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Interior design is a growing and competitive field. People are very much aware of design trends, and many like to keep up to speed with fashionable developments, such as adopting the Pantone colour of the year or this season’s must-have fabrics.
There are lots of courses in interior design, from degree-level qualifications at universities to prestigious academic lessonsfrom the Royal College of Art or the National Design Academy. You can also study design via distance learning online, and some courses combine design with lessons on starting your own business. It’s worth getting some sort of qualification before launching your business; however, it’s also possible to build a portfolio even while you’re studying. There are several ways that you can do this and learn as you go.
Before you can convince potential clients to trust you with their design project, you have to have something to demonstrate that you know what you’re doing. Look for up to three projects that you feel will do your talents justice and offer to waive your fees. You may have family or friends willing to let you “practice” on them. Aim for as much creative control as possible, but remember that, ultimately, you will want them to be pleased with what you do. Make sure that you take high-quality photographs to use on your publicity material and your website.
Create a stunning website
Think carefully about how to market yourself and your talents. You will need a smart and attractive website for a start. This is a showcase for your creative ideas and your ability to implement them, so make sure that the images that you use promote your business in a positive way and that the text is of high quality. Potential clients who browse your website should find it easy to make contact, and you should respond promptly if someone goes to the trouble of doing so.
Set up your business systems
Remember to put in place all the things that you’ll need once you are up and running. Keep business bank accounts separate from your personal finances, for example, and put systems in place to handle your business income and expenditure. The website invoicehome.com is ideal for the creation and production of business invoices, receipts and credit notes, etc. You can decide on your own personal design and logo, which should be replicated on your website and any promotional literature that you use. This creates a clear link between your business profile and your design skills.
Assemble your tools
If you haven’t done so already, put together a library of fabric swatches, colour charts, flooring and wallpaper samples, ready to tempt your first paying clients.It’s also a good idea to create an album of design features that attract you as this gives clients a picture of your style and approach to their project. Collect photographs of anything that grabs your attention no matter how quirky – for example, scatter cushions, area rugs, light fittings, furniture, mirrors and artworks. Lots of interior photographers style a shot using retro items and plants that are architectural in style, so keep your eyes open when you are selecting likely subjects.
Artists and craftspeople
It’s useful to make contact with other creative people, especially up-and-coming artists and makers. Artists who are at the start of their career, like you, will be keen to get exposure for their work, and you might find that there are opportunities to work closely together that will benefit everyone. For example, you may get preferential prices if you are willing to use their fabrics or ceramics, say, as part of your styling. You can also take the opportunity to feature the work of creative colleagues on your website, in return for the same favour.
Communicate and demonstrate
Finally, remember that good communication is essential for an interior designer. This means that you have to be able to listen to your client so that you understand fully what they want. Sometimes, you will find that you disagree with or dislike your client’s ideas, in which case you have to be prepared to demonstrate why this is the case, or decide that this project is not for you and explain this to the client. Beware of the client who wants a fabulous interior for next to nothing. Pricing is always a delicate matter, and some people will think that you should work to a budget that is patently unrealistic. Think hard about the market that you want to serve, and make sure that your client fits the profile with which you’re comfortable.