How To Start An Interior Design Business In 2023

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First of all, congratulations on making the first step to starting an interior design business - doing research! Since you’re here, it means there is this idea in your head, that you want something more. Something more than just working for someone else’s success. More than having to execute someone else’s ideas. And dealing with someone else’s clients.

Here’s to you, for having enough courage to even think of going solo! 

cheers to you for researching how to start your own interior design business

I completely support this idea. Why? Because I know how it is to want something more for yourself. How it is to want to be your own boss and be able to choose the clients and the projects and decide on your own design process and communication style. And finally, to be completely independent when it comes to your creative expression.

You’re here because you want to show the world that you have it in you. That you have great ideas, good taste, and everything it takes to pursue your passion for interior design. You’re here because you want to start your own interior design business and work for your own name, helping people live in the beautiful homes they deserve.

And that’s super exciting!

But it can also be a little scary… How do I do this? What do I need to have/know/be to do it on my own? What if I fail?

Oh, my dear, but what if you fly? As the saying goes.
You can do it! With all your dedication and strong will - there’s nothing that can stop you.

I’ve Been There, Too

I’ve heard this many times - Are you crazy? You know nothing about running your own company! Do you have a Plan B? Do you even know how to do it?

If you’re like me - the more you hear such BS, the more you want to show these people how wrong they are for doubting you. 

Or perhaps you shy away and start believing in what they say? But I know it’s there. The will that can push you forward no matter what.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here, reading this!

You Don’t Have To Follow Anyone’s Footsteps To Start Your Interior Design Business

There is no one way to do it. Perhaps you’ve been gaining experience in a design studio and have enough background to smoothly transition to the next phase… Or perhaps you feel stuck in your current job and want to change something in your life. Or you’re just starting in the interior design industry but already know that working for someone else is not for you.

Whichever it is, you can find your own way to get where you want to be. You don’t have to do it in any particular way. After all, the outcome is what counts, right? Plus, your business model might also be slightly (or much for that matter) different from what we usually tend to think about interior design practice.

It’s all up to you.

However, there are certain steps that, no matter how you want your business to look like, you need, or at least, should take. So if you’re here looking for some guidance - you’re in the right place!

Steps To Start Your Own Interior Design Business In 2023

Depending on where you are in the world and what regulations/requirements/rules apply there, the steps might look slightly different. What I share here is a mixture of my experience as well as the general approach. Here we go!

Aspects To Consider

From my perspective, there are 3 aspects to your business that you need to consider:

  1. Mindset/Vision
  2. Formal stuff
  3. Interior Design specific issues

Running a business is a complex task and it requires you to wear various hats. At least at the beginning. To best prepare yourself for this journey, try to approach it as holistically as possible. Tackling it from those three points of view should do the trick.

Start With Your Vision

You might think it’s silly but in reality it’s the foundation of the whole thing. 

  • Why do you want to do it?
  • How do you want to do it?
  • Who do you want to do it for/with?
  • Who do you want to become?

Those are very important questions to ask yourself before you start anything. Visualizing your ideal business future will give you the motivational kick to go through the rest of the process. It will light the fire under your butt and propel you forward. 

You should get excited about it. Set your mind for success. Imagine yourself doing it. If you create a strong image and a clear vision, all those people who doubt you, won’t be able to do you any harm.

You will also be able to tackle any limiting beliefs you might discover in yourself in this phase.

All The Formalities

As we all know, if you want to run a legal interior design business, you need to register it. Now, I am no lawyer or accountant so you should definitely consider consulting one to get personalized advice tailored to your specific circumstances. They can help navigate the legal and tax landscape and ensure you're on the right track.

 1. Choosing The Right Business Structure And The Name

One of the first decisions you'll need to make is selecting the appropriate business structure for your interior design business. The most common options include sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or partnership. Each structure has its own benefits and implications, affecting aspects such as taxation, liability, and ownership. 

When you choose the appropriate business structure, you should register your company’s name. The easiest and one of the most common ways to name your interior design business is… to choose your own name. If you’d like it to be more abstract, though, you’re free to choose whichever name resonates with you (and your values) best (provided that it’s not already taken 😉). A good practice here is to denominate your business with words that somehow hint the fact that it’s an interior design company.

2. Tax Obligations

Since I’ve mentioned taxation, well, you also need to get familiar with the tax policy in your country/state. I highly recommend you hire or at least collaborate with an accountant who will make sure that your finances are as clean as a whistle. That’s what I did from the very  beginning and it helps me sleep well at night 😀if you’re looking for bookkeeping software to help you keep track of all the expenses and incomes, you can try apps like Quickbooks, Freshbooks or Bonsai.

