New Interior Designer Advice

How to Find Clients as a Newbie Interior Designer

When you’re new to the scene, your most important task is to find interior design clients. But how? How do you find clients who are willing to take the “risk” of working with a fresh (i.e., inexperienced) talent?

The good news is that every single interior designer started off exactly where you are now — at square one. Even better, the path that you need to take from square one to success is well-travelled. In this post, we’ll help you secure your first interior design client.

Here’s how to use social media to attract new interior design clients.

Consider Working for Someone Else (for a While)

 

Once you become a certified interior designer, you’re probably not anxious to work for someone else. After all, the dream is to open up your own interior design firm and do business for yourself. However, that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re not able to get work right away.

This is why it’s a good idea to work with an established interior designer. As an interior design assistant, you can start developing the experience

Once you become a certified interior designer, you’re probably not anxious to work for someone else. After all, the dream is to open up your own interior design firm and do business for yourself. However, that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re not able to get work right away.

This is why it’s a good idea to work with an established interior designer. As an interior design assistant, you can start developing the experience and the contacts you need to successfully run your own design firm. It’s a lot easier to work temporarily for someone else while learning the tricks of the trade, then it is to work for yourself and pay for your own inevitable mistakes. When you work for another designer, you can learn the ins and outs of running an interior design business, including: the contacts you need to successfully run your own design firm. It’s a lot easier to work temporarily for someone else while learning the tricks of the trade, then it is to work for yourself and pay for your own inevitable mistakes. When you work for another designer, you can learn the ins and outs of running an interior design business, including:

  • How to work with impossible clients
  • How to find the best clients
  • Choosing the right vendors
  • Best practices for working with vendors
  • The ins and outs of billing for your work
  • How to fit oversized furniture into tiny door frames

That’s just the beginning. There are many other intangible benefits that you stand to gain by working with an experienced designer. Perhaps the most important benefit of all is that you’ll be able to build your portfolio while working in an established interior design firm. Let’s talk more about that below.

Build Up Your Work Portfolio

Pop quiz! What’s the number one thing that will most directly impact your ability to get work as a new interior designer? Is it:

A)Expanding your network of contacts
B) Choosing the right price
C) Building a portfolio of work
D) Creating a website

If you answered C, you are correct! While all of the above options are necessary, nothing else you do is more important than building up your interior design portfolio. In order to build the necessary trust with a client, you need to show them what you’ve done in the past. Otherwise, how will they know that you’re the right fit for what they need?

But…

As a new interior designer, you probably don’t have much of a portfolio currently. That’s okay. Everything you do from this point forward can build your portfolio. Start by offering free or deeply discounted services to your social circle. In exchange for being able to share their home with your prospective clients, you can forego your normal design fee.

When you do work on their homes, be sure to take plenty of photos of the before and after. The goal is to show how you were able to transform the space with your design genius. You may not be able to afford fancy photographers just yet, but a smartphone and plenty of lighting can help you create a professional portfolio to impress your prospects.

Your portfolio may even start out with photos of your own home, and that’s perfectly alright. We all start somewhere. It’s just important to show how you were able to imagine the space.

Create a Website

One of the best ways to get noticed as a new interior designer is to create a website for your design business. Many clients start their search for a new interior designer by heading to Google. If a potential client searches for “interior design in (name of city),” will they find your name among the search results?

If they don’t find you, they’ll definitely find your competitors. Having a website these days is non-negotiable if you hope to attract new leads. In addition to the standard pages on your website (i.e., Home, Contact Us, About Us), to attract more search engine traffic, you need to maintain an updated blog. Blog about topics that are relevant to the needs and wants of your prospective clients. Ideally, choose topics that they will literally type into the Google search box, such as, “How to make a small bedroom appear larger” or “Designing essentials for a tiny home.”

Also, create an email newsletter opt-in and invite your site visitors to sign up. The shocking truth is that most first time site visitors are not ready to buy. They need to trust you before they do business with you. If they subscribe to your email list, you have the opportunity to build trust with that prospect over a prolonged period of time. It may not happen immediately, but eventually, it will happen.

Nail the Initial Consultation

You’ve finally made it. Well, almost. You have an interested prospect who’s set up an initial consultation. This is the final step before you actually secure work. You must get it right — but how?

