10 Steps to an Interior Decorator Career
By Tag Goulet
Imagine having a career that lets you use your creativity to make homes and businesses more beautiful and comfortable. Welcome to the world of interior decorating! There are few careers that offer so many benefits. An interior decorator career will give you the satisfaction of making your vision a reality. You will meet interesting people, and because many people who hire interior decorators are wealthy, you will likely spend time in many beautiful homes and businesses.
If you start your own decorating business you can enjoy the freedom of being your own boss. And perhaps most importantly, your “work” will be fun, interesting, and rewarding.
As long as you have the desire, you can launch an interior decorator career. No special education or experience is necessary to break into this career and succeed. (Unlike becoming a certified interior designer which has strict requirements including two to five years of post-secondary education in interior design.) You can become an interior decorator immediately.
If interior decorating sounds like the career of your dreams, here are 10 steps to breaking into this fabulous job, based on the FabJob Guide to Become an Interior Decorator, the textbook for IAP Career College’s Interior Decorator Certificate Course.
1. Train your eye for an interior decorator career
Since you are interested in becoming an interior decorator, chances are you already have a “good eye” for design. In other words, when you look at a room you can see what looks good, and what could be improved. But no matter how naturally talented you are, you can continually “train your eye” by studying what people consider to be good design.
Seek out beautifully decorated interiors to look at. You can find numerous examples of beautiful interiors in design magazines or in your own community by visiting show homes, open houses for sale in wealthy neighborhoods, furniture showrooms, historic homes, art galleries, and offices of professionals such as interior decorators and corporate lawyers.
2. Educate yourself
Interior decorators are expected to know about the various elements involved in decorating such as: space planning (how to arrange furniture and other items within a particular space), use of color and light, furniture and decorating styles (for example, Colonial or Southwestern), floorings, wall coverings, window treatments, and use of accessories such as pillows and art. You can learn decorating basics through courses, books, web sites, and even by speaking with retailers of products used in home decorating (paint, carpet, lighting, hardware stores, etc.)
3. Practice at home
Most interior decorators get their first decorating experience working on their own homes. Even if you have just one small room to experiment with, you can get “hands-on” experience with a variety of decorating techniques. For example, you can make a dramatic change to any room, quickly and inexpensively, simply by rearranging the furniture or painting the walls a new color. Give it a try! Experiment with techniques you wouldn’t ordinarily use. Consider this room your “research lab” where you can try things out before recommending them to a client.
4. Volunteer your services
Your friends and family members may already have asked for your advice about decorating, but if they haven’t yet asked you to actually decorate their homes or businesses, why not offer?
Some occasions your family or friends may want to redecorate are when they experiencing transitions in life, such as: marriage or co-habitation (help them merge two households into one), moving into a new home, childbirth (offer to decorate the baby’s room), hosting a special event such as a wedding or dinner party, starting a home business (you could decorate their new office), and selling a home (explain how a well decorated home can attract buyers).
5. Prepare an interior decorator career portfolio
A portfolio is a collection of samples of your work, plus any other documents that can help show why someone should hire you. The most important part of an interior decorator’s portfolio is photographs of interiors you have decorated, so make sure you take “before” and “after” photos of every space you decorate. Choose 15-20 photographs of work you are proud of, and arrange them in a photo album or portfolio case.
Your portfolio can also include letters of recommendation and “design boards” (poster boards onto which you have pasted pictures and samples of materials such as fabrics, flooring, wallpaper, etc.) to show clients what you recommend to decorate a particular room.
6. Get a job
Even if you plan to start your own interior decorating business, you can learn about the business and meet potential clients by starting with a job in the industry. Companies that hire people with decorating talent include home builders, manufacturers of furniture and housewares, hotel and restaurant chains, retailers (furniture stores, home improvement stores, antiques dealers, housewares stores, etc.), plus interior design and decorating firms.
To get a job, you will need to prepare a resume that emphasizes your experience with decorating plus any other skills the employer is looking for, such as customer service or organizational ability.
7. Start your own business
Many interior decorators dream of being their own boss. If that’s your goal, you’ll need to decide on business matters such as your company’s name and whether to incorporate or not. Free basic business advice is available from organizations such as SCORE and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Many interior decorators choose to work from home when they start their businesses because it saves on the cost of an office and, unlike many other types of businesses, you won’t be expecting clients to come to you – you will usually be going to their homes or offices.
8. Establish relationships with suppliers
Suppliers are companies that supply the products and services you need to decorate. They include manufacturers of furniture, wall coverings, flooring, fabrics, etc. as well as contractors who do painting, carpentry, installation, etc. When you go shopping as a professional interior decorator, you are entitled to “designer discounts” of up to 50% off the regular retail price which you can pass on to clients.
While some decorators charge an hourly rate or a flat fee, others charge “cost-plus.” For example, if your cost for a product is 40% percent below the regular retail price, you could charge the client your cost plus 20%, thereby saving the client the other 20% they would pay to buy the same item at a retail store. This opportunity to save money on decorating may convince clients to hire you.
9. Get clients
Your potential clients could include home builders, new home buyers, wealthy home owners, professional couples, advertising agencies, art galleries, bed and breakfasts, boutique stores, corporate head offices, hotels, law firms, restaurants, spas, and many other types of businesses.
One way to market your services is by networking with professionals who can refer business to you, such as real estate agents, architects, antiques dealers, art dealers, home renovators, and owners of businesses that sell home furnishings. Other marketing techniques include putting up a web page with photos of interiors you have decorated and getting publicity in the homes section of your local newspaper.
10. Grow as a professional
Successful interior decorators continue to learn new decorating techniques. Once you have started an interior decorator career you can continue to develop your skills by attending trade shows, reading decorating magazines and books, and joining professional associations. You can also impress clients and have an advantage over your competition by becoming certified as a professional interior decorator.
To learn how you can get started in a dream career as an interior decorator, check out the Interior Decorator Certificate Course offered by the International Association of Professions Career College (IAP Career College). For information, visit https://www.iapcollege.com/program/interior-decorator-course.