How To Run An Interior Design Business

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How To Run An Interior Design Business

I think there is a romantic idea around running a business, especially an interior design business.  No one sees the hard work

I think there is a romantic idea around running a business, especially an interior design business.  No one sees the hard work you put in. The focus tends to be Instagram-worthy after photos, unless you share ‘behind the scenes’ on site in your IG stories. (which I highly recommend!)

Click here to get your free checklist.

When you tell others what you do, the response, “Oh that must be so fun!” is not uncommon. Am I right? You know you’ve heard that one before!

But honestly, running an interior design or decorating business can be tough.

Don’t worry though, I’m here to help you.

Before we dive in, be sure to grab my FREE Starter Pack Checklist.  You get this along with 5 other fabulous free resources I’ve created for you when you subscribe to me exclusive email list.

The checklist is a good place to start in understanding what you will need to run your business. There are also helpful links to my favourite programs and design tools too.

Click below to watch my video on ‘How To Run An Interior Design Business’.

1.  Determine What Services You Will Offer to Clients.

Too many times new business owners think of niching down as ‘pigeon-holing’ themselves.  The common misconception is that they won’t get as many clients, but this is actually not the case.

With every client project and experience, you’re going to quickly find out what you love about the business and what you’d rather not do.  As your business gains traction and you make more money, outsource the tasks you don’t enjoy or simply remove them altogether as a service you provide.

For example, I used to do all our renderings and concept designs for clients. Now I outsource this task so I can focus on other aspects of the business that I love, like meeting with clients; putting together beautiful designs like our clients family room below and making videos!

Design by Claire Jefford, Creating Contrast Designs. Photography by Stephani Buchman.

Either way, make sure you know what services you’re going to offer. This way you can confidently explain not only what you do, but also the benefits of working with you.

I like to have a Discovery Call with every potential client and then an initial consultation to make sure everyone is a good fit for the proposed project.

2.  Helpful Resources & Design Tools

You will need to invest in some key design tools for your business. This will rely heavily on my first point listed above in terms of knowing what type of services you are going to provide.

For example: Software for creating 3D renderings, large colour boards, an accounting system, an intuitive project management system and anything else you need to work efficiently and effectively.

3D Software Program

Clients living room in 3D using Chief Architect, Design Pro. By Claire Jefford

Project Management Software

Mydoma is a project management software that can definitely help you stay organised.  Watch the video below for more information on how it works. If you like what you see,  click here to get a free one on one 30 minute virtual meeting, plus 20% off your first 3 months.

Invest in a great website and professional photography to make sure you’re attracting your ideal clients.  These aren’t tools you’ll carry around with you, but this way, your online image and branding remains consistent.

Large Paint Boards

Large colour boards have been another huge asset for my business. They make it easy to show clients why I recommend one colour over another colour. I take them to every meeting and confidently specify paint colours. I also use them in my colour videos on my Colour & Interior Design YouTube channel.

If you want your own large colour boards, click here to see the different collections.

Materials to Hand

In my office I have a small library of fabric and wallpaper books; brochures & catalogues as well as many samples that I am able to refer to as needed.  I can also bring some of these items to clients’ homes to be best prepared for the initial consultation meeting, depending on their needs.

To see ‘What’s in my bag’ and all that I bring to a consultation, click here.

Here is my outdoor studio. I am a bit anal retentive about being organised, as you can see! Photo by Stephani Buchman.

3. Organized Processes

Sure, Interior Decorating can be fun, but there is a lot that you need to know and keep track of.  You need to be organized when logging information, tracking inquiries, placing orders, customizing designs, and much more.

To make the most efficient use of your time while maintaining your sanity, you NEED to have streamlined processes.

Design by Claire Jefford.

Having a background in Human Resources has served me well in this area, so I can definitely help you with this.

My ‘ROCK the Initial Consultation Processes Package‘ takes you through all my processes from the very first call to the end of the initial consultation.

Ready to knock your clients socks off? Heck yeah!

With more than 20 forms/templates/checklists to download; 7 pre-drafted emails and 3 videos, it’s full of invaluable content.

Click here to find out more & stop re-inventing the wheel with every new client or worse, flying by the seat of your pants!

