*Note: This post has been updated from its original version published on 2.28.16, since it has been almost a year since I originally wrote it and now that I have completed my diploma and have some experience, it made sense to give a more accurate picture
Many people think being an interior designer is easy. It’s what I thought when I decided to go back to class and get my diploma. I mean, I loved decorating my home, thought I did a pretty good job of it and selecting pieces was a snap! However, now that I have completed my diploma and have started working with clients and on projects, I have realized that there is much more to being an Interior Designer than just home decor.
In fact, it has made some of the things I used to do so easily, a lot more difficult. No longer am I just quickly choosing furniture or accessories. Each room is carefully analyzed before I even think about adding or changing anything. I used to go to the store and just pick something up because I liked it and it would fit somewhere. Each purchase now is carefully researched, thought out, and shopped for, no longer settling for just a nice piece with a good price
As an Interior Designer, you need to know A LOT of information – architectural elements, building codes, ergonomics, anthropometrics, and more. An Interior Designer can design an entire house or small condo project and have it built!
Many people think of Interior Designers as simply decorators. And yes, that CAN be a big part of their role. But before even getting to the decorating part, many projects require measurements, drawings, floor plans and space planning. To do this, one must know how to use AutoCAD and many are even proficient in using 3D Rendering Software. These things take a lot of skill to master and can be very useful to a homeowner looking for someone to not only decorate, but design (or redesign) their home.
Personally, I have found there to be many great things – benefits if you will – to being an Interior Designer so far. But also some downfalls. So if your thinking about taking the leap and going for it, here are some things to consider.
- You learn how to sketch and properly. I was surprised to find out that this can actually be taught and you CAN be a decent artist. This skill is very handy when you are trying to express a vision quickly.
- You learn how to successfully use impressive software that can be useful as a designer, but also in other fields. AutoCAD is not easy to learn – but once you know it, its a great space planning tool for even your own home.
- You can help your friends out – and get great references. Everyone can use a designer once in their life, and good friends are usually willing to recommend you – especially if you are helping them out once and a while.
- You can get great deals from many different suppliers and retailers. Building the right relationships with the right manufacturers/suppliers and retailers is key though, so you need to take the time to do it.
- With the right relationships, you may often get free samples in order to help you understand and also recommend products to your clients.
- You can start to have great contacts with quality contractors and tradespeople as well as other designers and manufacturers in the home decor industry. This is very helpful when you have questions or need different work done for a project.
- You learn a lot about project and client management. While I already know this from my 10 years in Marketing, for those new to business, this is valuable knowledge to have. Many people struggle with these particular skills, but once you perfect them, they can also help you in your every day life.
- There are many people out there that make interior design look so easy via Instagram, Pinterest, etc., that it actually can hurt the industry because people begin to think they can do it themselves. Its more difficult to show people now, the value in hiring a professional when professional DIY’ers make it look simple. This is a challenge for new designers trying to get experience and make a name for themselves.
- Then there are those people that hire an interior designer but think they know it all from seeing these bloggers, etc. on social media “doing it so easily”, and just want you to make their room “look exactly like that”, without understanding the differences in spaces, lighting and styles.
- Helping your friends out. Yes, this was listed in the PROs also because its a great thing – until its not so great anymore. You want to work for your friends, in fact, your likely insulted if they hire anyone else. However, you are still doing the same job, but probably for less money – even if your friends insist to pay you your full amount. Make sure to lay everything out on the table for friends and ensure your not losing money doing work for them ALL the time.
- Your constantly tempted by beautiful designs and decor. Its our job to stay on top of trends, retailers, sales, and more. But it sucks to see all that and not be able to make over your own home. I spend a lot of time in stores and on-line, searching for inspiration, items for clients and deals for myself. I swear my husband cringes each time I leave the house.
- You could have your name tarnished by bad tradespeople. This doesn’t have to be a CON, but you have to be very careful in who you (or your clients) select to carry out your designs. If they do a poor job, or lack integrity, the clients dream kitchen (or other space) could end up a disaster with your name attached to it. Fortunately, colleagues and experience will show you how to prevent this from happening – but I’ve heard of it happening to even the best.
- Working with clients is not as easy as it looks. Just like there are all different types of styles, there are also all different types of people. Some will let you work your magic and give you the space to come back with a recommendation based on their wants, needs and a few inspirational images. While others will be difficult to get the information out of, until you come back with your recommendation and its 180 degrees different than what the client is looking for. There is no way to get around this or be prepared for it with some people. You will need many different project management styles to deal with different types of clients – but sometimes you won’t know which one you need until you’ve been hired.
- You will need to be flexible and not take things personally. Sometimes this is hard. Projects can get derailed very easily for a number of reasons – you need to be able to adapt to change in order to move forward quickly in order to not let small issues set you back. This is appreciated by clients. Sometimes, clients will really not like your design or your recommendations – you cannot take this personally and let it get you down. Just shake it off and take a new approach!
There are many people out there on social media showcasing their homes and making it look so easy to do yourself. However, don’t be fooled – it is not as easy as it looks. It’s like a professional athlete – while it may seem like the sport is simple to do, it takes years of practice, and sometime some natural born talent to do it well. And you will know if you have it, and if you don’t and you need help.
Don’t be afraid to hire a designer, even if you think you can do it yourself. Sometimes its good just to have someone to discuss your ideas with in order to validate what you would like to do. Interior Designers offer a wide range of services, to fit any budget. For example, a consultation could be as low as a hundred bucks – depending on your needs. Never be afraid to ask about a designer’s options.
If you are planning on renovating, I HIGHLY recommend hiring a designer. You may have the best style in the world – but it is not enough to pull of more major projects. This is NOT because I am one and want you to hire me – but because of the training I know designers have in order to pull off a project, including drafting plans properly, standards and regulations, as well as standard design principles. They will also have the experience of past projects to help guide you in your decision making process.
If you are on the fence about getting formal Interior Design education, and if you ever have any questions, regarding my training, or my experiences, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Thanks again for reading!