plan them out in four days, and that one day stays open. This way, I know that if sh*t hits the fan at some point during the week, I have time to catch up with everything and still finish my assignments on time. And if everything goes smoothly, I can decide whether to start on something from next week, or simply get myself a three-day weekend. Sounds nice, no? 🙂

2. Good Communication Is Definitely Among The Skills Of The Most Successful Interior Designer

No matter whether you work in-person or remotely, interior design is heavily based on communicating with other people. Be it your clients, duh, but also the contractors, vendors, or other specialists. You need, need, need to be able to talk to people. 

I can already feel the shivers going down the spine of introverts when reading this paragraph. I understand that the idea of talking to many people every day might be overwhelming. However, I’m sure that with enough effort and dedication, you’ll get used to it. After all, good communication is a skill you can acquire.

But talking for the sake of talking won’t necessarily do the trick. To become one of the most successful interior designers you need to master the skill of communicating. It means making yourself understood by clearly expressing yourself. Explaining your ideas, describing your drawings, and conveying emotions and inspiration. But it also means listening to what other people have to say to you and making them feel heard and understood. And at least when it comes to your clients, you should do more listening than talking most of the time 😉introverts, are you feeling slightly better now? 🙂

a picture with two people talking. communication skills are important in interior design

As life usually goes - it doesn’t end there. Some situations might require you to become a kind of mediator. Both between your clients and the contractors but also between the clients themselves. Surprised? Well, when you work with a couple, you should prepare yourself for the moments when they will have different opinions or requirements. Often conflicting ones. Your job will be to navigate through these hardships to come up with a solution.

*TIP: remember, though, that you’re not a couples’ counselor, but an interior designer. So as much as you need to show empathy and, somehow, come up with an idea that will satisfy both, it's up to them to resolve any conflict they might have. If you see that they can’t compromise, suggest that you put all the work on hold until they settle it all between them.

If you think that your communication skills might need some improvement, I highly recommend the book by Dale Carnegie - How To Win Friends And Influence People. It’s been written a long time ago but the advice it contains is still super valid. And it will help you both in your business and life in general.

3. Third Of The Skills Of The Most Successful Interior Designer - Resourcefulness.

A successful designer knows how to do things, find things, manage things, and delegate things. You need to be resourceful to move around efficiently. As the saying goes - work smarter, not harder. 

Are you using drawing software? Great! Are there any ways you can streamline your workflow to make it faster? Are there any plugins that might help? Or a course that would teach you various tips and tricks? 

Do you have a problem at the building site? Don’t panic! Do you know anyone that might help you fix it? Or is there a way you can fix it yourself by adjusting the project? 

Do you know the latest technical solutions that you can use in your next project to make it even more interesting? Or to make the work more efficient?

I hope you get the gist. Being able to come up with a solution on the spot, or finding a way to make the design process smoother, more efficient, or safer - that’s a fast way to success. Because when it comes to interior design - anything can happen, especially on building sites. I’ve never done a project without a surprise. Smaller or bigger, but they always happen.

What can help you in being more resourceful is the ability and willingness to constantly widen your knowledge. Be it with books, courses, or simply by being as present as possible in the design process, asking questions, talking to the contractors, vendors, etc. A good blog full of business and design tips is a valuable asset as well. Good thing you already found one 😀

a girl reading in a cafe. constantly expanding your knowledge is one of the skills of the most successful interior designers

Staying inspired is, in my opinion, also a must. And by that, I mean studying the projects of other designers (when you look at the pictures, really look at them, pay attention to details), visiting showrooms, fairs, etc. You can also spend some time brainstorming ideas with fellow designers and other people connected to our trade. Always listen to what more experienced people have to say, don’t be afraid to ask questions and pick their brains.

A Successful Interior Designer Is A Constant Work In Progress

Keep in mind that the interior design business is ever-changing. With new technologies, trends, materials, etc, to stay on top, you need to stay consistent. To make your life easier, don’t forget to set up systems and processes and then update them now and then along the way when you gain more experience. 

Also, respect yourself as much as you respect your clients and expect them to do the same. Create healthy boundaries for the way you interact with them and how you organize your work. Stay firm on those boundaries to show that you know what you’re doing and to help you stay efficient. 

Nurture Your Passion

Being an interior designer is not a walk in the park, that’s true. But remember why you started it in the first place. To avoid burnout make sure that within all the busy stuff you make time for yourself and what matters to you most. Have fun with it and stay positive. Becoming the most successful interior designer with those 3 skills is not an overnight success but it will be easier. And it will happen if you really want it. Keep up the good work! I look forward to reading about you in a specialized magazine in the future 🙂 💪

hi there!

I'm Aleksandra, an interior architect with multinational experience, on a mission to help beginning or self-taught designers gain confidence and create systems that will help them bring their businesses to the next level.




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6 Replies to “3 Skills Of The Most Successful Interior Designer In 2023”

This was such an interesting read. While I am definitely not an interior designer by trade, I absolutely love interior design, decor and admiring the work that you amazing professionals do. When I see beautiful, aesthetically pleasing interior, it literally changes my mood (in a good way). I truly admire the creativity that goes into it!

Thank you, Amanda! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

Not the skills I expected! I never played Sims but I had this old disc based architectural design program I spent so many hours on! And I still tend to rearrange furniture, or at the very least, all of my knickknacks, every couple of months! So, you’re not alone lol 😂

Haha, good to know I’m not alone 😀

Great post and tidbits in here! It’s a very fun, but challenging job. Stick with your passion! 🙂

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hi, I'm Aleksandra!

I will help you create an organized interior design business with systems and processes, and to gain confidence to bring your career to the next level.

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