Turning Your Eye for Design Into a Side Hustle – From Passion to Profit

an interior designer render of a sage green kitchen
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Some of us are born with a unique gift – an eye for design or an innate knack for aesthetics. It’s a special attribute that lets you notice colors, patterns, and styles in your surroundings more vibrantly.

Just like a versatile piece of furniture, such a talent isn’t confined to a single place, it can be used differently in different parts of your life. So why not consider turning this natural aptitude into a financial windfall?

By doing so, you’re just ‘switching on your artistic lamp’ and leading the way to a successful side hustle. But what should you consider before taking the plunge into freelance interior design?

Turning Your Side Hustle into a Profit 

a sage green moodboard with fabrics, tiles and dried flowers

The digital age, marked by the widespread use of the internet, smartphones, and social media, has revolutionized the way we work and live. One notable shift is the dramatic rise in side hustles for designers or secondary gigs pursued outside of traditional employment.

I know many interior designers that started off by decorating their own homes and then helping others, whilst still maintaining a full-time job. Becoming a full-time interior designer can sometimes be hard work, so starting it off as a side hustle can really help you decide if the interior design industry is for you.

Read on to find out how to turn your enthusiasm as an interior designer into a money-making business.

1. Market Research

Kick off your side hustle as an interior designer by conducting comprehensive market research. Dive headfirst into your local and broader interior design markets to identify the missing puzzle pieces or golden opportunities.

You need to analyze what’s hot or not. In other terms, find out what styles are in demand and (here’s a secret not many know), what markets are underserved. This very crucial first step gives you a solid foundation and an advantage in a sense.  It’s all about finding the perfect balance and ensuring your style is a match to potential clients’ tastes and budgets.

2. Passion and Expertise

a mood board for a red bedroom

Swing on to the next step; choose a niche that aligns with your interests, skills, and, most importantly, your passion. It’s like painting a canvas, your niche should reflect your artistic spirit and professional prowess.

A niche that ignites your passion can be that spicy secret sauce to your success, it’s where you can showcase your expertise and create masterpieces that resonate with your audience, and in turn, increase your client base.

3. Portfolio Development

Your portfolio as an interior designer can act as a showstopper, just like an intricately designed chandelier in a room. Whether it’s a modern minimalist style or a vintage theme, showcasing your versatility in terms of style, budget, and project size will help you stand out in the crowd.

Clients usually love having options, so diversifying your portfolio can give you that added edge in pulling in a strong client base. Here are some online platforms to consider when building and displaying your interior design portfolio:

  • WordPress – Highly customizable with thousands of themes. Can integrate plugins for added functionality.
  • Squarespace – Sleek templates perfect for visual work. User-friendly with great customer support.
  • Iissu – A high-end portfolio builder
  • Adobe Creative Cloud – a web builder specifically for portfolios
  • Houzz – Specifically tailored for interior designers, architects, and home renovation professionals. Huge audience looking for home design inspiration.

4. Networking

Networking in the interior design industry can be explained as ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ Even professionals at asidga.org would attest to the fact that forming connections with industry professionals such as real estate agents, designers, and builders can offer you opportunities and boost your business credibility.

Networking opens doors to referral clients and collaborative projects, proving to be a long-term asset for your interior design venture.

5. Online Presence

a render of kitchen with large windows, marble tiles and industrial decor

In the digital era, online presence is a game-changer, much like how an accent wall changes a room’s dynamics. Having an engaging website and a strong social media presence can attract potential clients.

Posting regularly about your work, sharing tips, and engaging in discussions enhances your visibility. It’s like turning on a spotlight in a room full of potential clients. Also, check out the many freelancing platforms if you are only just beginning. Places like Upwork and Fiverr are great platforms to showcase your work and find prospective clients.

6. Client Testimonials

Testimonials from satisfied clients work magic in gaining the trust of potential ones. It’s like a pat on the back, affirming that you’re doing a great job.

Publicly available positive reviews provide ