How to Start an Interior Design Business in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: February 21, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Interior design is growing fast, with an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.16% from 2022 to 2027. This means the market could hit $34,029.03 million by 2027, making now a great time to get your foot in the door.


Whether commercial or residential, clients want experts to choose color schemes, select furnishings, and develop layouts that meet their needs and preferences. While launching an interior design firm requires an artistic eye, business savvy, and clientele, the potential rewards can be plentiful in this growing creative field.

This guide will walk you through how to start an interior design business. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, registering an EIN, obtaining business insurance, and customer focus.

1. Conduct Interior Design Market Research

Market research is an essential part of building your business plan. It offers insight into your target market, local saturation, and trends among products and services.


Some things you might learn through interior design market research include:

  • The industry is fragmented, comprised mainly of small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
  • This allows ample opportunities for independent designers or small firm startups to establish themselves regionally.
  • New interior design firms have low barriers to entry regarding capital requirements or regulatory compliance.
  • Startup costs range from $2,000 to $75,000 depending on factors like office space leasing and salary staff.
  • Many independent contractors operate out of home offices with expenses limited to tools like design software.
  • No license or certification is mandatory to practice in most parts of the country.
  • Voluntary certifications convey expertise.
  • Given modest startup costs and regulatory requirements, the industry presents a reasonably accessible entrepreneurship opportunity, especially when partnering with various other businesses such as Bed & Breakfasts, AirBnBs, home staging experts, etc..
  • Digital disruption via augmented and virtual reality technologies provides competitive advantages to tech-savvy startups.
  • As Millennials and Gen Z become prime purchasers and more environmentally conscious, demand grows for smart home technology integration.

For interior design startups that can brand their differentiation to niche demographics or regional markets, ample opportunities exist to capture market share in this still-fragmented industry poised for further growth.

2. Analyze the Competition

Understanding the competitive landscape is vital for any new business, and interior design is no exception. Analyzing competitors helps you draw in potential clients by learning about pricing structure, current marketing practices, and popular interior designs.

Some ways to get to know interior decorating business competitors include:

  • Start by identifying design companies in your city or region.
  • Search industry association directories like ASID and databases like Houzz Pro listings by location and specialty.
  • Drive around to compile names from physical studios you pass.
  • Search small business sites and LinkedIn.
  • Tracking down competitors takes some legwork.
  • Visit the websites and social media of identified firms.
  • Make notes regarding years in business, services offered, styles and specialties, client types, and portfolio images.
  • Note online following and reviews as indicators of perception and popularity.
  • Use revenue estimators to gauge competitor annual sales for context.

Consider creating anonymous consultations with highly reviewed designers to evaluate how they position experience, offerings, and pricing. This further validates competitive differences to leverage in your messaging and packages. Ongoing competitor analysis through Google Alerts and social listening ensures you stay abreast of market changes.

3. Costs to Start an Interior Design Business

Starting an interior design business requires both upfront investments and ongoing expenses. Between initial costs to establish your firm and recurring overhead to run operations, owners should budget accordingly based on their business model and scale.

Start-Up Costs

  • Filing formation documents typically run $100-$800 depending on your state and entity type chosen.
  • Laptop ($700+) and design software ($500+ annually).
  • Branding materials ($500+ for logo, cards, marketing templates).
  • Insurance ($400+ annually).
  • Renting shared co-working space adds $100-$300 monthly.
  • Purchasing furniture inventory could run $20,000 or far more depending on the designer pieces selected.

Ongoing Costs

Assume monthly fixed overhead expenses of several hundred dollars for recurring needs like software subscriptions, insurance, utilities, internet/phone, accounting fees, web hosting, marketing platforms, and continuing education. Variable project costs will also accrue. Other ongoing costs include:

  • Employing three full-time workers at average hourly wages could total around $100,000 annually or $8,000 monthly.
  • Outsourcing to independent contractors reduces perpetual payroll overhead.
  • In addition to recurring monthly costs, make sure to budget for periodic annual expenses like license/permit renewals, website updates, and marketing campaigns that require upfront deposits.

While overhead needs remain fairly consistent month to month, be prepared for unexpected costs popping up as well.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When establishing a legal structure for an interior design firm, owners must weigh options like sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC based on their business model, goals, and liability concerns.

