Interior design used to be thought of as a specialist area, catering for the rich and famous with lavish furnishings, fixtures and fittings and pandering to the most expensive tastes. But things have changed.
Over the last 20 years or so, the average homeowner has become much more style conscious. And many householders are calling upon the services of interior designers to improve their living space and create a beautiful, chic environment without it costing a small fortune.
But the industry extends beyond the domestic market – many businesses also use interior designers to improve office spaces and commercial areas.
So there are plenty of opportunities if you think it’s the industry for you. And if you’re reluctant to start from scratch and build your own brand, there’s the option of franchising.
There are a number of interior design franchises available. They vary in how they’re set up – for some, the franchise arrangement involves using the brand name and you run the business fairly autonomously, finding your own suppliers and generating your own leads, etc. For others, you’ll work closely with the franchisor – they’ll put you in touch with clients and give you a list of suppliers to work with.
Another advantage of franchising is you probably won’t need any professional qualifications to get started. Some franchisors will even give you fairly comprehensive training. But it will certainly help if you have design talent in the first place. The job is ideal for a naturally creative person with an eye for detail, good taste and aesthetic sense.
Communication skills are also required. You’ll have to describe the vision you have for your clients’ spaces and get them to picture what you’re trying to achieve. You’ll also need to understand their requirements and the kind of designs they’re looking for, interpreting their desires even when they can’t articulate exactly what they want.
It’s important that you’re sensitive to your clients’ wishes and also willing to adapt to their needs. Be prepared to change your plans according to the opinions and preferences of your customers and accept criticism with good grace.
The job also requires flexibility – your appointment times will have to fit in with the lives of your clients rather than your own, so be prepared to make visits at any time of the day.
The costs involved will vary according to the precise nature of your franchise but in most cases you can be based from home. You might need storage space for advance stock. Much of your time will be spent out and about visiting clients and suppliers so you’ll obviously require some form of transport.
You need to take the franchise fees into consideration when working out how much you’ll need to start your business. There’s the initial fee you pay to buy the franchise, which is likely to be anything from around £5,000 upwards, then there are ongoing fees, which are usually charged as a percentage of your turnover. You’ll also need a sufficient amount of working capital to get your business going.
In some cases, your initial fee might include a certain level of supplies to help get you started.
Research your franchising options and find out exactly what you’ll be getting for your money in terms of support, marketing and training.