How to become an interior designer

An interior designer looks at a concept design of a room and samples of wood.

Interior design is an exciting profession ideal for those with a creative flair and a strategic mind. Whether you’re thinking of a career change or just starting out, becoming an interior designer can be a rewarding choice. As an interior designer, your work can be as varied as you like - where design is concerned, the sky’s the limit.

Keep reading to learn more about becoming an interior designer in the UK.

What do interior designers do?

Sometimes, people confuse interior designers with architects as they both perform similar tasks. Both are involved with designing what the finished project will look like in home renovations. However, there is a key difference. An architect will work primarily on the external and structural parts of a building project, such as the walls or roofs. Meanwhile, an interior designer will work with furnishings, finishes and decorative aspects. There can be a degree of overlap between the two jobs.

Additionally, interior designers can often be confused with interior decorators. An interior designer will usually not be involved with the actual renovations. They'll help clients to make decisions about their project, while an interior decorator will carry out the physical work.

As an interior designer, your workload can vary depending on the type of project support you decide to give. Some interior designers will provide a ‘design-only’ package. This usually involves producing the necessary designs, tenders and quotes, and ends before the work begins. On the other hand, other interior designers may also provide project management services. This way, they can oversee the project to ensure their designs are successfully executed.

How much does an interior designer make?

As a self-employed interior designer, there is no limit to what you could earn. Being self-employed gives you the flexibility of being able to set your own day rates. However, it is important to consider pricing your work competitively, based not just on your own skill level, but also on the area you work in, depending on what the cost of living is like there and how affluent an area it is. For example, if you work on projects across the UK, your pricing structure may vary from region to region, for example your rates may be higher for projects in the south than they are in the north of England.

That said, the range of day rates for interior designers in the UK is from around £100 to £200, although for a self-employed interior designer, this could be more. When considering a career in interior design, you should weigh your potential earnings against necessary expenses. For example, you'll likely need to consider taking out professional indemnity insurance and pay for software packages.

How to get into interior design

As an interior designer, clients will likely want to see some examples of what you can do before hiring you. The answer to this is to create a portfolio of your work showing a wide range of skills and styles. There are several ways you can do this:

  • By using samples of your work from interior design courses
  • By using samples of your work from apprenticeships or work experience
  • By giving yourself briefs to fulfil

Creating designs on your own is a great way to exercise your design skills without having to worry about budgets and deadlines. While those are important to stick to, they can be constricting and may make it difficult for potential clients to get an accurate idea of what you can do. As well as showing clients the scope of your design skills, you could also use self-briefed work to show your budgeting skills. For example, you could give yourself a brief and create three different designs based on different budgets.

What qualifications do you need to be an interior designer?

There are no specific qualifications you need to become a successful interior designer. However, many designers find it easier to get started in the profession with the help of a course or apprenticeship.

For complete novices, university or college courses can teach you the skills you need to set yourself up for success as an interior designer. Courses will often have classes that introduce you to some of the software used in interior design. If you've never used the software before, these classes can be very helpful.

On the other hand, a lot of the skills involved in interior design are practical skills which can be learned on the job. Choosing an apprenticeship or internship with a design company can be a great way to progress toward becoming an interior designer yourself. Some apprenticeships offer a job at the end, which can make it easier to build your confidence before starting out as a self-employed interior designer.

Working with an established design company will not only give you real world experience and examples of work to add to your portfolio, but it will also give you a starting point for making connections within the interior design industry. Once you’ve gained this experience, you can then think about setting up your own interior design business. Going self-employed will allow you to control your own earning potential and give you the freedom to choose the projects you’re most interested in working on.

Here at Markel Direct, we offer a specialised interior designer insurance package. This allows you to combine a number of covers together into a single policy.

Business insurance from £5 a month