A question that I’m constantly getting asked is how I got started in interior design and how I shifted careers to become a designer. I think that this is a very popular question because everyone thinks that interior design is this fun, dream career that they want to get into – and don’t get me wrong, it definitely is! But, it’s a lot of work and isn’t just picking out what throw pillows look best for a living room.
Right out of college, I started working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, eventually moving back to Austin 7 years later with my husband and continuing to work in entertainment. Having a career in interior design never crossed my mind; I just thought of it as a hobby. On the weekends, I would help my friends and family decorate their homes. I kept having this recurring thought telling me to leave my day job and do something entrepreneurial, to show my young daughters that they can achieve anything that they put their minds to. I then came to realize that interior design was the perfect opportunity for me.
I started going to night school at the Interior Design Institute, while still working in the entertainment industry. Between work and school, I began working on a business plan to launch my own design firm. Everything came together so fast – I was scared and nervous. It felt like a huge risk to leave my successful position in sales. Nonetheless, I was confident that I had an eye for design and understood how to manage a business (thanks to my past careers and education), so next thing I knew, BANDD DESIGN was launching with a few clients under my belt.
What Was Helpful For Me In Getting My Business Going
Write a business plan. Create a roadmap for where you want to be in 3-5 years and how you want your business to function.
Hire a graphic designer to kick off your website, brand identity, and logo. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out this stuff and just focus on what you need to be doing. There are so many talented graphic designers who are experts at capturing your brand’s aesthetic and translating that on your platforms. This was an investment but it was 100% worth it.
Don’t try to be a photographer, just hire a professional. Especially when you’re first starting off, get high resolution images for every project to build your portfolio – even if it’s photos of your own home!
Social media, duh! Of course I knew how important this would be, but as a one-woman company, I didn’t have the bandwidth to keep up with it as much as I needed to be. I hired an external marketing team to help me post and engage on Instagram and they were extremely helpful in getting me more followers and brand awareness.
SEO…I cannot stress this enough! Hiring someone to handle SEO for you is the best investment that you can make when launching your business. They know how to work with media algorithms so that your website/ company name comes up as a top result when someone is searching for design services.
Software That I Couldn’t Live Without
Quickbooks – First things first, you’re gonna need a bookkeeping software to track your billing, spending reports, and how much you’re making.
Ivy/ HouzzPro – We’ve been using Ivy since the very beginning, which has now evolved into HouzzPro, with the same layout and information. This software is made for designers and allows you to do invoices, orders, room boards, and keep track of vendor, product, and client data. This is essentially the hub that we use all day, everyday for each project.
Canva – This is a game changer for anyone in the design industry and it’s so intuitive to use! We use this for everything from designing mood boards, proposals, branded worksheets, and all kinds of social media posts.
Airtable – I always say that Airtable is like Excel on crack. This is a cloud-based software so our team is able to collaborate on it, which makes life so much easier. We use this to keep track of orders, inventory, and also brainstorming.
Sourcing for products is a big topic to tackle, but you’ll get the hang of it over time with practice. Here’s the basics to help you get started doing the most important part of interior design – picking the perfect pieces!
There’s a lot of learning and educating that you need to do about the general knowledge of furnishings and materials. For example, what materials a quality sofa is made out of, where it is made, and what vendors are making the best ones in the industry.
Another important aspect of making selections as an interior designer is sourcing almost exclusively from trade-only vendors. These are vendors that are actually designing and producing furnishings, not just reselling them from large overseas factories like most retail shops do (sorry not sorry, but I’m talking West Elm, Crate and Barrel, all your usual favorites). Buying from trade-only vendors cuts out the middleman and saves you money on the overhead and markup prices. To find these types of vendors, you’ll have to research, research, research! Go on design market’s (such as High Point for example) websites and browse through vendor lists. Reach out to those vendors to create an account.
I hope my story and resources can help you find your way into the interior design world! Remember to always stay confident and keep learning everyday.