Sole Proprietorship

Sole proprietors report profits/losses on personal returns. Simple and inexpensive, but no separation exists between business and personal assets, concerning designers facing project liability.


Partnerships allow sharing control and pooling capital from two or more owners. However, each partner remains personally liable. Partnerships are useful for family-run businesses.


Corporations limit owner liability, but double taxation of profits and extensive record-keeping prove challenging for small design shops. Registering a corporation is also expensive and complex.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Forming a limited liability company (LLC) combines pass-through taxation with liability protections by separating personal assets from company financials. Owners aren’t personally responsible for business debts and judgments. The flexible structure accommodates solo entrepreneurs or multiple member-owners without restrictions on number.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

Any interior design firm, including a sole proprietorship or single member LLC, needs its own Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax and banking purposes. An EIN functions like a business’s Social Security Number to open accounts, apply for financing, hire employees, and file returns.

While Social Security numbers suffice initially, obtaining an EIN better protects your personal information and supports credibility with vendors and clients. The IRS does not charge to apply for an EIN.

To get your interior design business EIN, visit the quick online application through This streamlined form only takes minutes to complete. You will need to provide basic information like your name, address, business legal structure, and start date. An EIN is generated immediately upon submitting the form and shown on the confirmation screen.

The same EIN works across multiple states if you expand locations over time. Once obtained, the number never expires and requires no renewal. Use your EIN anytime tax documentation or W-9 forms are requested from your business.

In addition to the federal EIN, make sure to register with your state revenue or taxation department for any required sales tax permits, business licenses, or other region-specific credentials. Fees vary by state but typically cost under $100. These demonstrate you comply with local statutes around collecting and remitting sales tax on design services revenue.

6. Setup Your Accounting

Meticulous financial record-keeping is vital for design firms to track deductible expenses, quantify project costs, and monitor profitability across jobs. Without organized accounts, important tax write-offs get missed, balancing accounts become unpredictable, and lack of data hides operational issues.

Accounting Software

Digital accounting software like QuickBooks streamlines recording income and expenses integrates with bank/credit accounts, automates categorization, provides customized reporting, and simplifies tax preparation. The estimated $10-$50 monthly investment pays dividends in time savings and accuracy.

Hire an Accountant

Supplementing DIY tracking with professional accounting support ensures you remain tax-compliant and financially optimized. Services like monthly reconciliation of accounts, payroll/401k administration, and advisory on structure and strategy alleviate administrative burdens.

Come tax season, an accountant can save thousands in liability by maximizing deductions and credits specific to creative agencies. Expect to invest around $200 per month for limited support up to $1,000+ for full-scope accounting.

Open a Business Bank Account

Make sure to separate all interior design business finances into dedicated bank and credit card accounts under your company’s legal name. Commingling personal and commercial transactions risks personal liability for company debt.

Apply for Business Credit Cards

Business credit cards also help you accumulate an independent credit profile to qualify for larger limits and optimal financing rates tailored to companies.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

While legal and compliance requirements for interior designers vary by state and region, understanding local statutes helps avoid disruptive suspensions due to a lack of proper credentials. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

Roughly half of states regulate interior design professionals through title acts or practice laws. These commonly involve prerequisites like education, experience, and examination before legally advertising or performing services termed “interior design”.

Verify if your state’s policies mandate a license to practice commercially, or simply restrict the use of the title for unlicensed designers. Where formal licensure is not required, voluntary certifications like the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) bolster industry credibility.

Even home or virtual-based designers should determine if local business permits apply given occupational ordinances in their county or city. Zoning codes might affect potential client meetings at a residential studio.

Facility safety systems guidelines shape many fixture and layout specifications in commercial interior designs. Being unable to discuss or interpret building codes during client presentations risks losing institutional or developer bids. Study resources like International Building Code standards so knowledge gaps don’t inhibit business opportunities.

Also investigate region or state-specific regulations around handicap accessibility, historical preservation restrictions, energy efficiency requirements, or environmental product declarations that factor into material choices. Understanding provisions unique to your area prevents rework delays or fines down the road.

While licensing rules continue evolving state-by-state, taking the time upfront to thoroughly research all relevant practice, zoning, safety, and conservation regulations only supports smooth firm operations and on-time delivery for clients.

