As I mentioned yesterday, there is no formula to becoming an interior designer. Every designer I know has a different story about how they got to where they are now.
There are, however, some common threads that I have noticed between all of their stories, and I want to share them for aspiring designers out there!
Study The Field
Before you decide to go to school for design, I highly suggest studying the industry. HGTV and decor blogs have given a false impression of what designers actually do. They also don't illuminate all of the various roles that an interior designer can play. There is so much more to interior design than decor or home renovations. Getting a clear picture of what the responsibilities, challenges, and joys of being a designer will help you immensely as you begin your path to design greatness.
Get Some Education
I elected to complete a bachelor of science in Interior Design, but I don't think that's necessary for everyone. If you want to focus on decorating, there are so many great books and online resources that can give you the tools to make great selections. If you are near a community college or college that offers a certificate program, that can be a great foundation too! The method that you gain the basic principles you need in order to implement beautiful design doesn't really matter; just take the time to invest in yourself.
Volunteer Your Time
When you are starting out, the best way to gain experience is to volunteer your time (aka work for free!) I cannot tell you how many hours I put in working for designers just so I could soak in some of their knowledge. You will learn what to do, and what not to do, in a way that you simply cannot learn in a classroom. And you may be blessed with a mentor through this process! Shadow some of the trades you may be hiring later, like a painter or a upholsterer, so that you can get insight on the process it takes to get to the final product.
Start from the Bottom
Understand that designers have so many people that support what they do and no one can be successful in this field working 100% alone. I would encourage every aspiring designer to work in retail, at least for a bit. Working retail is like boot camp for customer service skills development, and let's face it, being a designer is a service based profession! No matter how many projects you have in your portfolio, or how many times you've been published, at the end of the day, you work for your current clients. Our job as a designer is to serve, so I advise every aspiring designer to spend time learning how to do this well.
Community over Competition
As you are establishing yourself as a designer, it may be tempting to look at a peer and feel like you are running a race against them. Trust me, you are not! There is plenty of work to go around, and truthfully, no one can compete with you as a designer because your clients want what you in particular have to offer. There are so many great resources to stay connected with other designers on Facebook. One of my favorite groups is What They Don't Teach You in Design School. Join groups like ASID or IIDA and network as much as you can in person! Many times, firms do not list job openings, but instead seek out talent that they have met within these circles.
Constantly Be Learning
Trends change so quickly in the home decor and fashion world that you really have to stay on top of it! Coupled with the fact that online retailers are changing the game completely, you should constantly be learning about what's new or popular in the industry. Attend furniture market events at High Point, Atlanta or Las Vegas. Read national magazines and local ones! Pay attention to what was trending 30 years ago, because chances are it will be coming back into style very soon.
Define Your Style
If you look at internationally acclaimed interior designers, they all have a recognizable aesthetic. It takes time and practice to curate a signature design portfolio, so start now! Some will say that you should design whatever style your client prefers, but its been proven over & over that not only will this diminish your brand as a designer, it will leave you miserable. The ultimate goal is to create a demand for your unique style, so that clients are seeking you out!
Lastly, take your time! As evident in my own story, it may take years to find your place in this industry. It's OK to work outside of the industry while you're building your portfolio. Trust that if this is your hearts desire and you persist, your designer dream will come true.
I hope this is helpful to you! And if you ever want to chat with me more, feel free to reach out.
Interior Designer living & loving in Raleigh, NC.