It’s official- you’re a certified interior decorator! You’ve learned theories and techniques, practiced in your own space, and you’re ready to start your professional career!
Many beginner interior decorators feel apprehensive about how to spark their career once they’re finished training. How can you start building a client base? What steps should you take in your first year?
Turning your training into practical work experience doesn’t happen overnight. Here are 7 steps you can take to get the ball rolling!
1. Start networking
Interacting with other design professionals, or even just décor enthusiasts, will do wonders for getting your name out there. The professionals who trained you might connect you with job opportunities. Fellow designers might know of clients they can’t take but whom they’d be willing to refer you to.
Network online in forums and on social networks, interact with other interior decorators at conventions, or seek out other professionals who might need interior decorating services, like real estate agents.
Pro tip: While the Internet is a great way to make new contacts, nothing beats a face-to-face interaction! Don’t rely solely on Facebook. Take the time to meet key influencers in person!
2. Become a brand rep
Some qualified decorators look at becoming a representative for a brand as being a step down from working their independent contracts. Many interior decorators prefer to concentrate on freelance decorating that could lead to establishing their own business, or to working with design companies. In reality, becoming a brand rep can support these other jobs.
Especially during your first year in the industry, representing and selling a particular decorative brand can be both an educational and a networking opportunity. By selling décor as well as designing interior spaces, you’ll secure yourself a secondary source of income, either between or during other contracts.
3. Become an assistant
There’s no shame in starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder when starting out in a new industry. Shadowing a more experienced interior decorator is an amazing opportunity to refine your skills and learn through hands-on work. That decorator’s clients might even recommend you to others if they like what you do!
Shadowing someone with more experience lets you see what successful designers do right and how they handle it when things go wrong. Assistantships are a great transition between your training and your professional career. They’ll prepare you for making your own way in the industry.
4. Volunteer work
Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean you should give your services away for free. Doing too much work for no pay devalues your skills. Potential clients might think that you work for free because you’re not very good. In your first year, however, certain volunteer work can be beneficial. Volunteering is a great opportunity to practice while you network. Contact local retirement homes, new small businesses, or charitable foundations and donate your time in exchange for experience and a chance to help people.
5. Keep applying
During their first year in the industry, many interior decorators struggle with inconsistency between contracts and jobs. Don’t let this discourage you from taking temporary contracts or applying for jobs with design companies.
Not hearing back from potential employers is no reason to stop distributing your portfolio and resume. Think about it this way: the more resumes you submit, the more potential clients or employers will be introduced to your name. In the time it takes for one of them to call you, submit more applications, work small contracts, take volunteer opportunities, or shadow more experienced professionals.
The things you do between big contracts keep you in practice, teach you new things, and build your resume. It also looks more impressive to potential clients and employers if you’re active between jobs, rather than disappearing from the industry.
6. Build your brand
One of the smartest things a beginner interior decorator can do in their first year is build their brand and establish a solid presence online and in their local industry.
When you’re not volunteering or assisting, work on building a quality website, starting a blog, and creating a professional portfolio. The stronger your branding platforms are, the more easily potential clients and employers can see the quality of your work, making them more likely to hire you.
7. Offer lessons, workshops, or parties
If you find that you have space between work opportunities, do something about it! Try not to sit back and wait until something falls into your lap. Interior decorating is one of the few industries where professionals can create work for themselves.
Between jobs, tell your friends and past clients that you’re available for things like instructional workshops and décor parties where guests learn about decorating techniques and have the chance to purchase decorative pieces. Even one-time jobs like these support your resume, and they also show potential clients and employers that you’re pro-active about your career.
Keep it up!
Your first year working as a professional interior decorator might be a challenge, but there are ways to help yourself. Don’t let feelings of uncertainty stop you from taking steps towards an active career and a solid client base. New decorators who show initiative and drive during their first year in the industry will spark a successful career for themselves.