Want to know how to become an interior decorator? QC Design School tutor, Tammy Hart, reveals 5 tips to help you achieve this goal while still in school!
Tammy Hart, I.D.D.P, CAPS is a certified interior decorating specialist. She’s also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist from the National Association of Home Builders. Tammy is the owner and award-winning designer for the Designer Chick Co., as well as the Past Director on the National Board for DDA (formerly CDECA).
Becoming an Interior Decorator: Starting a Business
Back when I was an aspiring interior decorator, there was nothing more exciting and terrifying to me than the thought of starting my very own business. The thing was, I didn’t know how to become an interior decorator and start a business while I was still a student. Moreover, I didn’t know if it even made sense to start my own business before I’d completed my certification training…
Starting an interior decorating business entails multi-managing various facets. You need to consider finances and funding, sales and marketing, and legalities and staffing. But don’t panic! The good news is, you don’t need to be an expert in all of these areas in order to get the ball rolling.
Knowing when and what to delegate is a good place to start. This way, you can focus your energy on building a solid foundation for your business’s success. So, if you want to become an interior decorator and start a business of your very own, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to wait!
Yes, you might want to hold off on booking paying clients until you have your official certification and designation under your belt. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take while you’re still in school to help get the ground work of your business started!
How to Become an Interior Decorator While Still in School
You might be tempted to run out and start designing business cards, creating logos, and building your business website. But while these are all essential steps when developing a business, I urge you to take pause for a moment! The fact is, there are other steps you need to take before you jump to these ones – and they’re of even greater importance!
Tip #1: Understand the Commitment Your Interior Decorator Business Requires!
When you dream of becoming an interior decorator, you likely dream of working for yourself. After all, who doesn’t want to be able to create their own hours, or take vacation time whenever they’d like? But to get to the point where you can create your own hours and schedule, you’ll first need to put in the time to properly nurture your business.
Think of it this way: your business is a newborn baby. Newborn babies require a LOT of time, attention, devotion, and love. In some instances, they even require round-the-clock care. Your newborn baby (a.k.a. your interior decorator business) will require your stamina. Moreover, it’ll rely on your ability to multi-task and be pulled in many directions. You’ll need to have thick skin hear and be prepared to hear “no” often.
Knowing how to become an interior decorator ultimately falls on your ability to make difficult decisions and own your screw-ups. You’re not going to get everything 100% the first time… and that’s okay! As you begin your journey, remember this word: SWOT. It stands for understanding your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This is integral to understanding your readiness to launch a business of your very own.
Tip #2: Naming Your Interior Decorator Business!
Interior decorators are creative individuals. Yet too often, this creativity is lost when choosing a business name. Many interior decorators choose to name their businesses after themselves. This isn’t always the best strategy, and here’s why: before naming your business, you should be considering your exit strategy.
(I know, that sounds odd, right? Thinking about your exit strategy before you’ve even launched your business? I get it!)
But here’s why I recommend this: it’s important to think about what you want to have happen with your business whenever the day comes that you’re done with it. For example, will you want to sell it? If you think you would, now you need to ask yourself this: how likely is it that someone will want to buy a business with your name attached to it? Could they run into any legal issues with that?
Instead, the better option is to come up with a business name that speaks to the creativity this industry offers. If you struggle with this, consider:
- Your brand
- The emotion your business evokes
- Your strengths
- Your favorite part(s) of your job
- The services you’ll offer as an interior decorator
Just remember: though this is a serious aspect of launching your business, make sure to have fun with it and step outside of the box!
Pro Tip: Once you decide on the name of your interior decorator business, don’t forget to register it! That way, no one else can swoop in, take your name, and use it for their own company.
Tip #3: Create Partnerships!
If you want to know how to become an interior decorator and actually be successful, you’re going to want to know how to create partnerships. Networking will be one of your very BEST friends throughout your career! So, research into this. Learn about the many ways you can develop partnerships with suppliers, contractors, and other vendors. Moreover, figure out how you can do this in a way that promotes a mutually beneficial relationship.
