Starting a career in the interior design industry is not easy, but not impossible. Never be afraid to reach out to people you know to help them with their own homes. Even if you do work in your own space, capture it! Building your portfolio is a process, but I have created some tips to help you along the way.
1. Hone Your Craft
The only way to improve your design skills and refine your aesthetic is through hands-on experience. Offer design assistance to family and friends, work on projects in your home—anything that will build your portfolio. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. At the end of the day, exposure and connections will build up your business.
2. Capture it!
You NEED high-quality images of the spaces you create. Take a photography course or seek out an aspiring photographer you can collaborate with. For example, we started building our portfolio with images of our home. We then added spaces we redesigned for family and friends to refresh our content as we grew the business continuously. Build your business with people with similar interests, and finding a good photographer can elevate the look of any design. If you are working on a start-up budget, this Youtube video has some great tips on doing it yourself.
3. It Never Hurts to Ask
You never know when you might make the right connection. Even if a design firm you admire isn’t currently hiring, reach out and ask if they’d consider taking on an intern. If you prove how you’d be an asset to their team, you might get a foot in the door! Experience will take you a long way in the industry, and the more persistent you are, the more opportunities you will have.
4. Professional Skill & Personal Qualities
A few essential skills, and keywords, to add to your interior design resume include understanding balance, scale, budgeting, timelines and scheduling, space planning, and specifications. On our team, we look for creative, kind, team-oriented designers welcoming feedback and always striving for growth. Teamwork is critical in providing our clients with the most innovative designs and the best experience. Most of the time, this is not a lonely job. You’re constantly collaborating with other creative minds, and the more minds, the better.
5. Seek inspiration
If you’re new to interior design, I recommend researching industry groups in your region that align with your aesthetic. When we started, we would frequent our local markets, such as Las Vegas Market and High Point Market, to learn more about current trends and innovations. We also gathered inspiration from local shops, tile stores, museums, and boutique hotels. I also recommend LuAnn Nigara’s A Well-Designed Business podcast. She hosts a variety of interior design industry professionals who provide insight and guidance relevant to anyone’s journey in this business.
Favorite Interior Designers Podcast
- Wingnut Social
- Dear Alice
- The Kate Show
- Design for the Creative Mind
- The Interior Collective by idco
Interior Decorating/Design Books that Helped Me:
6. Just Start!
If you’re thinking about launching your interior design or decorating business—just start! Curate your portfolio, create a website, create social media accounts (Instagram being a top priority) and embark on your journey. Patience and persistence are key. I’ve always considered it an incredibly rewarding job rather than a dream one. It’s my passion, but it’s a ton of work! It can be complex, challenging, and quite the mountain to climb—but the view at each stage is well worth the climb.
If you are just starting out, always remember to trust the process. Success does not come overnight, but continuous hard work will put you on the right path. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and reach out to designers you admire. Look around your community to gather inspiration and meet new people. I hope I was able to provide some helpful tips for starting your design journey. If you want more tips like these, let me know in the comments.