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Should I Start My Own Interior Design Firm?

business admin

interior design

Explore the pros and cons of working for an interior design company versus building your own business!

Words by 

Sophia Angel Lou Quiachon

Published on 

April 19, 2023

running your own business, interior design, interior designer, interior design company, interior design firm, build your own interior design business, business owner, Interior Design Employee,

If you're a recent grad or just starting to dip your toes in the interior design world, you are probably busy pondering one serious question: should I open up my own business or find a job at an established interior design firm?

Honestly, there is no right answer. Both offer up opportunities for interior designers to climb the industry ladder and both have advantages and disadvantages depending on your lifestyle and priorities at this moment in time. To be an interior designer for a pre-established firm means great opportunities to learn and grow in the comfort of job security and financial stability. Whereas being a business owner means having full control of your profit and your time, whilst opening yourself up to a new world of exciting challenges.

Weigh up the pros and cons of each and discover the path into the interior design industry that is right for you right now.

Pay and perks

As a business owner

As a business owner, you have full control of your business' profits. Everything you earn goes into your pocket—or wherever you so choose to put it! If business is good, that is great news. If business is bad, not so much. Being your own boss means your finances can heavily fluctuate and there is no guarantee of when the next pay check will arrive. Before you venture out on your own, be sure to give yourself a thorough financial education!

As an employee

Salary? Check. Employee benefits? Check. Opportunity for promotion? Check. Working for an interior design company will most likely result in a good starting salary and the opportunity to move up the ladder within the company. You won't receive direct compensation for taking on more lucrative projects or putting in extra work but hey, a bonus might be coming your way soon!

Time off

As a business owner

It's your business, you work whenever you like—no permission needed! Your daughter is celebrating her 10th birthday next week? Schedule freed. You feel burned out and want to sleep in? It's a rest day then!

Sounds good right? One catch. As a business owner, someone or something always demands your attention, and for this reason, you'll likely find yourself working thrice as hard as a business owner than if you were an employee. Oh, and the amount you work has a pretty direct impact on the amount you earn, so don't be too liberal with the holidays!

As an employee

As an employee of a large interior design firm, you won't have much freedom in your schedule. Your hours will be pre-set, your holiday confined to a set number of days and you'll need to follow a set of protocols to file a leave request. But, once your hours are complete, you can clock off with no problem. A regular schedule makes for easier planning in your home life, especially if you have a family.

Responsibilities

As a business owner

With great power comes great responsibility. The growth and success of your business are in your hands.  Every decision you make will affect the future of your business and you'll be held accountable for any issues along the way. You'll need to train yourself in financial management, marketing, legal matters and more all whilst balancing your creative work. Owning a business is a commitment, are you ready to take on that level of ownership and responsibility?

As an employee

And, relax! Being your own boss has many perks, but entrepreneur-related stress isn't one of them! As an interior design employee, your responsibilities are clearly set on paper. Anything beyond your scope of work is not your responsibility (although going the extra mile will earn you positive recognition) and you can focus entirely on your own personal growth as a designer!

Creative control

As a business owner

The biggest incentive to being your own boss is the total creative freedom it affords you. Of course, you will still be designed to your client's preferences but you get to decide who those clients are and there are no management-imposed limitations to your creativity. To ensure you're attracting the clients and projects that you dream of working with, you'll want to think about how best to position your brand and craft your brand messaging to capture their attention.

As an employee

You'll still get to flex your creative muscles as an interior design employee, you just won't get much of a say in what projects you work on and the overall creative direction of said projects. Your firm might have strict design guidelines or suppliers that they like to work with which you will have to adhere to. But learning to colour within the lines, especially as a new interior designer, is a great exercise to help you learn and grow.

The verdict

That's up to you! However you choose to start your career in interior design, you'll find opportunities for learning, challenge and creativity. And remember this is just the start of your interior design industry. You are not bound to one way of working for the rest of your career, just do what feels right at this moment.

Visualist is a software empowering creative professionals to work, earn and scale their businesses. Learn more here.

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