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Interior Decorating

If you have a flair for decorating and know how to make the most of a room’s potential while working within a budget, a business as an interior designer/decorator may be for you.

While in days gone by only the wealthy could be expected to hire an interior designer, the field has now expanded and become much more popular. Costs of materials have also reduced with the result that the services of a professional decorator are within the reach of even modest income families.

As an interior decorator, you need to be good with color, fabric and furniture as well as having a strong network of suppliers and well-developed budgeting and communication skills.

One of the first challenges you will face will be learning to separate your personal tastes from those of your client. Another, which involves generating business in the first place, is overcoming the negative perception the general public has about interior designers. A recent survey by the American Society of Interior Designers found that there is common myth that interior designers are bossy, intimidating and expensive. Market yourself as antithesis of this image to give yourself a competitive edge.

The relationship between interior designer and client is an intimate one, at least where the project is the client’s home. There is nothing so personal as creating a space that will be lived in day in, day out. For this reason it is imperative you have the interpersonal skills necessary to draw out of your client their real needs and preferences.

There are many applications for your decorating skills from single room projects, residential complexes, recycling furniture and effects the client already owns into a more pleasing configuration, color consulting, one-day solutions (on-site advice followed by a written set of suggestions and sources) to full-scale interior design of an entire house.

Some markets that may not be immediately obvious include the newly divorced needing to set up housekeeping again from scratch, staging a house for sale, pulling together disparate elements purchased or inherited or combined when two households merge.

The first contact will usually be by telephone. You will listen to what the client is looking for and decide whether this is something you are able to handle. If so, and the client wishes to proceed further, schedule an initial meeting at the client’s home (or whatever other space that is the subject of the project). At the initial meeting, listen to what the client wants. Before the meeting suggest the client gather together some sample colors and pictures to illustrate the look they are trying to achieve. The more information you can gather from the client at the initial stages the better. Actively find out about your client’s needs, preferences and hopes. Remember to consider lifestyle and your client’s personal tastes as well as the timeframe for the project.

Once you have a clear idea of what the client is looking for it is time to establish the client’s budget. Jointly establish the scope of the project and then establish a plan to accomplish your client’s goals within their budget. If finances are tight, consider breaking a large project into several smaller ones. For example, if the project is the interior of an entire house, do it room by room as finances allow. Or complete interior finishes first then add furnishings piece by piece.

Be sure you explain how you will be charging the client very clearly and upfront. This will depend on the nature of the project itself. For example, will you source materials or will you design the room and leave it to your client to source the best price? There are many different approaches to charging in this business. You may need to employ different approaches for different projects. In some cases, you may require a retainer up front to cover the costs of your initial time to plan the project. Usually, the retainer is applied against the final bill if the client proceeds with the work. Some decorators charge by the hour. This type of billing is suited to advice you provide on an as needed or consultative basis. Hourly fees range between $50 and $100. Alternatively, you could charge a flat fee based on your upfront quote, a commission basis calculated as a proportion of the cost of products and services purchased, a cost-plus basis where you oncharge the cost to you of products and services purchased plus a fixed percentage (usually 15-30%). Finally, you may propose some combination of the above approaches. It all really depends on the nature of the project and your client’s budget. Whatever approach you prefer, it is imperative that your client clearly understand how she or he will be billed, when you will require deposits and how any deposits are to be applied.

Once you have agreed with your client the scope of the project, exactly what services you will be providing, what you will be charging, how you will be paid and the timeframe within which you will complete the project, put it in writing and get the client to sign a copy as an acknowledgement.

By following the above process you will have all the formalities covered off. At the end of the day, though, success in this business really comes down to professionalism and good, consistent communicatiion.

Useful Sites:

Home and Garden Television

Decorating on a Budget

Special Spaces

Recommended books:

Interior Decorating
by Jan Horn (editor)
Informative, personalized help for decorating your home in your style--whether your goal is to spruce up a small space or transform a room. It includes photographs to inspire you, clear descriptions of design principles, worksheets to help you get started, tips for buying furniture and materials, and more.

The New Decorating Book
Better Homes & Gardens
Guides you through the process of putting it all together, whether decorating an entire home, redoing a room, or looking for a solution to a specific decorating problem.

Use What You Have Decorating
by Lauri Ward
Lauri Ward has created a revolution in interior design-- the most accessible and affordable approach to decorating ever. Now she shows you how to do it yourself--quickly identifying the ten most common decorating mistakes, offering simple principles to correct them, and giving you a proven system for making your home look better than you dreamed it could. Filled with dramatic before-and- after photos, this guide will let you in on Lauri Ward's clever, quick, and inexpensive ways to breathe life back into every room in your house.

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