Here’s a list of what you must do on your initial meeting with your prospective client:

Show respect by arriving to the meeting on time and well-prepared. Whether your meeting is face-to-face, over the phone, or via video chat, don’t make your clients wait for you.

Offer free consultations initially. This may be controversial because many interior designers charge for their initial consultation with clients. There’s solid rationale behind getting paid for the initial consult — time is money, and when a prospect pays, they’re likely to be more serious about doing business. However, when you’re just starting out, it’s easier to find clients who are willing to take a chance on you by offering free consults.

Be sure to educate the prospective client on your business practices. Discuss how you bill, when you bill, and how and when you can be reached.

Explain how you work. Share your creative process with the prospective client so that they have a clear understanding of what to expect when working with you.

Inspire confidence. This task is the hardest but the most important. Your goal is to get the client to trust that you can do this project with professionalism, punctuality, and personality. A great way to build trust with your client is to be prepared to answer all of their questions fully. Anticipate what they may ask and have an answer ready. Avoid sounding unsure of yourself (even if you’ve never done it before).

Choose the Right Billing Method

It may be hard to believe, but how you bill will also affect your ability to turn prospects into clients.

The way you bill will also affect your ability to turn prospects into clients. Here's why: Click To Tweet

It’s not difficult to find people who want or desperately need interior design services. The prospect may come to your website with a genuine interest in doing business with you. However, it is possible to lose client confidence at the last minute simply because you’ve implemented a weird billing method.

When you work for yourself, you can use whichever billing method you like. However, our advice is to choose one of the standard billing methods. Here are the three most popular billing methods to consider when you’re first starting out:

Charge by the Hour

One way to bill your clients is by the amount of time you actually spend while working on their project. Your hourly fee will be charged in addition to the cost of furniture and other materials.

Charging an hourly rate is straightforward. Every time you do work for the client, you charge for it. You’ll be responsible for calculating every minute of work you do, and it will add up.

However, for some interior designers, it can be a daunting task. You’ll need to log the exact time in minutes and hours along with the date. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Shopping for materials
  • Your time on the phone with the client
  • Your time spent setting up the project
  • Driving time to and from the project
  • Problem-solving design issues
  • Meeting with vendors to discuss the details of the design project
  • Designing the project in your graphic design program
  • Drafting contracts
  • Returning items

In addition to the time that it takes to log your hours, another potential drawback to this billing method is that your clients may not trust that you’ve worked on their project the whole time. Or, if you actually did work all of those hours, what if you’re slower than average? The client may feel uncomfortable paying you indefinitely without having a cap.

You can reassure any hesitant clients by giving them a range of how long you’ll likely work on the project.

Adopt the Cost Plus Model

In the cost plus billing model, you can charge a percentage over the actual cost of the project. First, account for how much you pay your vendors. As an interior design professional, you’ll likely pay the wholesale price, and not the retail price. Then, you’ll add a certain percentage to those costs to arrive at your designer fee.

How much you charge often depends on the size of the design project. Projects that are larger in scope, such as commercial spaces, may necessitate that you receive a higher percentage.

The benefit of this billing model is that it’s simple for you to tally up the costs and add your fee on top of it. A potential drawback to this method is that some of your clients may wonder if you’re choosing the pricier option because you want to increase your fee. However, that can be a concern with any billing model that you choose, assuming you’re also purchasing products for the project. To avoid this roadblock, focus on building trust with your new client and educating them on the benefits of quality over affordability.

Offer a Flat Rate

Last, but not least, is the flat-rate billing option. Here, you charge one fee, taking into consideration all of the costs associated with completing a project.

The obvious benefit of setting a flat rate is that it’s easier on your clients. They don’t have to get involved in the nitty-gritty details. The flat-rate billing model also reduces the likelihood that some of your clients will quibble over the cost of individual pieces of furniture.

On the downside, fixed rates can be challenging for new interior designers. It’s easy to underestimate the needs of a particular project. You may find yourself working for free because you didn’t account for the time you’d spend doing some aspect of the project. If you’re new to running an interior design business, it may be best to choose one of the other two options until you feel confident in your ability to accurately estimate the overall costs of a project.

Final Thoughts

When just starting out, getting work as an interior designer can be daunting. Use the above tips to help you attract quality clients that will build up your firm.

Don’t forget to download your guide to using social media to attract new interior design clients.