4.  Establish Relationships with Quality Tradespeople

One huge benefit that you will serve to clients, is as a resource to quality and trustworthy trades.

Customers will want to know that they can rely on you for recommendations of great referrals such as builders, general contractors, painters, plumbers, electricians, and anyone else who might be required to carry out work on a renovation or decorating project.

However, this is where it’s super important to understand how you will work with your trades. Will you happily pass along their details and have clients liaise with them directly? Or, will you oversee each project while scheduling, managing and collecting payment for all of the trades?

I personally don’t love project management.  Therefore, we happily recommend trades to clients, but typically only to clients who have hired us for ongoing design services.  Good trades are hard to come by, so do your homework and be clear on your working relationship.

Bernhardt Showroom, Highpoint Market.

You will also need to set up accounts for vendors and suppliers for various products such as plumbing fixtures, appliance, flooring, tile and furniture.  When you’re attending trade shows, build your relationships with local vendors to make purchases.

If you haven’t been to a furniture trade market and you offer custom decorating services, click here to get insider tips from other designers’ on how to navigate the showrooms and plan your trip.

5.  Plan Your Marketing Strategies

In today’s busy world, you will want to be promoting yourself through social media platforms, as well as with face-to-face interactions in your local community.  (Unless you will be solely focused on E-design).

No matter what services you choose to offer, you will need a solid marketing strategy in place so people can find you to understand how you will save them money and how you can offer so much value to a project! This is why having a great online presence and strong relationships with others in the industry (both on line & in your local community) is imperative.

A great way to express yourself is via video.  I’ve been using video in my business since 2013.

Video is one of the best tools for connecting with and speaking directly to your ideal clients. While I do a lot of Youtube videos, I appreciate that these can be fairly time consuming to create, edit, publish and market. (however, they are evergreen!)

With Facebook Live and Instagram stories, however, it couldn’t be easier to hit the record button and share what you have to offer with the world!  And because what we do is so visual, there are a ton of content ideas that we can share on a daily basis.

If you want to start doing more video in your business, learn more about my Video For Profits course here.  Don’t wait any longer to start doing video, just pull the trigger and do it!

Physical promotional materials are perfect to pass onto with trades, suppliers, friends, neighbours and clients.    See here for the brochure  that I created to showcase my services and learn how I use it in my business to attract new clients.

6.  Build your reviews

Ask your happy clients for a testimonial after the project is finished.  Businesses are often successful because of repeat business and referrals, and our interior design industry is no different.

I ask for my testimonials through Houzz to keep them all in one place.  I get most of my business from Houzz, so it only makes sense to have everything centrally located.

Then be sure to SHOUT ABOUT each review and share in your social media posts.

I appreciate that this platform is not very well liked in our industry, so you will need to consider which platform you wish to align your business with and where you end up getting most of your online traffic to your website from. You will always want to add them to a testimonials page on your website, as reviews are a BIG DEAL to consumers.

7.  Make money!

You are in business to make money.  Sure, this business is our passion, but it’s still a business.

What are you going to charge?  How are you building multiple revenue streams?  Are you making commissions on furniture sales?

In running your interior design business, you will find that you have a lot of outgoing expenses. Everything starts to add up fast and it’s mandatory for you to be making a profit at the end of the day.  This doesn’t make you greedy, it makes you a smart business owner.

You may very well be leaving money on the table, when you should be charging for your time and invaluable knowledge.

In this video I show you how you can make more money…like up to $25,000 or more per year!!   Yeah, don’t miss that.  It’s a game changer.

If you are unsure how to charge for your services, here is where you can get my free download with video which will help you to package and price your services.

Want to take your business to the next level? Here are a couple of more ways that I can help.

Join my FREE Facebook Group – Interior Design Business Strategies.  IDBS…where there is no BS. It’s a supportive, highly resourceful and incredible group of talented designers from all over the world.

The engagement is unparalleled and people are sharing so much, every single day. Click here to request to join my tribe and be sure to answer the required questions in order to qualify for approval.

Work with me one-on-one for a video coaching call!  See what other designers are saying about hiring my services here. Please feel free to reach out and connect with me to find out more information or to book an appointment.

Book a call with me here

What else do you consider important in terms of running an interior design or decorating business? Comment below, tell me what you think!