8. Get Business Insurance

Operating without adequate insurance exposes interior design businesses to substantial financial perils from property damage, legal action, and disruption. Policies cover expenses related to property loss, liability claims, completed work defects, employee injuries, and other incidents that threaten solvency.

A fire in your office destroys computers, product samples, and paper records. You get sued when a shelving unit in a client’s home that you specified collapses on their son. Canada Post loses a container with thousands of dollars in imported custom furniture you pre-paid that then goes mysteriously missing. All nightmare scenarios where insurance allows cost recovery.

Start by researching industry providers like Hiscox that offer tailored creative business policies stacking general liability, errors & omissions, cyber, and other protections. Obtain quotes from multiple brokers comparing coverage terms and premium ranges, which often start under $500 annually.

The application involves providing details on your services, clients, employment practices, and financials. Underwriting approval timing varies from a week up to a month. Pay premiums monthly, quarterly, or annually once approved. Reaching out to an insurance advisor eases the fact-finding and purchasing process.

Don’t let a single incident derail years of building your design firm. Transfer risk so stability never comes into question.

9. Create an Office Space

An office lends interior design firms room for client meetings, sample storage, collaborating with contractors, tackling paperwork, and escaping household chaos to focus. Weigh options balancing convenience, representation, costs, and growth needs within the interior design industry.

Home Offices

Solo entrepreneurs can launch quickly from a dedicated home studio or guest room turned office for minimal financial outlay. Meetings pose noise challenges, and separating work/life spheres proves difficult for some. Lacking a commercial base may also hamper landing more formal corporate clients early on. Expect around $100 monthly for upgraded internet, utilities, and incidentals.

Coworking Spaces

Shared spaces like WeWork allow fledgling owners to lease desk availability on flexible terms for $150-$500 monthly. Benefits include turnkey infrastructure, networking, conference room access, and credibility of a professional address. Drawbacks sometimes involve noise and distractions ill-suited for client calls or concentration.

Commercial Office

Leasing a stand-alone studio offers the most professional perception when meeting high-end residential or commercial patrons. Expect to budget $1,000 or more for modest spaces up to a few thousand for multi-room layouts. These spaces convey longevity and financial health when targeting six-figure renovation jobs.

10. Source Your Equipment

An interior designer relies on a range of tools and samples during their creative process. From inspirational materials to functional electronics, stock your studio smartly balancing budget and needs.

Buying New

Invest initially in new laptops and software for seamless performance, especially remote access and video calls. Purchase essentials like sample books, cameras, drafting supplies, and tool kits from specialty retailers like Design Mart. Custom furnishings often require made-to-order deposits. Expect higher prices but better return policies on new items.

Buying Used

Search used office liquidators in your region and online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace for steeply discounted desk sets, tables, lighting, and accessories. Vintage shops offer unique decor finds. Established designers often sell prior samples. Inspect secondhand thoroughly for defects and expect “as is” purchases.


Stage living room vignettes using rented furnishings from national chains like CORT Events. Many limit availability to corporate customers only. Rent lighting, fabrication tools, and cameras as needed instead of buying specialty items rarely used. Be prepared to put down hefty security deposits.


Finance expensive long-term equipment needs like software, printers, and company vehicles through leasing companies that structure smaller monthly payments. Trade up models hassle-free after 12-24 months. Credit approval is required.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Crafting a distinctive brand identity helps interior design shops attract ideal clients, convey their vision, and get recognized for specialty services that set them apart.

Getting a Business Phone Number

Acquire a dedicated business phone line through providers like RingCentral to present a professional impression for a successful interior design business. Call forwarding, toll-free numbers, online faxing, and voicemail transcriptions improve communications and accessibility for clients.

Creating a Logo and Brand Assets

A polished logo encapsulates the emotions a firm intends to elicit in clients. Modern, glamorous, earthy? The style should resonate with target demographics. Graphic design sites like Looka feature logo makers to create visual assets that work in tandem across business cards, websites, signage, and marketing materials. Icons make memorable brands.

Creating Business Cards and Signage

Business cards establish credibility during in-person meetings and networking events. Online print shops like Vistaprint offer affordable, high-quality cards using your custom logo and brand colors to stick in your mind. Order 250+ cards upfront knowing sharing contacts precedes sales.

Window, interior office, or vehicle signage reinforces impressions for visitors. Include logos, imagery, and minimal text for design character within restrictions.

