PROGUIDE: Start Your Interior Design Business

Opening a new business in an uncertain economy is always daunting. But when the business is interior design, it becomes much more than selling sofas and wall coverings. An interior design business owner must have an artistic flair and have the charisma, talent and business savvy to make a hobby into a lucrative business.

interior design. Architectural materials tools and blueprints

An interior designer’s creative instincts mix artistry with spatial dynamics. In that area, there is little thought of business acumen. Yet to open, fund and operate a business, it’s essential to have a good business plan to start the process.

Finding investors, or funding your interior design consultancy with a small business credit card might be options to help kickstart your business. Banks or investors may have no way of evaluating an interior designer’s talent, but they can assess the strength of a business plan.

Know the rules

One of the first steps of any business plan is knowing the municipal regulations that govern the interior design industry. Twenty-five states and territories have some type of legislation concerning interior design. These regulations break down into two types.

Title Acts govern the use of the title or name that the practitioner can use. In some states, the use of the terms “certified” or “registered” in front of the title of interior designer is specifically controlled — a person can be an interior designer but cannot be a “registered” interior designer without having a prescribed amount of qualifications.

The other type of regulation is a Practice Act. Six states have legislation that require a license to be an interior designer. Generally these rules require a degree, four to six years of experience, or some combination of the two. In these states, an interior designer has authority to submit blueprint changes to the government building department in the same way that an architect or contractor can.

Understanding the rules for your city and state and having the qualifications to get the appropriate license or certification is big first step. Without these, the interior design entrepreneur is stalled at the starting line.

Be Social

Once the business is up and running, it’s the time to promote your name. The advent of social media can help greatly. Social websites and DIY shows have put the design industry in the public view. They have created a fantasy for the viewer, offering beauty and functionality without needing to find a new home. Marketing for an interior design business means taking this fantasy and making it come true.

Using the social sites mentioned on shows the marketing power that an interior design company can harness. No longer does a designer need to rely on portfolio folders and model homes. He can use Pinterest to upload images of his work, spread them via Twitter and Facebook and connect with companies in the immediate area via LinkedIn.

Get Marketing

When creating a marketing strategy, the design entrepreneur needs to define her specialty and strengths, creating niches where appropriate. According to a Dun and Bradstreet report, the 50 largest interior design firms account for about 10 percent of the industry’s revenue. This leaves a lot of room for a new designer to break into the market.

If the designer has a gift for Feng Shui and Asian-themed design, then make that the central message of the marketing campaign. Website, flyers and business cards all need to have the same theme. More importantly, they should all make the same promise and benefit. An interior designer’s marketing materials need to show and tell the prospective customer that this is the right company for a particular interior design project.

Next, identify target clients. Creating a solid partnership with a contractor or an architect would go a long way for the interior designer that wants to target the residential customer.


Making money is the goal of any business. Before launching a business, create a budget. Itemize all of the expenses, including equipment, needed to begin the business. Do not forget to include salaries for the founders and staff. Include your marketing budget. When budgeting, do not plan based on the minimum needed. Create the financial plan based on what is necessary to have the business thrive.

Here are some other sources for funding as needed.

Self-funding – If the entrepreneur has resources in the bank, then the business is a go. It is also common to establish a line of equity against real estate to create cash flow for a new business.

Small Business Administration – The SBA is a wonderful resource for any new business. Besides the possibility of financing, they offer a huge amount of education and guidance. Financing through the SBA requires a full business plan. There are also special programs for minority or female owned companies.