How to start an interior design business

An interior design business involves providing interior design services, such as decorating, space planning, and modifications for residential and commercial properties. Launching a successful interior design business requires knowledge of the industry, strong branding, offering relevant services, effective marketing, project management skills, and strategic business growth.

Key steps for starting an interior design business include choosing a business structure, registering the business, obtaining insurance, establishing finances and accounting, developing a brand identity, building a client base, and managing projects professionally. Ongoing business growth requires expanding services, hiring staff, gaining specialty skills and certifications, and moving to larger office space if needed.

If you have the idea of starting your own business, first start as a small business owner. Have a simple but good business plan is imperative.

Interior design is a complex field, but with proper planning and preparation, you can successfully start your own interior design business.

This guide will provide an overview of the fundamentals, including choosing a business structure, managing projects and finances, marketing your services, and keys to growing a thriving company.

You’ll learn:

  • How to launch interior design business as quick as possible and with minimum budget
  • How to legally establish your business
  • Tips for developing an effective brand and marketing strategy
  • What services interior designers commonly offer
  • Methods for attracting and retaining clients
  • Best practices for project and financial management
  • Keys to building a successful, specialized design firm

Mini Guide on How To Start an Interior Design Business Quickly and Affordably

Establish and adhere to an effective and profitable business structure for interior design.
Play Video about Establish and adhere to an effective and profitable business structure for interior design.

Launching an interior design business idea on a tight timeline and budget requires careful planning and cost-saving measures.

Tips include:

  • Choose sole proprietorship for simplicity. Register online.
  • Work from home to avoid office costs.
  • Build portfolio with mock designs and student projects.
  • Create DIY marketing materials to save on branding.
  • Leverage social media instead of paid advertising.
  • Offer limited services like consultations and space plans.
  • Use free accounting software like Wave rather than hiring a bookkeeper.
  • Rent or borrow equipment instead of purchasing initially.
  • Start with residential projects which have lower barriers to entry.
  • Focus on small projects at first to quickly build portfolio.

Should You Quickly Start Your Interior Design Firm?

There are benefits but also downsides to quickly launching an interior design business; keep in mind that only 5% of interior design companies start full-on.

The interior design industry today is times more competitive than what it was 15 years ago when I started my interior design business.


  • Can start taking on clients faster
  • Quickly builds portfolio
  • Allows testing ideas with less commitment
  • Can pivot business model if needed
  • Generates revenue sooner


  • Less time for thorough planning
  • May lack complete resources and design industry systems
  • Rush can compromise quality and professionalism
  • Increased likelihood of mistakes and rework
  • Takes time to build reputation regardless

Overall, quickly starting an interior design firm can help capitalize on opportunities and test ideas with less risk.

However, sufficient planning and preparation is still advised to build a quality brand and avoid major pitfalls. Slow, steady growth may better set up long-term success.

Choosing a Business Structure

The first step is deciding how to structure your business legally. Common options include:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • S corporation

Each has pros and cons to consider regarding liability protection, taxes, and regulations. Most interior designers opt for an LLC or S corp.

Key Takeaway

A woman in a living room.
An interior designer in a living room.

Choose a business structure that offers personal liability protection and tax benefits. Register with state and local government.

Building Your Brand Identity as Interior Designer

A strong brand is vital for attracting clients. Elements to develop include:

  • Logo – visually represents your business
  • Style guide – fonts, colors, and branding guidelines
  • Website – showcase your work and services
  • Social media – connect with potential clients

Insider Tip

Create a cohesive visual brand across all platforms and marketing materials. Convey your unique design aesthetic and style.

Offering Interior Design Services

Interior designers offer varied services to meet client needs. Common offerings include:

  • Residential design
  • Commercial design
  • Color consultations
  • Space planning
  • Furniture arrangement
  • Home staging

Key Takeaway

Tailor your services to your specialty, whether residential, commercial, eco-friendly design, etc. Offer packages to suit different client budgets.

Have a project to stage? We know how to do virtual staging effectively >

Getting Clients

Marketing and networking are key to building your clientele. Strategies include:

  • Partnering with contractors and real estate agents
  • Joining local business organizations
  • Advertising in home magazines and online
  • Hosting open houses to showcase work

Insider Tip

Ask current clients for referrals to their friends and contacts. Word-of-mouth is a powerful way to organically gain new clients.

Business Basics - Setting Up Your Interior Design Firm

Structuring the legal and financial foundations of your interior design business is a crucial first step. This involves making key decisions regarding:

  • Business structure
  • Registration, licensing, and insurance
  • Accounting and financing

You’ll learn:

  • How to choose the right business structure
  • Steps for proper legal registration and compliance
  • Tips for obtaining business insurance
  • Best practices for accounting setup and financing

Choosing a Business Structure

A dining room with vibrant blue curtains and striking yellow chairs, showcasing the basics of interior design aesthetics.
A dining room with vibrant blue curtains and striking yellow chairs, showcasing the basics of interior design aesthetics.

