What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting an Interior Design Business

Over the past several years, I've had the opportunity to share snippets of my unconventional career journey with outlets like Lulu & Georgia, The Identite Collective, and more. It's always fun to look back on those early days as a designer. But truthfully, there are a few things I wish I could go back and tell that earlier version of myself. Starting an interior design business can feel so daunting, and there are lessons I wish I'd understood before jumping in. While I have zero regrets about starting a business on my own, the backend part of entrepreneurship certainly could have been smoother.

Whether you're in the process of establishing your own studio or just beginning to dream, I'm here to tell you everything I wish I'd have known— from one business owner to another.

Photography: Amanda Marie Studio

Educate Yourself

Above all else, it’s so important to educate yourself on the best structure for your business. Do this step with the help of both an accountant and lawyer by your side. I know those upfront costs can be difficult to swing, but they will pay off in the long run. Remember that there are several types of business structures to consider, and depending on your goals (keep growth in mind!), you need to find the structure that works best for you. I didn’t have a clue about this area and went in with the assumption I needed the easiest structure possible. It turns out that wasn’t true. With more experience under my belt, I spent the last half of 2020 reworking all of our structure and paying for it, too!

Hire the Pros

I touched on this already, but one of the best decisions you can make is hiring a lawyer and an accountant ASAP. If you don’t have a good contract or a sense about your profits and loss, it’s going to be a tough road. Remember that you’re building a business that needs to support you and possibly other team members. The bottom line: you need professionals to guide you through the nitty-gritty elements to really make it work.

Photography: Amanda Marie Studio

Consider Name Options

This may sound obvious, but it wasn’t to me: really think about your business name. Think about it for a long time. When I was starting an interior design business, I saw a trend in the industry for principal designers to name their studios after themselves. It seemed straightforward, so that’s what I did too! But after hiring staff and watching the business bloom into something that wasn’t always related to me, I knew the name needed to change. Our new branding is set to roll out this year (along with a new website!), but I’m taking my time making sure each detail works for our long-term goals.

Think Big Picture

If you’re going to give part of your soul to this business, make a plan with your long-term dreams. Thinking big picture was hard for me initially, but after seeing the potential, I knew I had to buckle down, dig into our process, and create the business I wanted over the next 1-10 years. Practically, this means tons of investment into hiring professional copywriting, graphic design, business coaches, and more.

Photography: Amanda Marie Studio

Research Tools + Programs

As you know, we use tons of different software in our business. But initially, I made the mistake of signing up for a few too many that weren’t the best for how I wanted to work. Softwares are a monthly expense and if you don’t find their value, find something else.

For more on this topic, check out The Tools + Programs We Use as Designers

Hone Your Services

Come up with a three-sentence statement about “the way you work.” In interior design, you could offer an endless amount of services, but I knew from the get-go this wasn’t going to work best for me. I had to develop a succinct statement about “the way we work” to easily communicate to potential clients and keep boundaries around the types of projects we take on.

Our “the way we work” statement is centered around full-service design from concept to completion. I found that handing off design plans doesn’t give me the full satisfaction of my investment and doesn’t always best serve the client. By creating boundaries and sticking to them, you’re giving yourself the best shot at showing your worth to the client and yourself!

Photography: Amanda Marie Studio

Learn When to Say No

Learn that it's ok to say no. No to collaboration opportunities, no to potential clients—no to anything that isn't a good fit. True story: we once said no to the biggest project that's ever inquired with our studio. It was hard, and I came back to our staff a few times to triple check it was a no-go. But at the end of the day, it just wasn't right for several reasons. While it would have secured us financially for a very long time, it wouldn't have made us happy, and in fact, would have stressed us out for months. While I lost plenty of sleep over that decision, I know it was the right one. Since then, many new projects have come our way that maybe aren't as impressive in scale but are certainly up our alley in terms of creativity.

Believe in Your Abilities

Finally, don’t forget to believe in your abilities as both a business owner and designer. It might sound cliche, but if you have the drive, you really can do it. Remember that you have the freedom to create the business you want. It may not be exactly what everyone else is doing, but I have a feeling it will turn out even better.

To learn more about our design studio or submit a project inquiry, visit our contact page. We can't wait to connect!

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