You've completed your education, and you're a full-fledged interior designer — congratulations! Now what? Here are a few tips for making your transition to pro a smoother one:
1) Set up a Web presence. Regardless of whether you're planning to work freelance or land a job with a design firm, having some sort of online portfolio is a great way to promote yourself as an interior designer. Setting up social media business pages is a free and easy way to share photos of your work and communicate your design style to potential clients and employers. These efforts allow people to feel a connection with you that old-school resumes just can't deliver.
2) Don't scrimp on photos. You may think you're saving money by shooting your portfolio photography yourself, but in the end, this may cost way more than sucking it up and hiring a pro. These images can make or break you as a designer, so it's important to get them right — not to mention, it's a no-no to impose on your clients more than once to get the right shots.
3) Start small. Photos of a few well-placed design elements can be just as powerful as whole-room visuals, where your portfolio is concerned. Chances are good that you've probably created vignettes in your own home or at a friend's or family member's house. Don't overlook opportunities to include this type of design work in your beginning portfolio.
4) Get the word out. Tell everyone you know that you are taking new clients or looking for the right spot at an interior design firm. Post this message, along with images of your work, on social media accounts, and encourage your contacts to share. Everyone likes to work with people they know — especially in an industry as personal as interior design. Even if you only get one freelance job out of this self-promotion, you can start to expand your portfolio and garner valuable word-of-mouth about your skills.
5) Remember whose project it really is. In the beginning, it can be a real buzz kill when clients don't take your design advice. This is a normal, everyday occurrence for most interior designers, yet some designers feel insulted when this happens. Why did you hire me if you're not going to take my recommendations? If you act petulant about it, this attitude serves no one's best interest. If, instead, you remember that this is someone else's home or business and someone else's money being spent, you can maintain a certain amount of professional distance that will save you a lot of heartache over the course of your career.
6) Be brave. It's normal to feel nervous when presenting your ideas to clients when you're just starting out. But if you come across as lacking in confidence, you won't be able to sell your design concepts to the client. If your presentation skills aren't up to par or if you suffer from shyness, enlist friends with whom you can practice. Not only will this help you prepare your spiel for the client, but when your BFF raves about your design, you'll get the shot of morale you need to confidently make your pitch. The task ahead of you may seem daunting as you begin your career as an interior designer, but following these simple guidelines can help you put your best foot forward in the marketplace.
Bonus!: Ready to become an interior designer? The New York Institute of Art and Design's interior design course can help you get there. NYIAD is a C.I.D. International approved school, meaning that our students may apply for Certified Interior Decorator membership upon completion of this program.