Short on Time? Here’s a Quick Guide to Starting Your Interior Design Business
- Research and write a business plan. You’ll need to be aware of your state’s requirements for registering your interior design business, as well as your ideal business structure and what makes you stand out from the competition.
- Choose a name and register an LLC. Your name needs to be memorable, convey your type of business, and most importantly, be unique. Many states have strict requirements on your name’s availability. Luckily, ZenBusiness offers a free and in-depth business name availability search.
- Apply for tax IDs and obtain permits and licenses. States like Florida and Louisiana require an official certification for you to be able to call yourself an “interior designer” (as opposed to an interior decorator) and work as one. In other states, such as Washington and Nevada, you’ll need specific certifications to work in any kind of commercial area. You should also keep a close eye on the tax requirements for your business structure.
- Open a business bank account and get funding, if needed. Most interior designers can get a good head start with their own funding or with small loans from family and friends. If you need larger amounts of funding, though, you might want to consider applying for a business loan.
- Acquire any required materials, resources, or outsourced services. Make sure you have your portfolio ready, as well as 2D/3D modeling software and some brand identifiers.
- Launch and market your company. Your business’s online presence will be crucial to your success. Luckily, website builders make it easy for you to create and edit an ideal website for all your needs. You’ll find a list of our recommended builders below.
1. Researching and Writing an Interior Design Business Plan
A Deep Dive Into the Business of Interior Design
Even if you’re a master of interior design, you may not know everything there is to know about the interior design business.
Start by identifying if your business is viable. Is there enough demand around your area to supply you with continuous work? Do you have any contacts or skills that can give you a leg up when getting started? It’s okay if you don’t, but I won’t lie to you – the process will be challenging, but success is possible with creativity and determination. Just remember to be patient. You won’t get to where you want to be in just a week.
Research your competition, find some of the best designers in your niche, and check out their portfolios. What do you admire about them? What could you bring to the table to differentiate yourself? Even if you don’t have a ton of previous experience, you should consider preparing a portfolio. You might only have concept sketches and 3D mockups for now, but even that’s a good place to start.
Finally, make sure to research the legal requirements for your state. Depending on your state, you might have to get registered with a local agency and have some degree or certification if you want to call yourself an interior designer and not an interior decorator.
You should also take into account what type of business you want to register. Registering as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) protects your personal assets while giving you the freedom to operate as a business.
If you choose to register as an LLC, many LLC formation services can help you navigate all the legal intricacies. ZenBusiness is a great choice since it can not only help with the legal details of LLC formation, but also with the financial and marketing side of things.
What Should You Include in Your Interior Design Business Plan?Though your exact approach will be unique to you and your business, there are some general components you should keep in mind. To kick things off, you need to be sure about what your business does. Are you offering full-room transformations, curated decor selections, or specific style consultations? There’s no wrong answer as long as your answer isn’t everything, you need to narrow down exactly what you do best and what you enjoy doing. Also, recognize that the design world is vast. Identify what makes your approach or style unique, so customers choose you over others. Then, dive into understanding your customers and competition. Who’s your ideal client? Homeowners looking to refresh their living spaces won’t have the same budgets and necessities as businesses aiming for chic office setups. Depending on your target customer, they will also have different expectations and approaches toward you, the designer. Think about your client-attraction strategy. Will it be through dazzling Instagram posts, local workshops, or word of mouth? Finally, sketch out your projected income and expenses. I get that as a creative, this might be the most tedious part, but it’s also crucial. You need to keep a close eye on your money, and for the love of god don’t undercharge for your services just because you like your clients. You won’t rack up a million dollars with your first project, but you do need to know your worth. If you need to spruce up your startup with some investment, outline how much you’re looking for, its intended use, and your strategy for payback.
2. Choosing a Name and Registering Your Interior Design Business
When choosing the right name for your business, not only do you want to go for something catchy, it also needs to convey your own personality. You have to make sure that it isn’t the same or even too similar to another business. Still, this is one of the most fun and rewarding parts of the entire process. You get to create something that gives you and your business a unique identity.
Keep in mind, however, that if you want to register your business as an LLC, you’ll need to perform a name search to ensure that the name you choose is available for registration in your state. While we’re on the subject of LLCs, I should go into more detail about why I recommend registering your business as an LLC.
