Cheat-Sheet to Starting Your Interior Design Company

by Mark Stephens

Starting your interior design company is not just about arranging furniture and placing cool bean bags, it is about designing a place in a way that is better suited to its purpose. 

This emotional connection to our environment is often unnoticed but we leverage its power on a daily basis: the height of your desk to the placement of shelves in your home, interior design makes it all come together to make your life more comfortable, convenient, and cause-driven (supported by the environment around you). 

Nonetheless, there are aspects of interior design which are noticeably on the surface: aesthetics, using products that make a statement for you, and efficiency that emerges from a well-designed interior.  

There is a lot to interior design. As an interior design company, how to do it all while keeping all the client requirements and business aspects in check?

A short answer: be a constant problem solver. 

In this blog, we will cover all that you need to know – and remember – to start an interior design company. As we move ahead, you will realize that problem solving is a huge part of it all. 

Step 1: Safety Nets in Design Industry

It is a common cliché that creative professionals are not well-versed with the business aspects of a company. Regardless of its legitimacy, it is unaffordable. If you are a designer who is aspiring to start an interior design company, you might be focusing on the design aspects of a company and planning to design the best interiors worldwide. 

While there is nothing wrong with that, it is safe to say that it is incomplete. 

No business is fail-proof; you will come across risks and potential failures. The key is to dive into the business world with both feet on the ground and a support system. 

In the initial stage of starting an interior design company, here are some things to consider as a support system for your company:

  • 3-6 months runway: Usually, a business runway is an amount of time your company can stay active before running out of all the money. 

As you are starting an interior design company, it is advisable to keep a 3-6 months runway which covers your essential expenses (on yourself and on your interior design company), a.k.a all the fundamental human and business needs. 

  • An accounting and legal team (or legal knowledge at the very least): Many famous CEOs suggest that you should go bare-bones during the first few months of starting your company; What we miss here is that we do not need to do this at the expense of legal risks. 

The design industry has quite specific commissions, fees, and legal aspects; from my years of experience in the design industry, I recommend that you keep it all in check either by hiring an accountant, bookkeeper, and an attorney or by having a very thorough knowledge of these aspects of the interior design industry. 

  • Planning: Safety nets are not only for a time before you start your company, these safety nets work best when they are brought into the company. 

Planning is one of the most underrated yet highly conducted precautionary steps that result in the success of your company. 

Based on extensive market research and resources you have currently, determine what services you will provide and what will be the cost of these services. 

While doing so, it is important to understand that your interior design company will potentially grow; thus, keep a wide scope in mind that allows you to explore all horizons. On the other hand, if you have decided to be niche-specific, then focus on what will be your unique selling point:  a unique style, a specialty, an additional service, etc. 

Step 2: Brand Identity as an Interior Design Company

Drew McGukin, the founder of Drew McGukin Interior, said in an interview that he did not announce his interior design company as ‘live’ before he got brand identity elements covered. 

Though creating a brand identity is not a one-time task but rather a recurring activity based on various factors, having a solid brand identity before your company is launched is crucial; (here is how to design a memorable brand identity). 

It is simply bizarre to think that customers will engage with a company that does not have a logo, a website, an online presence through other mediums, and branding collateral materials – especially when it comes to an interior design company. 

As an interior design service provider, your target customers will most likely form an opinion – and decisions – based on your brand design. Leverage the design skills you plan to showcase to the world through unbeatable and unique brand design. 

Branding is not only about aesthetics, it is the core of visual communication from a brand to its customers. 

Therefore, it is important to highlight your unique selling point (refer to bullet point 3 in ‘Step 1’) through your branding efforts and brand identity elements. A clear vision and mission statement can help you not only decide what your business stands for but also to express it to your target customers through your visual communication tools. 

Step 3: Survival and Growth of an Interior Design Company

You can do all of it right – coming up with a name, having a dedicated team, unique brand design, and unmatched quality services – and not make a profit. That is when you realize that something went wrong down the line. 

Though money is not the sole reason for successful entrepreneurs to start a company, it is also not a component that can be ignored. 

As a creative company – an interior design company; a new company for that matter – you might want to give all that you got to your customers and show the quality and uniqueness that your interior design company brings to their places and spaces. This is appreciable and right, but when done at the cost of making profits, it can come back to haunt your company. 

  • Gain some experience and start building a portfolio. You can also include this portfolio on your company’s website (on an ‘About Us’ page or create a different page for the portfolio altogether). 
  • Charge, charge, and charge. Many new entrepreneurs feel the need to first build a brand and then charge based on the credibility of their brands, this does not work in most cases. Even to get something as basic as funding, you will need to show the numbers that your company has gained. 

Bonus Step: Start Saying No

It is very tempting to say yes to every project you come across – especially when starting an interior design company. 

Nonetheless, to build a brand, it is important to not only decide on your services but also your clients who get to receive these services. As you decide your niche, work on coming up with approaches you use to pick your clients as well; these approaches need not be rigid, but a guiding framework that speaks for your brand itself. 

Read more: How to Pick the Right Interior Design Clients and Projects?

It might sound difficult or risky to filter clients in the beginning phase of starting your company, but following the above-mentioned steps, you can ensure that your interior design company is set on its way to a successfully established interior design brand that knows what it is (brand identity), who it is for (your customers), what it provides (your services and USP), and where it is headed (growth).

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