I'd like to start off by saying I would NOT consider myself an expert in this industry by any means. Every day I feel like there is so much more for me to learn. But I do learn a little every day, and hopefully as the years go on I'll get better and better. That's the plan at least. :)
I'd also like to say that I have no idea if this advice is even any good. This is just what I've experienced and learned along the way...
1.) Start small.
Don't expect to go out into the world and make money right away. As I mentioned yesterday, I started by doing design boards for free. I did TONS of them for free. I enjoyed doing them, and people enjoyed getting them.. so it was a win/win. I also presented my local services as "portfolio growing". I got compensated for the work I did, but if I actually calculated in my hours spent and miles driven, my compensation would have been way, way, way below minimum wage. I didn't do it for money, I did it for experience.
Also, in California I only used places like IKEA, Home Goods, Salvation Army, and small local fabric stores. No fancy budgets or to-the-trade vendors. Looking back, I realize how LITTLE I had to work with. But it was great experience. It'd be interesting to challenge any big name designer to see if they could do the same!
2.) Don't quit your day job.... yet.
This goes hand in hand with my previous "tip". While you are working the small, getting-paid-hardly-anything jobs, keep your day job. It sure sucked working my corporate job all day and then going home and working all night, but I'm glad I did. Although I loved interior design, I had no idea if I was any GOOD at it. I had no idea if I could do a room from start to finish. Trust me when I say it looks much easier than it is. So I went on with my normal life, and just worked interior design in on the side. I worked with a family from start to finish on their home remodel.. and at the end of the project, they were really happy with the work I did. I could see in their faces when they looked at what I had done that they felt like they were home. It was then that I knew this was what I was meant to do.
3.) Work the finances.
When I was ready to quit my day job, my husband and I made sure we were financially ready. This may mean different things for everyone, but for us it meant that we didn't have to rely on any of my income to pay the bills. A big factor for us was that we moved to a city that had a much lower cost of living (Los Angeles to Charlotte).
You won't make much at first. And I'll be completely candid - I still don't make much. Sometimes I get down about it, but I am very realistic about it. I've only been "doing this" for a year or so and as they say.. Rome wasn't built in a day.
And because some people may be curious - currently I do all my accounting myself. It's pretty simple considering I'm such a small business. I plan on going to an accountant at the beginning of the new year to get myself more organized. (i.e. Quickbooks instead of my trusty Excel Spreadsheet haha!)
4.) Seek out Experience.
This is probably my most important advice. Go out in your town and seek out experience. For me - it is my job at Isabella. It is the best thing I could have done for my career. I only work two days a week (and sometimes Saturdays) and my schedule works out perfectly. Tuesday and Friday I'm at the shop, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday (and sometimes Saturday) I work on bryn alexandra interiors.
Working at the shop has been invaluable. I've learned so much about fabrics, products, quality, clients, bookkeeping - you name it. The shop I work at does Interior Design, so I'm constantly getting hands on experience working with other designers.
5.) Get a website (with portfolio pictures) up.
This is kind of a no brainer... as soon as you can get a website up, do it! And get business cards. It's nice to have a "brand" to go along with your services - especially when you meet someone new and can give them a card with a website. Even if you just have a couple portfolio pictures, I recommend getting them up on a clean and pretty website.
And that's really all I have for now! You might be thinking - just five tips?? But as I mentioned above - I'm still so new to the industry and I am learning every day. I hope you have found this post somewhat helpful, though!
I was going through my pictures the other day and I have a lot of "progress" pictures that I never showed. I never wanted to show them before because I wanted my work to look perfect. But after writing this post, I thought these would fit in perfectly.
(These pictures are from projects that are currently up on my website.)
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