While it isn’t the only option, an LLC is the ideal business structure for most small businesses and startups. Not only does it allow for wide flexibility in organization and hierarchy, but it gives you the ability to separate your personal and business income, safeguards you from legal liability, and ensures your personal privacy.
Registering your business as an LLC doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, there are plenty of providers that offer complete LLC registration services to help you streamline the process. Here are some of my top recommendations.
ZenBusiness provides a straightforward and well-rounded solution for setting up an LLC. Not only does ZenBusiness help you easily navigate the process without the complication of state-by-state registration, but it also offers a free plan (plus state fees) to help you set up your business on a budget.
Besides assisting with the formation of your LLC, ZenBusiness also provides a comprehensive suite of finance tools. The finances of an interior design business can get intricate, so these tools can be indispensable for dealing with vendors, clients, and overhead costs. Also, thanks to its legal assistance tools, you’ll always have guidance on the legal aspects of running your business, ensuring that all your bases are covered.
It also doesn’t hurt that ZenBusiness has one of the most intuitive user experiences out there. Navigating the platform is seamless, even if you don’t have much experience. Besides, if you ever do get stuck, ZenBusiness offers an outstanding customer support team to help you solve your doubts on the fly.
- Free tax savings consultation. With any of its plans, ZenBusiness gives you access to a 30-minute consultation with a business tax professional.
- Online presence features. Though it is a little rudimentary, ZenBusiness gives you access to a full website builder, as well as domain name registration and email hosting.
- Outstanding business extras. For an extra fee, ZenBusiness can take care of crucial aspects of your business such as giving you access to a Registered Agent, applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) on your behalf, and helping you file your annual reports when necessary.
- AI-powered logo designer. A good logo can do wonders for your business image, and Tailor Brands offers a high-quality, AI-powered logo designer to help you get off to a good start.
- Setup questionnaire available in Spanish. Tailor Brands offers a dynamic setup questionnaire to help you identify exactly what you’ll need to get your business up and running. The questionnaire is also available in Spanish to help ensure that more people have access to its services.
- Document assistance. Swyft filings can help you file important documents like Operating Agreements, Banking Resolutions, and Organizational Minutes.
- Free Squarespace domain. Thanks to its partnership with Squarespace, Swyft Filings offers a free domain for one year, as well as additional tools for website design.
3. Checking State Requirements for Interior Designers
Like it or not, getting a good handle on your taxes will be a crucial part of starting an interior design business. Any business, really, but I know creatives tend to gloss over the financial part of the business to get to the fun stuff.
When launching your interior design business, there are essential logistical steps to consider. If you’re planning on hiring people, it would be wise to acquire an EIN.
While getting an EIN might not be obligatory in all states, it is in some. Even if you don’t plan to hire anyone but yourself, an EIN can help you excise tax on specific business-related items or open a business bank account. You might also need a state tax ID, depending on where you’re planning to register your business.
You should also take a close look at the specific requirements of each state. Remember, in some states, you’re obligated to get a certification or even a specific registration to operate as an interior designer. Either way, you might also need a specific business license or specific documents before you’re allowed to operate as a business.
This is where LLC formation services come into play. Services like ZenBusiness can help you navigate the maze of tax IDs, permits, and licenses. It simplifies the process and ensures that your interior design business is as well structured legally as your designs are artistically.
4. Funding Your Interior Design BusinessAs long as you’re not starting out by remodeling a sixteenth-century castle, you can usually get your interior design business going with very little funding. Remember that you need to create a portfolio, so before making a deal with your local mob boss, start by rearranging spaces like your house. You can also ask family and friends to let you work on their interiors for “free” so long as they cover your business expenses. When you’re done, good-quality photos of these spaces can be amazing additions to your portfolio. That said, you’ll still need to pay for materials, a photographer (if you don’t have photography experience), web hosting for your portfolio, advertising campaigns, and more. You shouldn’t have to sell your right kidney to cover these expenses, but you might still want to consider taking out a small startup loan from family or friends or even a small business loan from a bank. You should also keep in mind that any money you’re not saving is money you’re losing. If you need a little assistance on the financial side, ZenBusiness Money is an efficient, easy-to-use financial tool to help you keep a close eye on your finances.