Just make sure that you go into every partnership fully prepared! It’s not uncommon for an interior decorator to be taken advantage of by contractors. You might run into one or two shady contractors who only try to use you in order to gain more clients. Ultimately, our plans are just plans without our suppliers and/or vendors. And if we’re not careful, this could lead to one-sided relationships.
The best way to avoid this is by ensuring that you outline the expectations at the onset of the partnership. This way, both parties will fully understand what is expected, as well as what both businesses should be bringing to the table.
Additionally, ask them if you can shadow their team for a few days before building a relationship. Then you can be better assured that their work values align with yours. Furthermore, this is an important on-the-job learning opportunity! It will teach you about the various aspects of design and decorating in a hands-on way.
Tip #4: Become an Interior Decorator While Still in School by Finding a Mentor!
It’s never too soon to find an industry mentor. A mentor is someone who is willing to take you under their wing and show you the ropes. They’ll act as an accountability partner and/or give you guidance as you navigate this new journey. After all, the best way to learn how to become an interior decorator is to shadow someone who already IS one!
Remember: your mentor was once a newbie in the exact same shoes you’re in now. They, too, were once learning how to become an interior decorator; cutting their teeth and trying to find their way. Your mentor either had someone to help them (as they’re now helping you), or they did it on their own. Either way, most people – when asked with kindness and graciousness – will be willing to offer some sort of guidance.
Tip #5: Get Familiar With The Legal Stuff!
Last (but definitely not least): you need to determine what – if any – permits, licenses, registrations, or insurances your business will need in order to operate. According to Forbes, consider the following:
“Depending on the nature of the business, you may need the following permits, licenses, or regulations: Permits needed for regulated businesses (aviation, agriculture, alcohol, etc.), Sales tax license or permit, Home-based business permits, City and county business permits or licenses, Zoning permit, Seller’s permit, Health department permits (such as for a restaurant), Federal and state, or provincial tax/employer IDs.”Forbes
I suggest researching into business advisory centers or websites in your city/province/state. This will be the most accurate way to know your area’s specific and applicable regulations regarding how you should be operating your interior decorator business!
The single greatest piece of advice I can give you is this: if you want to know how to become an interior decorator, the very FIRST step to take is to get professionally trained and certified.
By building your skill-set and experience through QC Design School, you’re setting your future business up for long-term success. From there, you can use any or all of the above tips to actually start the foundation of your business while completing your training!
Already graduated from your certification course, but still want a bit more guidance before officially launching your business? Then I recommend checking out QC’s Accelerate Your Business program! This 5-unit course is designed to help you build your business acumen. As a result, you’ll better understand how to build your interior decorating business and become a successful interior decorator.
Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or questions. As always, thanks so much for reading!
Join the discussion 7 Comments
As a current student, I truly appreciate this guidance! I’ve been so stressed about finishing my courses that I wasn’t sure anyone would trust me before I complete my certification. This was a great reminder that it’s never too early to start building relationships and get my name out there 🙂
This comment makes us SO happy, Maria, thank you for sharing! <3 While we strongly urge aspiring interior decorators to wait until they've obtained their certification before taking on paying clients, it's NEVER too early to start getting things into motion and building the foundation for your business while still in school. By the time you graduate, you'll be ready to hit the ground running - and all of your future clients will be able to trust right off the bat that they're working with the real deal! <3
All the best,
The QC Team
Its never too early to get started on your business! There’s a lot behind the scenes to have in order. Great article!
You’ve hit the nail on the head, Daniella, that’s EXACTLY it! <3 We couldn't have summed it up better ourselves!
All the best,
The QC Team
Knowing the commitment before you start is such a great tip. And networking has completely changed the way I do business in NYC! Thanks for the info
Great read! All of these tips are super helpful for anyone looking to start their own business!
We’re so glad to hear that you found this article helpful, Alexa! It’s definitely important for aspiring interior decorators to know that they DO have the option of starting the beginning steps of their business, even if they’re currently working through their training. 🙂
All the best,
The QC Team