Building a new business in any industry can be quite scary. As a budding interior designer, you may have many concerns about how you can make your new business relevant, profitable, and sustainable.
Whether you are fresh out of design school or you have worked with other firms and are ready to start your own thing, there will always be the question of how to make your business stay afloat.
If you are on this boat, don’t panic. You can build a great interior design business from scratch.
7 practical tips to start your interior design business
There are strategies that can help you learn quickly, avoid pitfalls, cut down on time and resources, and thrive in your business. Let’s walk you through seven practical tips to help you start and grow your interior design business.
We will also show you three must-have software that will help you plan and succeed in business.
The first thing you need to do is get all your ideas organized clearly. Ideas are nothing if they are not properly sorted out and built upon. As you organize your thoughts and ideas more, your motivation to build your business will increase.
Here are some practical steps to getting organized:
- Do some research. You need to find out as much as you can about the design industry or the section of it that you want to enter. Abstract ideas are great, but it is better to build your business on facts.
There’s a lot to learn from other interior designers, companies, books, and social media. The information and inspiration you gather will help you make solid decisions about starting your business.
- Self-evaluate because knowing yourself is as important as knowing your industry. Determine what mental space you are in, examine your reasons for starting the business, and understand what you want to achieve.
This helps you go in with a defined purpose.
- Set smart goals. You need to set goals that will guide your every move. You can set goals for the kind of designs you want to create, the number of clients you want to have garnered by a given time, how finances will be handled, and so on.
Your goals should include the specific actions you want to take and when they must be taken. Don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself, though, so you wouldn’t burn out before you even begin.
You should organize the information you gather from these exercises in a comprehensive way so that you can go back to them for direction whenever you need to. A project planning software like Trello can help with this.
Trello is a free planner that lets you move projects through workflow stages all the way to completion. It presents your tasks as ‘cards,’ which you can name, assign to other people and give due dates.
It also lets you upload files such as images and documents to your workspace.
Decide what services you want to provide
There is a long list of services you can provide in the interior design industry, ranging from styling and decorating to consultancy and so on. Within these, there are also preferred design styles, space types, and client categories.
The truth is, you cannot do everything. Before getting started, you need to define your niche—what you want your business and services to be about. Consider the following at this stage.
- Evaluate your areas of expertise, and determine where you’ll be needing help. You need to ensure that you work on projects you are passionate about.
Focusing on what you do best and getting support in other areas is a great way to succeed. A realistic assessment of your current skills will save you and your future clients a lot of frustration.
- Determine what sets you apart from others in your field. What are your strongest skills? How do you want your business to stand out compared to others? Answering these questions will help you to map out the specifics of your business and services.
- Research what clients want. Clients are at the heart of your business. You want to make sure that you are offering the services they want and satisfying them. Conducting some research into customers’ needs for your industry will help you design products and services that they will appreciate.
A great tool to use for your customer research is the jtbd survey template. The Jobs to be Done (JTBD) Framework is a proven way of understanding customers’ needs and developing products that address them.
This framework is straight-forward and easy to use. The templates it offers help you figure out what questions you need to ask and how to understand answers to these questions.
Plan your finances
Passion and ideas are great, but money is what brings them alive. You need to invest some money, however little, into your startup. Businesses can suffer or crumble due to a lack of financial planning, so you cannot afford to be aloof about your finances.
Not to worry, financial planning is not so complicated at this stage. Here are some practical steps you can take.
- Identify how much money you have to begin with. The capital for your business could be from your savings, but there are other ways to source money.
These include asking family and friends, taking a loan, applying for a small-business grant, crowdfunding, and more. Knowing how much you have will help you identify your priorities and scale your business properly.
- Make a list of your business’s basic needs. These may include office space, internet access, employees, and software. When you know what you really need, you can allocate reasonable costs to each one without exceeding your budget.
- Get financial advice. If you can afford to work with a financial coach, then go for it. If not, you could get advice from established business owners, friends, or even books. Gain an understanding of how business finance works so that you can manage your funds well.
Not a fan of numbers and accounting? You can use easy financial planning software like Brixx.
Brixx helps you plan your startup’s financials, create charts & reports, and test scenarios. It also breaks your business down into its parts, which allows you to create a detailed financial picture through easy steps.
Brand your business
Your business needs to have an identity that stands out. Branding helps you allocate features such as name, visuals, values, and personality to your business. You can do some of your initial branding by yourself, but it is useful to get some help.
Hire a brand designer who can understand your vision for your business and convey your message through their work.
Some branded collaterals that you should have include: primary and secondary logos, a brand style guide, business cards, email templates, marketing materials, and social media guides.
The goal is to ensure that your business communicates what you want it to and stands out from others.
Invest in knowledge
It’s great that you know enough to get your business started. However, you need to increase your knowledge if you want to grow and compete with others.
Constantly improve your professional knowledge by taking courses, attending industry events, drawing inspiration from other professionals, and working with other designers.
You also need to stay informed about interior design trends that your clients might be interested in. You will surely gain huge returns when you invest in your knowledge and skills.
Put together a portfolio
Build your portfolio so that prospective clients can see samples of your work. If you haven’t had a chance to work with real clients yet, you can include practice projects or work you did in design school.
You could also redesign your home or ask your friends and family if you could redesign theirs. These projects will help you practice and give you something to show new clients. Your portfolio could be presented as a collage, moodboard, or website page.
Talk about your business, everywhere
As soon as you are ready to begin rendering your services, spread the word about your business in every way you can. People need to see you and hear about you. You need to put solid marketing strategies in place so that you can appeal to your dream clients.
Word of mouth is very reliable, so make sure you and others have positive things to say about your business. Also, create a website and make sure your SEO is strong so that you can be found through internet searches.
Being active and relevant on social media will also give you good publicity.
As you implement each of these steps, you’ll see your business come to life and become everything you want it to be. Don’t lose courage if success does not come as quickly as you want it to; it does take time for new businesses to grow.
You are well on your way to creating a sustainable, profitable, and fulfilling business. Enjoy every bit of it.
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