Please note: some links on this page are affiliate and therefore earn me a small commission should you choose to purchase a product or sign up to a program.  There are no extra fees incurred at all.  Thank you for your trust and support.

(24) Comments
  • Jillian
    | 17 March 2018

    This was such an awesome post, Claire. And, I purchased your Rock the Initial Consultation course and am totally loving it! It has been worth every penny so far.

    • Claire Jefford
      | 17 March 2018

      Hi Jillian! I’m super excited to hear that you are loving my ROCK the Initial Consultation processes package and that you’ve found it so valuable! My goal is to always provide great value and to share with others as much as I can. Cheers!

  • Veronica
    | 18 March 2018

    This is amazing Claire. So much great information and resources.

    • Claire Jefford
      | 18 March 2018

      Thanks Veronica! Appreciate you taking the time to check it out. 🙂

  • Great post Claire, I’m wondering how we get people to comment on our Blog and not on the link on FB?

    • Claire Jefford
      | 21 March 2018

      Hey Jil! If you send your subscribers a quick note and link to your blog post, (I use mailchimp) then you could ask them in that mailchimp email or at the bottom of the blog itself.

      Often when you share on fb, people comment on fb, right? You could also let them know in the copy of your fb post, that you’d love it if they shared their feedback in the comments section on your blog post. It can be hard to get comments because people are always so busy, even if they read, they may never leave a comment. However, it also depends on the topic. The more of a pain point you hit, or a controversial or personal post, the more likely people are to respond.

  • DeeBee Interior design
    | 5 April 2018

    Good info even though I haven’t watched the video

    • Claire Jefford
      | 10 April 2018

      I appreciate it can take a bit more time to watch videos. But when you get a chance, circle back and check it out. Cheers!

  • Praveen Kumar
    | 10 December 2019

    A post that I would recommend to my interior design client to read. I will share it with them. Thanks for writing and sharing this post.

    • Claire Jefford
      | 23 December 2019

      Thanks so much Praveen!

  • Blake Riley
    | 25 April 2020

    3D software simulations on interior design saves so much time and you get the idea how it will look without actually having to place anything anywhere. Thanks for sharing the awesome post!

    • Claire Jefford
      | 25 April 2020

      Absolutely Blake, offering 3D design services has been a game changer for my business. Clients love seeing the possibilities before finalizing those big design decisions. Cheers for your feedback!

  • Priya Dharshini
    | 13 May 2020

    This is a great article, Claire. I will definitely share it in my fraternity. Thanks for letting us know about Mydoma!

    • Claire Jefford
      | 13 May 2020

      My pleasure Priya! Cheers.

  • Praveen
    | 16 June 2020

    A friend of mine is into Interior Design business. I think sharing this post with him will help in his business pretty much. Thanks for writing and sharing this post.

    • Claire Jefford
      | 16 June 2020

      This is wonderful to hear, thanks so much for sharing Praveen!

  • I am very pleased to see this article, really goes into depth with information, it definitely helped the launch for our interior design company. Outstanding job curating this list and sharing it with us. Thanks a ton!

    • Claire Jefford
      | 29 July 2020

      I’m so glad you found value in this video!! Thanks so much for your feedback Misty!

  • contact us
    | 7 August 2020

    What requirements are needed to be an interior designer?

    • Claire Jefford
      | 8 August 2020

      To get a degree in Interior design, check on Google and search in your local area for available courses. What is required to call yourself an Interior Designer varies from not only country to country, but also between States.

  • Lisa
    | 10 August 2020

    Having an Interior Design Business is not easy. This was really helpful. Thank you for your informative article.

    • Claire Jefford
      | 10 August 2020

      I’m so glad you found this content helpful! Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know 🙂

  • When I started my interior design business I spent money on shit that I didn’t need. I changed my services what seemed like every two minutes and felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to chase every bit of knowledge that could set my business off into the stratosphere.

    • Claire Jefford
      | 13 August 2020

      This is not uncommon, the business of design is a lot harder than most people think when they start. Finding a coach or mentor early on is a great way to learn. They teach you so little in most schools or courses in regards to the business side, often setting graduates up for failure. That’s why I started this second business, to help people avoid making the same mistakes I did. Hopefully you have a handle on it now and are running a successful business. Thanks for watching.

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