When starting your interior design business, you must choose a legal structure. Common options include:

  • Sole proprietorship – simple, but no liability protection
  • Partnership – shares ownership with partners
  • LLC (limited liability company) – provides liability protection
  • S corporation – liability protection with tax benefits

Most interior designers opt for an LLC or S corp to limit personal liability. Consider costs, regulations, and tax implications when deciding.

Tips for Registration and Legal Compliance

Properly registering your interior design business is crucial:

  • Register your business name and structure
  • Apply for an EIN from the IRS
  • Obtain local business licenses and permits
  • Research interior design regulations and certification
  • Keep accurate financial records from the start

Insider Tip

Consult an accountant or lawyer to ensure full legal compliance. Improper registration can lead to headaches down the road.

Obtaining Business Insurance

Key insurance policies for interior designers include:

  • General liability – protects against property damage or bodily injury claims
  • Professional liability – covers negligent acts, errors, or omissions
  • Workers’ comp – required if hiring employees
A living room with white furniture and a fireplace, demonstrating the basics of interior design businesses.
A living room with white furniture and a fireplace, demonstrating the basics of interior design businesses.


Work with an insurance agent to obtain adequate, affordable coverage. Don’t risk going uninsured.

Setting Up Your Finances

  • Open a business bank account and credit card
  • Use accounting software to track income, expenses, invoices, etc.
  • Develop an operating budget and cash flow projections
  • Keep personal and business finances separate

How TALLBOX Can Help any Interior Designer

interior renders from tallbox

As you start your interior design business, consider using TALLBOX for:

  • High-quality 3D renderings to showcase design concepts
  • Digital presentation boards to impress clients
  • 3D mood boards to build your portfolio

Our affordable, quick 3D visualizations can help you win projects and build success.

Let us help you with your interior design renderings >

Developing Your Residential Interior Design Brand

Creating a strong brand identity is essential for attracting clients and conveying your aesthetic as an interior designer. This involves:

  • Designing a logo
  • Building your website
  • Utilizing social media

You’ll learn:

  • Tips for designing an effective logo and style guide
  • How to create a website that showcases your work
  • Strategies for leveraging social media to connect with clients

Designing Your Logo and Style Guide

Your logo is the face of your brand. It should communicate your:

  • Design style (modern, classic, minimalist, etc.)
  • Personality (elegant, earthy, playful, etc.)
  • Ideal client

Develop a style guide documenting:

  • Logo usage guidelines
  • Color palettes
  • Typography
  • Imagery style

Insider Tip

Hire a professional graphic designer to create a high-quality, polished logo that represents your brand.

A living room with yellow chairs and a fireplace showcasing the basics of interior design businesses.
A living room with yellow chairs and a fireplace showcasing the basics of interior design businesses.

Creating a Showcase Website

Your website is a 24/7 portfolio displaying your work. It should:

  • Present your design projects and services
  • Have a consistent style matching your brand
  • Be mobile responsive
  • Make contacting you easy


Invest in a custom, professionally designed website to position you as an expert. Avoid DIY site builders.

Leveraging Social Media

Promote your work on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Share:

  • In-progress and completed project photos
  • Design inspiration
  • Industry news and tips
  • Commentary on trends

Interior Design Services to Offer

The services you provide form the core of your interior design business. Typical services include:

Residential Design

  • Designing and decorating homes, apartments, etc.
  • Space planning for optimal furniture layouts
  • Selecting color schemes, materials, lighting
  • Overseeing renovations and remodels
  • Sourcing and procuring furnishings

Commercial Design

  • Office, retail, restaurant, hotel design
  • Maximizing functionality for the space purpose
  • Compliance with codes and regulations
  • Incorporating branding aesthetics
  • Space planning, lighting, acoustics, etc.

Color Consultations

  • Analyze architecture, lighting, furnishings
  • Identify ideal color schemes
  • Develop cohesive palettes for spaces
  • Consider psychological impacts of colors

Space Planning

  • Evaluate space dimensions and architecture
  • Plan optimal furniture arrangements
  • Ensure spaciousness and functionality
  • Create floor plans and layouts

Furniture Layouts

  • Select furnishings aligned to client style
  • Arrange pieces to balance aesthetics and comfort
  • Floor plans indicating furniture placement
  • Renderings to visualize layouts

Home Staging

  • Prep spaces for selling real estate
  • Declutter and depersonalize rooms
  • Arrange furnishings for broad appeal
  • Style rooms with accessories and greenery

Build an interior design firm based on a niche jobs:

  • Interior Architecture
  • Affordable Design consultations
  • Residential or commercial or retail projects
  • Eco-friendly/sustainable design
  • Kitchens, bathrooms, closets, etc.
  • Historic preservation and restoration
  • Accessible/universal design
  • Healthcare design or corporate design

Let us help you with your interior design renderings >

Insider Tip

Specialize in a niche like custom furniture or small businesses commercial projects to establish yourself as an expert. But offer broad services at first.

