How To Begin A Career As An Interior Decorator

Working as an interior decorator requires creativity to plan and design spaces for individuals and businesses. Interior decorators can be responsible for single rooms, entire houses, or redecorating a company’s interior. Color, paint, lighting, furniture, and artwork all play into style used to create designs for potential clients. Interior decorating allows individuals to put their creative minds and interest in design into a potentially successful career option.

While individuals do not need to have a formal education or degree to work as an interior decorator, they may want to take a few classes or earn a certificate or diploma to give credibility. Those interested in interior decorating will need to know the different types of materials and styles as well as some decorating history. With most things, practice improves performance. By helping friends and family with decorating projects, individuals are able to gain experience and build a portfolio. Some examples of ideas of ways to volunteer service could include offering to decorate a baby’s room, a new office, or staging a home that is being sold by friends to make the space more appealing.

By compiling a portfolio, individuals are able to have visual examples of their work to show to potential clients. One way to build a successful portfolio is to take before and after photos of the spaces that have been decorated. A portfolio can consist of photos, letters of recommendation, and even fabric and flooring samples. By having samples, the decorator is able to show the clients and recommend certain designs.

Decorators should have excellent communication skills to deal with clients, and store owners and suppliers with whom they will be purchasing home décor from. Some stores may even offer discounts to professional decorators. Establishing a client base is a great way create potential business. Clients can range from homeowners, boutique stores, restaurants, art galleries, or bed and breakfasts. After decorators have conducted their services, businesses can refer and/or recommend the individual to other businesses.

Jobs as an interior decorator can be competitive. To gain experience or put a degree in interior design or decorating to use, individuals could work in furniture stores or retail stores. Although interior decorators do not need a degree, individuals wanting to be an interior designer will need a bachelor’s degree in design. Both decorators and designers have many similar job duties, such as consulting with clients and overseeing the set-up of furniture.

A Career in Interior Decorating

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. As an interior decorator you will have 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 become an interior decorator. 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 published by FabJob.com:

1. Train your eye

Since you are interested in a career as a 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 a 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 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 a business 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.

Where to Find an Interior Decorator

There are quite a few different reasons why a homeowner may choose to hire an interior decorator to decorate and style their home. It may be that they don’t feel creative enough, or they just don’t have the time to put forth the proper effort. Whatever reason you have for choosing to hire a decorator, you need to make sure that you find the best one that fits your style and vision for your home. If you are having trouble finding a qualified interior designer, then here are some ideas for finding decorators for your home.

Ask Friends and Family for Referrals for Interior Decorators

The best way to find a qualified decorator is to ask the people you know and trust if they can recommend anyone they have worked with. When you hire a referred interior decorator, you can know what type of work to expect since the professional has already worked with a person you know and trust for the referral. When asking your friends and family for referrals, be sure to ask questions that will help you decide if the person is right for you. Some questions you may want to ask may be how long the project took and if the overall end-result of the project was a success that consisted of only a few small problems.

Look at Online Review Websites for Interior Decorators

Although you may not know the people who are posting reviews online for the different interior designers in your area, these websites can still be a starting point to finding a qualified decorator for your home. You can use the online reviews to make a preliminary list of interior decorators that you can then narrow down after you make phone calls to the business. Remember that you can’t always trust what you read on these review websites, which is why it is important that you narrow down your list of possibilities after a phone interview with each decorator.

Utilize Referral Services for Decorators

You can find several different referral services that will include categories for interior designers on the Internet. Each of the different services may have some sort of version of matching you up with an interior decorator. Just like the review websites, these types of services can be a great starting point for starting your list of potential decorators for your home. Be sure to check out the American Society of Interior Decorators for their members who live in your area so that you can add them to your list as well.

Seek Out Interior Decorators’ Work

Visit such things as model homes and decorating shows to find decorators who have styles that you like. Most building contractors will hire an interior decorator to come and stage a model home. This is a great way to find decorators and see their work at the same time. You just have to ask the contractor or the sales agent who designed the décor plan and then seek that person out. Look at your expo centers in and around your city to see if you are going to have any home expos coming up. At these types of expos you can see the decorator’s work as well as talk to them about specific projects so that you have another step done in the choosing process.

Hiring a decorating may not be as difficult as you think. When you get good referrals from people you know, the whole process of finding a qualified interior decorator becomes much easier.