How to start an interior design business

Smiling young female self-employed interior designer in her office.

Interior design is a skilled trade that brings together the worlds of art and architecture to help make domestic and commercial interiors welcoming and beautiful. With a wealth of creativity and variety involved on a day-to-day basis, self-employed interior designers can enjoy an interesting, fulfilling workload with the financial benefits to match.

How to start a small interior design business

Getting started in interior design takes hard work and dedication, while starting your own interior design business has its own challenges. As well as all the considerations you must put into your work, you’ll also need to consider the practical aspects of running a business, from insurance through to marketing and beyond.

Keep reading to learn more about the steps you’ll need to take to set up your own interior design business.

Become qualified and gain experience

There are no specific qualifications you need to become an interior designer, but training will help to ensure you have all the right skills. Taking a university or college course in interior design can be a good way to not only hone your skill set, but also to build connections within the interior design industry.

Skills aren’t the only thing that makes an interior designer. Experience is also very important, as potential clients may want to see a portfolio of your past work to gain a better understanding of what you can do for them. Apprenticeships provide an excellent way to build your experience and start forming a portfolio. Alternatively, you could find a job at an interior design company and learn the trade there before going solo.

Write a business plan and register your business

Regardless of your skills as an interior designer, there are some less interesting aspects you’ll need to take care of if you want to start your own business. One of these is to consider making a business plan. While this step isn’t necessary unless you want to acquire a bank loan, it can still be very helpful in terms of clarifying your vision into an actionable set of goals. When it comes to making decisions about your business in the future, having a solid business plan to refer back to can help to inform your choices.

A good business plan will likely include:

  • A brief description of your business

This should outline who you are and what you do, including details such as your area of expertise, your local area and a summary of the services you provide.

  • Marketing and competitor analysis

An overview of your target market and how you’ll fulfil their needs. A competitor analysis will then assess the strengths, weaknesses and strategies of your competitors.

  • Financial overview

Include details of projected costs and revenue for the first few years of running your business. If you’re seeking a loan or other financial aid, you should explain how much you need and a breakdown of what it will go towards.

  • Initial marketing plans

Based on your marketing analysis, this section should explain how you intend to spread the word about your business, such as using social media or flyers.

One of the first choices you’ll have to make will involve registering your business with the government, either as a sole trader or a limited company. In a sole trader business model, everything is your personal responsibility - both profits and debts. If you decide to become a limited company, you’ll have more paperwork to do at the end of the year, but it can also bring added status and credibility to your business.

Purchase tailored business insurance

Despite your best efforts, there is always a chance that something will go wrong, whether it’s an error in your work or an accident that breaks your work laptop. Part of setting up an interior design business is preparing for incidents such as this by taking out insurance policies to protect your finances.

There are a range of different types of insurance cover which might be useful for an interior design company. These include:

This protects you against claims if a client or other member of the public is injured due to the actions of your business. It also protects you against property damage claims. Public liability applies to claims originating on clients’ properties as well as your own business premises. For example, a client could claim if they slip on a wet surface and are injured while in your office, or if you accidentally break something, like an antique vase, while visiting their home.

This type of cover is designed to protect you in cases where a client claims to have suffered financially as a result of negligence in the course of your professional duties. For instance, a client may claim that you didn’t complete the job by the agreed deadline (such as a shop opening date) which set the project back and caused them a financial loss.

For businesses that employ staff, this insurance is a legal requirement. It offers financial protection if one of your employees falls ill or gets injured while working for you.

This cover protects  your business equipment, such as laptop, camera, iPad or phone, if it’s lost, stolen or damaged. For example, if on your way to a client’s property, you left your laptop behind on public transport and lost it or your work phone is stolen by a pickpocket, portable equipment insurance will cover the costs of repairing or replacing your equipment. At Markel Direct, we offer portable equipment insurance as part of our office insurance policy.

Promote yourself and grow the business

Finally, as the owner of a small interior design business, it will be your responsibility to spread the word about your services to the public. This could involve drumming up a social media following, creating a website or putting up flyers. Alternatively, you could outsource this work to professional marketers or advertisers. As your business grows, you may decide to bring in employees to help you manage the workload. Just remember, you’ll need to take out employer’s liability insurance.

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

Business insurance from £5 a month