5. Buying Interior Design Materials, Resources, and Outsourced ServicesBefore you can start defining your materials, you need to keep a close eye on your niche. Don’t go all out by buying marble tiles if you want to do office decorating. Don’t start buying furniture by the dozen if you’re not sure it will fit your style. In fact, don’t start buying materials before your first interaction with a client. You never know exactly what your client’s sensibilities might be before you have your first face-to-face interaction with them because they usually don’t know themselves. Make sure to prepare sketches and mockups and only start buying what you need after you’re sure it won’t go to waste. That said, there are some expenses that you might consider making beforehand. These include:
- Interior design software. You don’t have to break the bank going for an AutoCAD subscription, though. In fact, most 3D modeling software tends to be way too expensive and unnecessarily complicated for beginners. Programs like DesignFiles, Floorplanner, or SketchUp Pro work just fine and cost a lot less. The ideal software for you will once again depend on exactly what your niche is and which tools you already have some familiarity with.
- A good camera. Hiring a photographer might be a good idea at the beginning. As your business grows and you get more jobs, however, investing in a good camera and maybe some photography courses can save you a lot of time and money down the line. Not only will this mean you don’t have to pay (and wait for) a photographer every time, it also ensures that your portfolio reflects your work exactly as you want it to be seen.
- High-quality prints. This is a very minor expense, but if you have parts of your portfolio that you’re particularly proud of, printing them out on nice paper and putting them in a fancy binder could help you seal the deal with potential clients. It’s also just nice to have a tangible way to view and show your accomplishments.
- Home/office renovation. You have to be your first client. If you can’t trust yourself to create your ideal living space, why should your clients? You never have to share more than you want to, but a couple of good photos of your own living space can be good first additions to your portfolio. This is doubly important in the age of Zoom meetings. A bad background could be enough to convince potential clients to take their business elsewhere.
- A nice, formal outfit. Okay, this one is really optional. But you might want to invest in some good-looking clothes to ensure that you make the right first impression on potential clients. Unfortunately, humans are very judgy creatures, and while your fashion sense might have nothing to do with your prowess as a designer, potential clients might associate them subconsciously.
6. Launching and Promoting Your Interior Design Company
You’re planning to be a business owner in 2024, so an online presence is non-negotiable. Luckily, you don’t have to be a web design expert to create a website that shows off your work and reflects your sensitivities. If you want to create your website yourself, there are plenty of website-building tools that can help you get your dream website up and running.
Not only do these tools help you express your creativity, they also take care of all the technical stuff for you. With a website builder, you don’t have to worry about web hosting, domain registration, or custom plugin installation.
These are some of my favorite web builders for an interior design business:
Wix stands out as one of the best options to showcase your creativity thanks to its selection of over 800+ unique templates and drag-and-drop editor, which gives you maximum creative freedom when editing your site. For designers, this means you have the flexibility to present your style and brand exactly the way you envision it. With its customizable interface, you can easily manipulate text, images, and layouts to fit your aesthetic and professional needs.
Another strong suit of Wix is its variety of tools tailored for service-based businesses like interior design. It provides features for creating compelling portfolios to showcase your work, as well as appointment-setting functions to help you manage client interactions. These tools enable you to put your best foot forward while simplifying the client acquisition process.
Wix is also exceedingly affordable. While I wouldn’t recommend Wix’s free plan for your business website, its paid plans start at just . You get the full design capabilities of Wix with each plan, and you can always upgrade as you need.
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How to Start an Interior Design Business: A Solid Foundation Is All You Need
Getting the necessary permits, registering your business, creating your website and everything in between can feel daunting. Take it one step at a time, however, and you’ll soon find that it’s easier than it looks.
Hiring the right professionals for the job instead of trying to do everything yourself can lift a huge weight from your shoulders. It will also protect your business from any administrative problems that could arise in the future.
Below, you’ll find a table of the LLC formation services I recommend the most for aspiring interior design business owners.
|Free plan (+ state fees)?
|Interior design compliance tools?
|Starting price (for paid plans)
|Powerful finance-tracking tools
|Great design and branding services
|Worry-free and fast LLC registration