Purchasing a Domain Name

Secure a domain name aligned to your interior design brand for branding continuity. Short, simple domain names with targeted keywords resonate easiest. Check availability by searching sites like Namecheap. Register for 2+ years upfront for lower annual rates around $15.

Building a Website

Well-designed websites visually share design aesthetics and past work instead of relying solely on descriptions. Leverage drag-and-drop website builders like Wix for affordable sites with built-in SEO best practices. Or hire web developers on freelance marketplaces like Fiverr for custom, complex functionality.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Connecting with industry peers builds skills and relationships integral to interior design business success. Local groups provide beginner guidance while national associations offer continuing education and credibility.

Local Associations

Join respected regional or state chapters like the Texas Association of Interior Designers which share legislative updates, networking events, mentorships, and project referrals. Annual dues of $100-$300 access member directories to discover local contractors, stylists, and architects to partner with on client jobs.

Local Meetups

Attend free gatherings posted on sites like Meetup to exchange best practices, challenges, and solutions with area designers. Casual formats lead to partnerships and friendships. Consider hosting your meetup to establish thought leadership by sharing specialized knowledge.

Facebook Groups

People congregate in social communities like The Interior Designer’s Business Launchpad to crowdsource ideas 24/7. Discover sales on sample materials from members’ excess inventory in buy/sell groups like Interior Designers and Architects Business Information Group. Participate in tapping collective experiences from over 10,000 global designers in some groups.

13. How to Market an Interior Design Business

Implementing ongoing marketing exposes budding design firms to new clients. Combining digital promotion, influencer partnerships, events, and direct outreach spotlights your own business services to ideal prospects.


Personal Networking

Tap into your existing network first. Designers rely heavily on referrals from past satisfied clients. Elicit reviews on Google, Facebook, or Houzz highlighting your reliability and style. Request introductions to their friends or family undertaking remodeling projects. Referral rewards like gift cards incentivize shares as well.

Digital Marketing

  • Run Google/Facebook ads with inspirational imagery and limited text targeting homeowners searching “kitchen remodels” in your area.
  • Start a YouTube channel creating weekly vlogs documenting in-progress client projects to showcase abilities.
  • Guest post styling tips on leading interior design blogs to link back to your website.
  • Post before-and-after photos on Instagram and Pinterest using influencer hashtags to increase visibility.
  • Send monthly e-newsletters to subscribed customers showcasing new offerings.

Traditional Marketing

  • Print postcards with the strongest “before and after” photos to mail homeowners in affluent neighborhoods.
  • Sponsor booths at home shows to meet prospects in person and display work.
  • The approach recently completed construction projects about staging model units.
  • Run 30-second radio ads on local NPR stations during drive times.
  • Advertise discounted “intro packages” for first-time clients.

Balancing digital discovery and offline interactions keeps your design services top of mind across mediums when projects arise. Dedicate 15% of expenses to calculated promotion for revenue growth.

14. Focus on the Customer

Delivering an incredible client experience cements interior design businesses as a trusted partner for home renovations and commercial spaces. How you make each customer feel builds loyalty that spurs invaluable referrals.


Some ways to improve customer relations in your own interior design business include:

  • Start by listening intently to understand personal style, functional needs, and technical constraints.
  • Recommend products and solutions tailored specifically to the client’s goals and budget constraints.
  • Present decorative options reflective of their vision, not just your artistic preferences.
  • Handle delays by responding promptly if vendors miss deadlines or products get back-ordered.
  • Offer reasonable substitutes if customized pieces prove backlogged for months. Transparent communication maintains trust in difficult stretches.
  • Following project completion, provide digital maintenance instructions for any electronics integration while noting warranties.
  • Schedule follow-ups to adjust lighting schedules or troubleshoot device connectivity issues.
  • Sending small client gifts at project milestones and holidays sustains top-of-mind awareness of future needs and referral possibilities.
  • After a major renovation, deliver a floral arrangement thanking them for the opportunity.
  • Positive relationships convert one-time customers into brand advocates mentioning you without prompting to all in their spheres.

Interior design services involve intimate, emotion-driven services. Ensuring each client feels understood, appreciated, and wowed builds a base of vocal supporters fueling repeat and referral business essential for prosperity.

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