how to run an interior design business

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

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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. People simply focus on Instagram-worthy before and after photos. 

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 here to get your free checklist.

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

Here’s what you need to know:


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 palettes of fabric (see below) and making video!

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.  Start each client project with 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 Creating Contrast Designs

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.

Here is a link to my favourite set of Benjamin Moore colours. If you want to know more about colour and are not already following Maria Killam, you need to check out my good friends’ ‘Colour Me Happy’ blog here.

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 these items to clients’ homes to be best prepared for the initial consultation meeting, depending on their needs of course.

Here is my outdoor studio. I am a bit anal retentive about being organised!

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, Creating Contrast Designs.

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? Hell 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 directly liaise with them? Or, will you oversee each project while scheduling and managing 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.

I do a lot of Youtube videos, but 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 successful because of referrals, and this kind of 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 marking up furniture?  

In running your interior design business, you will find that you have a lot of outgoing expenses, everything starts to add up fast.  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 a free download with video that I created which will help you to package and price your services.

Want to take your business to the next level? Here are a couple of 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.

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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8 thoughts on “How To Run An Interior Design Business”

  1. 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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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!

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