“What a glamorous and fun job you have! It must be so amazing being an interior designer, like being on HGTV!” People often say things like this to me. I know what they’re thinking…
As Designers, they imagine we are flitting about, wearing beautiful clothes, driving fancy cars, working with cool clients, shopping and spending other people’s money, turning an ugly space into a beautiful one.
Yes, my friends, the life of an Interior Designer can be all those things, BUT what you do not see on HGTV is the dark side of the business:
- Long days (yes, really long sometimes)
- Working nights and weekends to meet deadlines
- Demanding and unreasonable clients
- Dealing with mistakes – yours, your staff’s, the manufacturers, the contractors –also known as, “putting out fires”
- Backorders and project delays
- Soothing contractor egos
- Budget overruns
This list comprises just a few of the “challenges” that I deal with on many days. Not all days; because there are also days in which you are not putting out fires and some days that are just plain old really fun!
What does the average “Day in the Life” of an Interior Designer look like? Well, today I am going to share my experience with you!
I have been in the design and remodeling industry for almost 40 years now. Many of those years were spent working for someone else, and for the past 17 years, I have been running my own design firm. I have met some wonderful people along the way, as well as some not-so-wonderful. As I look back, I can say that it’s been a wild and amazing ride that I would not trade it for anything in the world.
First things first, no two days are the same.
Yes, there are elements of similarity in each day – reading and responding to email as well as making phone calls to clients, vendors, and contractors. That is where the trail diverges – one day I can be in the office working on the latest design project while the next I could be out visiting a job site to check in on an ongoing project installation. Then it’s off to go shopping for a client, and then jet to a meeting with clients, vendors, or a colleague for networking.
Being creative and also a people person, my favorite days are spent working on a new design concept or being out and about. Unfortunately, that is how only a small portion of my time is spent. Most of the time, I am working in the office on estimating, creating design plan documentation, ordering, scheduling materials, managing client projects in progress and running the “back end” of the business. Whew. Yes, all that fun accounting, office management, and marketing stuff.
At this stage of my career, I am very fortunate to have a great Design Assistant and Office Manager working for me. Before they came on board though I was doing it all myself –which is where the really long days, nights, and working on the weekends came into play.
When I started out in the biz’ almost 40 years ago, I worked in the Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Industry. Then I went into Residential Interior Design, then Feng Shui design, then Interior Architecture. My current business model, and one that has brought me the most success, is in Interior Architecture with a specialty in Kitchen and Bath Design. The funny thing is, once I picked a lane, and declared to the Universe that this is what I am going to do, the floodgates opened with new opportunities!
If I could give some advice to a new designer just starting out, it would be this:
- Be authentic to who you are and how you present yourself. Clients can tell a fake from a mile away; they will resonate with you more when you are authentic and true to who you are.
- Be honest and impeccable with your word – deliver on what you promise
- Understand the business side of the Interior Design business
- Invest in yourself and your business – in training and technology
- It’s okay to say no. Listen to your intuition when it comes to clients, contractors, and vendors
- Be prepared to work hard – it will be rewarding in the long run but it doesn’t happen overnight
- It’s all about who you know and the connections you make, so get out there and network!
- Choose a niche and do what you do best – there are thousands of interior designers out there and you can’t be all things to all people. So what can you do really well? Can you build a business around that?
If you’re contemplating a career in the Interior Design Industry, I’d recommend taking the leap. It will be the scariest and best thing you have ever done. While there may be times you question your decision and feel like giving it up, I will urge you, “Hang in there baby, the ride is well worth it!”