Are you always receiving compliments on your interior design taste? Do you love decorating rooms and arranging furniture? If you answered yes to these questions, then maybe a career in interior design is right for you.
Before you make a life-altering career choice, there are some things you should know about the design world. Interior designers face challenges every day; some of these may not appeal to you, while others may excite you and open doors to a career that you never thought was possible.
Read on to learn the 10 things you should know before becoming an interior designer.
Table of Contents
1. There Is a Difference Between Decorators and Designers
What’s the difference between interior decorators and interior designers? In one word: education.
Literally anyone can become an interior decorator. Someone who loves playing with colors, fabrics and textiles can become a decorator by simply printing business cards and promoting themselves to clients. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but educational background is also important.
On the other hand, an interior designer must have an accredited education; an associate or bachelor’s degree is a requisite for working in the interior design field. Do you want to pursue an education, or jump immediately into the decorating world? Keep reading to see if interior design could be the right fit for you.
2. You Must Have a Knack for Design
It may seem obvious, but in order to become an interior designer, you need to have an innate flair for color, spatial arrangements, architecture and textiles. Do you enjoy decorating your home and get lots of compliments on your decor? That doesn’t necessarily mean you should be an interior designer, but it’s certainly a good sign.
The first step to a successful career is to follow your passion. After all, doing something you love will never feel like work. Take this fun quiz to see which field you should consider majoring in. Is a career in interior design in your future?
3. Interior Design Isn’t All Fabric and Fun
While fabrics, furniture and color may play a large role in interior design, there are plenty of other tasks that are required of interior designers — many of which may seem less like fun and more like work.
Interior designers need to be educated in the history of design, the structural integrity of buildings, building codes, ergonomics, spatial concepts, ethics, psychology, computer-aided drawing (CAD) and much more.
It might seem that interior designers are expected to be Jacks (or Jills) of all trades, doesn’t it? This broad range of skills is required because designers work with not only homeowners, but also builders, architects, government agencies and business owners. To become a successful interior designer, one needs to be educated and well-rounded.
4. The Salary Isn’t as High as You Think
Show me the money! After all, shouldn’t someone with such a vast education get paid well? It depends. Statistics show that the median salary of an entry-level interior designer in the U.S. is $42,380 per year.
Of course, this depends on a lot of factors, such as education, location, work experience and size of the firm/company. An interior designer at a furniture company will most likely make less than a designer who works for a high-end architectural firm.
Essentially, you can dictate your rate of pay by gaining as much exposure and experience as possible. Someone with education in the fields of architecture, building codes/laws and structural design will more likely become financially successful.
5. You Need to Be a People Person
Ask interior designers to share their experiences, and they will surely relate some horror stories of past clients. People are finicky, especially when it comes to their homes. While some clients have clear goals in mind, others may think they know what they want only to discover that they hate the final product and are dissatisfied with your work.
A successful interior designer is a people pleaser and a mitigator (and sometimes a mind reader) — someone who can steer clients toward a favorable outcome while making them feel they are in full control of the design choices. Interior designers are constantly balancing their design decisions and their clients’ desires. It’s not a cakewalk, to say the least.
6. You Need to Develop a Portfolio
A picture says a thousand words, and this is definitely true when it comes to an interior designer’s portfolio. You can talk all day long about colors and textiles, but unless you have an outstanding portfolio that showcases your designs and projects, your successes will be few and far between.
If you are just coming out of school and are new to the job market, it may be necessary to offer your services for free or at a reduced rate. This is probably the best way to get a portfolio started; it’s also a great way to get to know local merchandisers and suppliers, and develop a rapport for future projects.
Everybody starts at the bottom. With some effort, experience and proper marketing, you can become a successful force in the interior design field.
7. Competition Is Fierce in Interior Design
Interior design is a competitive business. The key to success is getting yourself noticed. As mentioned above, an amazing designer portfolio will certainly help you land jobs.
Another important factor is acquiring an extensive education. The more you know, the better off you will be. Consider looking toward future trends such as population growth, designing for the elderly, modern architecture and green design; education within these specific fields of design will give you the upper hand in the job market.
It is also a good idea to stay abreast of design trends by reading design publications and websites such as Freshome, communicating with fellow designers and following a mentor. When competition is high, you need to work hard in order to get noticed and rise to the top.
8. Virtual Designers Have an Opportunity
When people hire an interior designer, they may not realize that they can actually hire from anywhere in the world. Yes, designers can telecommute, too! Thanks to technological innovations such as Skype and design software, designers are discovering a whole new world of virtual design.
Although several free online virtual room design tools available to the general public, interior designers have an edge on this competition thanks to their exclusive relationships with elite design lines. Several high-end textile companies offer discounts to designers working in the trade, thereby allowing them to get their clients the best prices.
9. Designers Must Know Local Laws and Codes
This is where would-be designers may opt to avoid the education and become decorators, thereby avoiding some of the doldrum of learning building codes and local laws.
Some of the details can certainly be boring, but they are required knowledge for interior designers. Learning about plumbing codes, electricity and load-bearing walls may not excite you, but it is required. Staying abreast of such things gives interior designers an advantage and marketability that decorators simply do not have.
10. It’s Not About Your Style, It’s About Theirs
While designers can offer their clients a wide range of design styles to choose from, it is important to remember that it is up to the clients to choose what style suits them best.
Just because designers are educated and have good taste does not make their choices superior to their clients. The interior designer’s job is to offer a variety of styles and direct the client toward the right design choice while allowing the client to feel in charge.
For example, you may work as an interior designer for years and never design a house that suits your personal tastes. It is all about the clients’ style — and you must put your own aside.
After reading all the pros and cons of becoming an interior designer, do you think it’s one you’d like to pursue? If you’re considering interior design as a career, then remember all 10 of the things mentioned above. The field may be competitive, but with a little hard work and a stellar portfolio, you can become a successful interior designer.