Service Packages for Any Budget

Offer tiered packages with increasing levels of:

  • Design time/meetings
  • Deliverables like mood boards, drawings, etc.
  • Access to trade discounts on furnishings
  • Project management/coordination


Have an entry-level package for smaller budgets and premium packages for full-service design.

How TALLBOX Can Enhance Interior Spaces

Use TALLBOX to create:

  • 3D renderings of design concepts
  • Digital mood boards
  • 3D furniture layouts
  • Virtual staging

Strategies for Gaining Interior Design Clients

Attracting a steady flow of clients is crucial for interior design business success. Effective tactics include:

Networking with Industry Partners

  • Connect with contractors, realtors, architects
  • Offer to co-host events or provide content
  • Cross-promote services through referrals
  • Position yourself as a trusted partner

Joining Local Organizations

  • Chamber of commerce, business alliances, etc.
  • Attend meetings and community events
  • Volunteer for committees and leadership roles
  • Get involved with nonprofit interior design guilds

Partnering with Retailers

  • Offer complimentary consultations to retailer clients and make the process easier
  • Host in-store events spotlighting your services and user experience
  • Negotiate trade discounts with preferred vendors
  • Cross-promote through retailer showrooms with actual clients

Online and Print Advertising

  • Cultivate a presence on Houzz, Facebook, Instagram
  • Guest post on popular interior design blogs like TALLBOX
  • Take out ads in magazines like Dwell and Elle Decor
  • Advertise in neighborhood real estate circulars

Open Houses and Events

  • Host open houses showcasing your work
  • Rent booth space at home shows and markets
  • Offer complimentary classes and workshops
  • Plan trunk shows and pop-ups with vendors


Insider Tip

Leverage existing connections and relationships to gain referrals. Word-of-mouth is the best advertising.

How TALLBOX Can Help Attract Clients

Use our 3D rendering and VR design services to create visually stunning marketing content that convinces potential clients to hire you!

Managing Interior Design Projects and Finances

Running your projects and finances professionally is vital for a thriving business. Best practices include:

Contracts and Deposits

  • Use detailed contracts for all projects
  • Collect 25-50% deposits before starting work
  • Outline scopes, fees, timelines, and billing
  • Include clauses like late fees and kill fees

Purchasing and Expenses

  • Obtain trade discounts from vendors
  • Track purchases and expenses in accounting software
  • Save receipts and statements for taxes
  • Comparison shop for best prices on supplies

Invoicing Clients

  • Bill clients per contract payment schedule
  • Itemize charges for products, services, fees
  • Automate recurring invoices for retainers
  • Follow up on late payments promptly


  • Record income, expenses, account balances
  • Reconcile bank and credit accounts
  • Produce financial statements like P&Ls
  • Work with an accountant to handle taxes

Pro Tip

Have a solid contract template reviewed by a lawyer. Make clients sign before commencing work to avoid issues.

Building a team and Growing Your Interior Design Firm

Once established, strategic moves can help take your interior design business to the next level:

Hiring Talented people

  • Bring on administrative help first like a bookkeeper
  • Then hire junior designers to take on basic tasks
  • Define team roles and responsibilities clearly
  • Outsource recruiting to find qualified candidates
  • Outsource sales and marketing

Larger Office Space

  • Look for spaces conducive to design work like converted warehouses
  • Ensure adequate room for client meetings and design work
  • Invest in signage and branding for your office


  • Focus your services around specific clientele like restaurants
  • Focus on architecture and design trends
  • Develop niche expertise like Feng Shui design or aging-in-place
  • Consider pursuing special certifications

Advanced Certifications

  • Become a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional
  • Obtain Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) certification
  • Earn degrees like a Master of Arts (MA) in Interior Design

Key Takeaway

Focus on creating strategic growth that aligns with your business goals and strengths. Remain consistent with your core brand and offerings.

Keys to a Successful Interior Design Business

Running a thriving interior design firm requires:

Exceptional Customer Service

  • Promptly respond to all client inquiries
  • Meet deadlines and honor agreements
  • Manage expectations upfront
  • Handle issues with grace and professionalism

Strong Portfolio

  • Showcase your best, most impressive work
  • Update with new projects regularly
  • Feature a range of designs across styles and specialties

Industry Awareness

  • Stay current on the latest interior design trends
  • Continuously expand your skills and knowledge
  • Follow influencers and brands pushing design forward

Professionalism and Integrity

  • Honor your brand promise and design philosophy
  • Operate transparently and ethically
  • Stand behind your work

Key Takeaway

Success comes down to reliably delivering incredible designs while forging strong client relationships built on trust.

Enhance Success with TALLBOX

Throughout your interior design business journey, consider utilizing my high-quality 3D rendering services.

3D images can showcase your design concepts vividly, impress potential clients, and help win more projects. We offer affordable rates and quick turnaround times.

Let’s discuss how 3D renderings can enhance your brand and interior design success

Let us help you with your interior design renderings >