Every independent interior decorator starts out small—often it’s just you working out of your home office. But as your work and your marketing starts to take off, you’ll find yourself establishing a reputation and bringing in more and more clients.

A challenge that many interior decorators face as their careers develop is deciding when their business is ready to grow. Whether that means hiring an assistant or leasing office space, taking that first step to expanding your business can be kind of scary. Instead of looking after only yourself, you’ll suddenly be responsible for paying salaries, maintaining rents, and managing employees. So how do you know when you’re ready to grow?

You’re starting to burn out

Be careful with this one, because burnout isn’t always a sign that you’re ready to grow—it could just mean you need to adjust your work-life balance. If you’re feeling constantly tired and stressed and your work isn’t giving you the joy it used to, take a step back and figure out what’s wrong.

Are you simply too busy? Too many clients may seem like the opposite of a problem for an up-and-coming business, but the truth is that overwork can wear you down. A workload that feels like a constant uphill battle is a sign that you should start thinking about taking on help.

You’re turning away clients

Turning away clients you don’t want to work with is one thing, but if you’re turning away lots of clients because you simply don’t have the time to take them on, you’re probably ready to look at expanding.

Couple meeting an interior decorator for a consultation

You never want your customer relations or your work to suffer just because you’re too busy, but turning down clients or putting them on a long waitlist can hinder your ability to promote your business and keep your profit growing. Which brings us to our next point…

Your business has stagnated

As your career as an interior decorator took off and you got more clients, your profit started to grow, and grow, and grow…. And then it stopped. You’re not losing money, but your profits aren’t increasing, either. So what now?

Business growth can take a few forms. It might be time to think about rebranding your business to serve higher-end clients and increase your rates, although your current brand can be tough to break out of. You’ll need to start thinking about launching a new marketing campaign.

On the other hand, if you’re happy with the type of work you’re doing and the kinds of clients you’re attracting, you can expand your business and up your profits by hiring employees.

You’re meeting your goals

This might seem like the opposite of our previous point, but it all depends on how detailed your original business goals were. For instance, you may have planned for growth in your initial business plan by setting a goal for profits or number of clients.

If you’ve reached your goals and you’re getting (and staying) busy, go ahead and keep on track with your plan by investigating options for hiring. Just don’t follow your plan blindly—you may find that you want to expand sooner or later than you’d originally planned based on workload or profits, so stay flexible.

Smiling interior decorator leaning against a partially painted wall

You’re financially stable

This goes without saying. If your business finances can’t handle paying salaries or rent, you’re not ready to expand. Period.

When you’re starting out, business can be a little unpredictable. You might find yourself busy one month, then sitting through a dry spell the next. Taking on employees is a big responsibility, because you’ll often become the main source of their income, so make sure you can afford to pay any employees a reasonable, steady salary.

Sit down and do some number crunching before making any big decisions. That includes having a good idea of how much business you can expect to see on a monthly or annual basis, as well as all the extra expenses that can go along with hiring employees, renting office space, or launching a new marketing campaign.

Okay, I think I’m ready to grow—but how?

Growth doesn’t have to mean taking on another full-time interior decorator, at least right away. Freeing up a few hours of your week by hiring a part-time assistant to take care of emails, marketing, or social media might be enough to let you manage your workload.

Not sure if you’re ready to commit to growing your business? Internships are short, ranging from a few weeks to a few months, and salaries for interns will be lower than those for fully qualified employees with ongoing contracts.

With one part-time assistant, it’s still feasible to work out of your home—but once you start taking on more employees, you’re going to need to start considering leasing office space. It’s possible to have everyone working from their homes, but a shared office space makes collaboration and coordination way easier, as well as giving you and your employees a place to socialize and get to know each other.

Looking to learn more about running a successful design business? All of QC Design School’s courses include lessons on building and running your business.

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