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 about being an entrepreneur, especially as an interior design business owner.  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!)

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 Startup 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. Now to see my highest viewed Coaching video on ‘How To Run An Interior Design Business’, click on the video below.

1.  Determine What Services To Offer 

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

See how fabulous this room turned out in real life here

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. (Note – this is an affiliate link)

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 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. Learn more about my large colour boards and even get your own set. I have the entire collection and love them all!

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.

Go check out ‘What’s in my bag‘ and all that I bring to a consultation.

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 and Design can be fun, but there is a lot that you need to know and keep track of! 

You MUST be organized and professional with your onboarding process, tracking inquiries, sourcing and 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, I actually thrive on being super organized! If you hate coming up with wording for email and making checklists and forms, or creating a process flow chart, let me help save you a ton of time with my proven processes.

My ‘ROCK the Initial Consultation Processes Package‘ takes you from the very first call to the end of the initial consultation. EVERYTHING YOU NEED IS HERE.

Rock The Consult Graphic
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 so much invaluable content that is already done for you. All you have to do is add your own branding such as logo and font colours!

Stop re-inventing the wheel with every new client or worse, flying by the seat of your pants and making it up as you go along!

As part of your process, DO NOT underestimate the importance of having clear and thorough contracts. Learn more about my Contract Templates, they are available now and for immediate download.

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?

If you haven’t heard my podcast episodes with 2 of my contractors, you’ll want to take a listen.

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 focused only 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.

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’s 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 used to ask for reviews on Houzz as I a lot of my business from that platform. But over the past couple of years I have turned my focus to Google for getting reviews and it’s paying off with increase in inquiries from homeowners who tell me they found us through a Google search.

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

I appreciate that Houzz 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, you don’t wanna miss that, it’s a game changer.

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

Free Facebook Group Interior Designers
Join my FREE FB group with over 5000 mehttps://www.facebook.com/groups/interiordesignbusinessstrategies/mbers from the interior design community!

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. Feel free to reach out and connect with me to find out more information or to book your one on one coaching session today.

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.

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