“How do I become an interior designer?”
I am emailed quite often with this question from people unsure about taking that leap.

My advice is almost always as follows:

  • Hone your focus. Your desired niche will dictate what you need to study and learn about. Decorating, kitchen and bath design, universal design, full service, residential, commercial, etc. Some will require schooling and/or some years working for other designers.
  • Develop your process and systems. If you are trying to break out and start your own business, worry less about how you are going to get the gig (although still important), worry more about how you will perform as a designer. If your client shows you a half finished room in a panic, where would you start? Do you charge for consultations? What is your contract? How much will your retainer be? What are the next steps? You’ll have to explain your process to your client on the first meeting so be ready. They will ask “so what now?” at the end of the meeting. If you feel unprepared for this, you’ll likely need some training, and having a mentor is a huge plus.
  • Begin establishing yourself as a professional. A website/blog is the easiest way to get started. Start writing articles (which is also a great way to learn as you research for them) and people will get a sense of your style and services as well. You can offer to write columns for local publications or offer yourself to local news shows to do relevant segments on your services.
  • Charge an industry rate. Don't massively undercharge because you are inexperienced. You know more than your client, which is why they hired you. If you undercharge you will do a disservice to the rest of the industry.
  • Learn a CAD (computer-aided design) program. Of course, I suggest SketchUp since it has such a low barrier to entry. But it may be helpful to ask other designers in your area what they are using, and what local firms want their entry-level designers to know.
  • Live and breath design, tell people what you do, and stay the course. It's a long road but if you keep going you'll get there!