Starting a new business in any form is scary. In fact, starting any business is scary. Let’s look at the interior design industry. It’s a service industry. You’re going to get difficult clients, perform
strange hours, asked to do strange things and problem solve on the hop. Secondly, it’s personal. Of course it is. It’s someone’s home. Why would it not be personal? You’re going into people’s lives for a
protracted period of time. You’ll meet their families, their pets,
their friends.. If you don’t want to know that aspect of
people’s lives you’re in the wrong profession. But what is an interior design business anyway? Put simply, it’s helping someone else. Your skills are guiding them to the right
design, layout and style for them.. Notice I said THEM, not you. This is such a common misconception. Years ago I was a stylist and over those years,
I met so many other stylists who styled each of their clients the exact same way. As an interior designer, I’ve met designers
who do the same thing and only do their own designs, the same way each time. With no client involvement whatsoever; they
won’t change, budge or make alterations. Not only is it self limiting, but its short
sighted business-wise. You have to be able to design in all sorts
of ways – not just your signature style. The essence of being a good designer is being
able to design different styles – not just one way – be it eastern, minimalistic, neutrals,
retro, shabby chic or whatever. I’m different in that I work collaboratively. It’s a team design. The client and me. Yes it’s great to be left alone sometimes
and get really creative, but in my experience, when they client says “I don’t want to
make any decisions”, that means “ I want you to come up with solutions to all the problems
I give you at the start and then some more solutions to the problems I create later. That’s what happens, that’s the reality. What this means is that the vast majority
of clients have ideas and themes they want to use. Again, be prepared that this is going to happen. Remember – It’s THEIR property – not yours. Once you know it’s the right industry for
you and you accept that it’s a service for others, you can then decide whether you want
to be part of a larger team basic or set up your own business. Today we’re going to focus on ‘Your Own
Business’ Let’s look at the fours skills that you’ll
need.. Confidence to
do this – and self belief. When I say this, I mean confidence in your
team and having the tools to do this. I also mean the confidence in your ‘time’
to do it. You cannot rush the process of design. Things take longer than you think – you are
relying on other workmen and suppliers. Things sometimes take more money than the
client thinks and you need to be able to communicate these changes to the client professionally. All this takes confidence in your abilities
and your team’s ability to deliver. Organisation – Are you neat and tidy? Are you organised? How is your diary? Well thought out? Do you know what the plan for the week is? Do you know how you’re getting to certain
places? Do you know what’s coming up in two weeks? Do you plan ahead? All of these things need to be thought out. Futuristic and strategic – scary words maybe,
but you need to develop these if you are going to plan an entire project. Being a designer isn’t just designing. It’s Project Management. You need to convey what you want to a builder,
soft furnishing makers, carpenters, electricians, roofers, delivery men and installers. Plus you’ll need to keep the client informed
(to a degree!), happy and excited. Problem Solving – things will go wrong and
unexpected items will come up. I completed an Edwardian House a few years ago and a random steel beam appeared in a very ancient
extension that was being rebuilt. The architects missed it and so did the structural
surveyors. Even the previous owners didn’t know it
was there. It had to be removed. That cost extra time and money and the client
had to pay for both. There are no ways around something like that. You have to know what to do, make the decision
there and then or get a cost and relay the news and the cost to the client. Other problems are more commonplace. Deliveries are the most common hold up. This wouldn’t be a problem in most people’s
lives normally but when a delivery of lights are promised and the electricians are due
on another job, you can have issues. Another problem is sickness. Issues with workmen are few and far between
thank goodness. But other ‘one man band’ suppliers can
suddenly fall ill or have to take time off for a variety of reasons. Contingency planning is vital. If someone can’t make a delivery and complete
an installation of curtains, do you rearrange? Can you rearrange?! All these things have to be thought out and
you need to give yourself extra leeway to cover your schedule. Clients won’t be interested if a workman
or supplier can’t get to you because of a strike that they’ve known weeks about
or even a funeral that they have to attend (which they’ve also known about previously). You need to jump in and save the schedule. Sometimes there really is nothing you can
do. Trucks breaking down, gas leaks from adjoining
properties, police blocking roads due to flash mob protesters – I’ve had it all. In these cases you have to re-route plans
to another day and make sure everything and everyone has been told and they know the change
of plans. You cannot just shrug your shoulders – this
is where the practice of giving yourself plenty of time comes into it’s own. Marketing/PR/Business Acumen
Where are you placing yourself? High end? Families? Commercial? What is your USP (unique selling point). What do you want to become known for? What ARE you and what are you not? Knowing this and sticking to it is crucial. Do not send mixed messages. Being a jack of all trades and master of none
is often an issue for designers. In our quest to help anyone and everyone,
especially at the beginning, we tend to take on everything. I know as I’ve done it. I get asked all the time “do you do XYZ?” And I invariably say “yes, I don’t think
there’s much that I don’t do”. It’s the truth, but when you’re starting
out, be careful not to take on too much. I specialise in three things; 1. designing family properties,
2. rental property renovation and
3. heritage building refurbishment
Often into luxury apartments – but keeping the heritage aspects intact. You need to ask yourself and establish why
you’re different. I’m more relaxed than highbrow and crucially,
I look after those properties going forward when the work is done and everyone has moved
in. My marketing USP is that I work with my clients
– I don’t dictate what they should like, feel or have. You’d be amazed how many designers say
they do this but don’t actually do it. So there you have it. Four Points to nail down! 1. Confidence
2. Organisation
3. Problem Solving
4. Business Acumen
If you concentrate on these, your design business will thrive. Good design is inherent and will be recognised. But if you don’t convince your client on
your ideas, you don’t organise in a timely manner, you can’t fix a problem quickly
and you don’t market yourself clearly, you’ll be floundering around and not travel in any
one direction but around in circles. So that’s all for this time. if you have learned anything from this video,
like it, share it and subscribe to this channel for my next words of wisdom!
Happy Designing!


  1. Hi, Raymond K from Anchor here. I think it was a very interesting point you made about the design being Theirs (the client), not yours. Also I liked the Project Management aspect of it.

    I myself have no interest in Entering the Interior Design, but I am interested in how people get into that field, just like people get into any other field. Thanks for this great video!

  2. Hi
    Great advice thank you so much. It has clearly worked for yourself and it great that you are able to share this knowledge.

  3. I’m actually hesitating to take Interior design in college. I know how to draw stuffs but i have no idea about interiors or being an architect. Wish me luck lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *