How to Turn Your Interior Design Passion into a Career

November 9, 2017

Interior design is a highly sought-after profession, but not everyone has what it takes to turn a passion into a career. On the whole, the industry is misunderstood, and most people remain unaware of the many complex facets of the job. Although the field of design is creative, an interior design career also requires sound business knowledge and strong organization skills – hence why design students undertake years of education before they can qualify.

It takes time to break into interior design, but with the industry booming, there’s never been a better time to begin your education. So, if you’re itching to turn your passion for design into a prosperous career, here are ten tips to help you get started.

Go to Interior Design School

Whether or not you already have a degree, most interior design firms require employees to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject. A degree in interior design is preferred, but other courses that teach skills such as drawing, computer-aided design (CAD) and business knowledge may be accepted. You can enroll in an interior design program through most colleges and universities, as well as at specialist art and design schools. Just make sure that The National Association of Schools of Art and Design has accredited your course before you enroll, as this is what employers tend to look for on your resume.

Pass the NCIDQ Exam

To become a qualified interior designer, you will need to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam. Most states require you to hold this license before you start working in your profession, whereas others will permit you to practice but won’t allow you to use the title of “interior designer” until you’re qualified. To pass the exam, you’ll need to demonstrate a combination of education and experience, usually following a bachelor’s degree and two years training on the job.

Choose a Specialty

Once you are licensed, you will need to choose a specialty. Interior design isn’t just about designing people’s homes. There are other areas such as office buildings, restaurants, retail outlets, hotels, banks and so on. Before you embark on your career as an interior designer, try to hone your passion into one particular sector. Your prospective income will significantly increase, plus it will be easier to grow your career if you’re an expert in a particular area.

According to research compiled by education experts, the interior design industry is projected to grow by 13% by 2022, with a lean towards environmental design and green living spaces. The trend towards “green living” and horticulture are worth following if you’re just getting started in your career, as demand is set to be high in these areas.

Gain Experience

Although the salary projections for interior designers are high, it may take some time before you start earning from your work. Whether you want to work for an interior design firm or you’re planning to go freelance, you will to demonstrate work experience before anyone will hire you. Offer your services to non-profit organizations and charities to get some experience under your belt. Once you’ve completed a few projects, you’ll have a portfolio to show employers and clients.

Continue Your Education

As an interior designer, it’s vital that you stay on top of current trends in design, technology and business. To remain competitive in your field, you will need to attend regular interior design conferences and broaden your education. Sign up to the

American Society of Interior Designers for updates on events and meetings, and research education facilities that offer certification in specific fields, such as sustainable design, corporate design or spatial theories so you can expand your expertise.

Make Contacts

Like most other business professionals, interior designers spend a lot of time networking with potential clients and making contacts in the industry. Once you’ve begun your career, you will mix with realtors, property developers and business owners. All of this will help you to build a steady stream of work and earn a reputation. If you’re working freelance, you will also need to market your services, either by creating advertising materials yourself or by hiring a marketing expert.

Interior Decorating VS Interior Design

Many people confuse the field of interior design with interior decorating, but there is a big difference between the two. Interior design requires a formal education in areas of functional design, technology, creativity and business. Interior decorating is a skill acquired through experience, and contractors don’t typically need qualifications to practice.

As an interior decorator, you will need to demonstrate both creativity and business acumen. Your work won’t just involve choosing wallpaper and collecting fabric samples: you will also negotiate with installers, source furniture from manufacturers, pay suppliers and keep accurate billing records, either for yourself or for the company you work for.

Interior decorating is an entirely different trade, though you will have to negotiate with decorators as an interior designer. Interior decorators take care of painting, sanding, hanging wallpaper, and generally making the client’s (and your) vision come alive.  

Get into Real Estate

If you’re passionate about helping people create their dream homes, interior design isn’t the only career path you could follow. Join a real estate company or set up your own business, matching people up with their perfect properties. Don’t worry if you’re not particularly business-minded. You can learn the necessary business skills by taking a course, or you can outsource your accounting and bookkeeping. Companies like Landvoice offer some excellent real estate business solutions.


Interior design is an exciting and lucrative career choice, but becoming a qualified professional takes time. Not only will you need to pursue a formal education in the subject, but you will be required to prove your creative and technical skills to clients and employers. Your design skills need to be strong, and you need to acquaint yourself with the business world to understand how the industry works. With dedication, commitment and hard work, however, it is possible to enjoy a long and prosperous career in interior design.

I hope that this post was useful if you are planning to start your own interior design career. If you haven’t read my Marketing for Interior Designers eBook, check it out – it is full of practical and effective tools to grow your interior design business:

marketing for interior designers

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