3. Licensing And Permits

You should also verify if your country/state doesn’t require any particular permits or certifications for you to be able to open your own interior design business. These licenses ensure that you meet the legal requirements to offer professional design services, so if they’re required in your area, make sure to understand the application process for obtaining any necessary permits.
Remember, building a strong legal and financial foundation is key to long-term success. By staying informed and compliant, you'll be well-positioned to focus on what you love most—creating beautiful spaces for your clients. And did I mention you’ll sleep better at night? Trust me, being sure that you meet all the legal requirements and everything else is in order - that’s a huge weight off your shoulders.

La Crème De La Crème

Or in this case - the issues directly connected with your interior design brand.

Yes, I said brand because by opening your service based business, you’re actually creating a brand. You will establish a certain style and design processes that will eventually make you recognizable (or at least that’s the goal, right?). And if on top of that, you’re using your own name as the company name - the brand is even more visible.

1. Don’t Try To Serve Everyone

First of all, you should think about choosing a niche. As counterintuitive as it may sound, it’s really important and will help you get laser focused on who you want to serve. I’ve written more about that in this article, so go ahead and have a read to learn why niching down is so important.

And, if you’d like some ideas on the niche you might pick, grab the freebie below!

2. Branding And Website

As creatives, we should pay attention to the visual aspect of our brand. After all, we want to show our potential clients that we have a good eye and attention to detail. Our logo, business cards or a well designed website will most likely be the first things our potential clients will encounter on their journey to choosing the right fit for their project.

If you don’t understand the importance of having a website for your interior design business - go ahead and read this article. And if you want to know how to design one (I understand not everyone will have a budget to hire a website designer up front) - have a look here.

There are plenty of places where you can search for some branding inspiration, like Pinterest or Creative Market. Think about the values you want your branding to transmit and choose the colors, fonts and images that will best (visually) explain them.

Just make sure to not go too far down the rabbit hole and let the analysis paralysis slow you down or completely stop you from taking action and finally starting your interior design business. Remember that both the branding and the niche you choose for now don’t have to be forever. There will always be time to pivot or refine your choices, so don’t overthink that one.

Am I the only one who always thinks of that scene when I hear the word "pivot"? 😂

3. Curating a portfolio

I get it, you’re only starting, so where the heck are you going to get projects to your portfolio? Good news is, you can get them from your head 😀

If, for now, you don’t have any projects to showcase, or the ones you have don’t necessarily present the style that you want to be known for - use the time on your hands to create an example that will do just that. 

Treat it as a good exercise to work out your systems & processes, track the time each of the phases takes you and create a project the way you want. In any case, keep in mind the potential budget your imaginary client might need for that project to exist in real life. If you’re targeting medium-budget clients, don’t create interiors that would cost millions to execute, for example. But enjoy the creative freedom anyway 🙂

A thing to note is that when it comes to portfolio  - it’s definitely quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter how many projects you’ve done. If your chosen niche is not mirrored in most of them - don’t publish them.

Let’s say you want to focus on residential interiors in classic contemporary style but you have three projects of an industrial office space you’ve designed while doing practice at a studio a few years ago. Clearly they don’t fall into your niche so I wouldn’t recommend including them in your portfolio. Perhaps you can create a facebook/blog/instagram post where you showcase the project focusing on a particular solution you’ve used, or a particular color combination, if you really want to show it somehow.

Including it in your portfolio, however, might attract potential clients that you don’t necessarily want to serve. Be mindful about what you publish online and remember - quality over quantity 🙂

Enjoy The Journey

I could go on and on about other things you might want to consider when you want to start your own interior design business, like creating a business plan, marketing, constant learning, etc., but I don’t want to overwhelm you. You’ve already got a quick roadmap to get you started.

I encourage you to stay here for a while, browse through other posts, visit my resources page and even contact me in case you have any questions. I’m here to help 🙂

Also, you might want to keep an eye out for a free mini course I’m preparing, that dives even deeper into the subject of how to start your own interior design business step by step. It will be an email course that each day takes you through one of the points I mentioned in this article (and some I didn’t mention as well!), with actionable steps, worksheets and checklists to help you out!

You can also sign up to my newsletter where I will share interior design tips (aside from business tips I share on the blog), to help you with the “constant learning” part 🙂

Crossing my fingers for you and I hope to see you again!

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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COMMENTS

2 Replies to “How To Start An Interior Design Business In 2023”

Hi Aleksandra, I wish I could work with you but I’m just too old. Great articles – makes it clear that this is really project management & some pretty technical stuff involved – not just picking the right pillows. Aspiring independent designers will benefit tremendously from your approach & systems! Wishing you much success, Heidi

Thank you, Heidi, I wish more people understood that being an interior designer is not just, like you said, picking the right pillows. Thank you for your wishes, all the best to you, too!

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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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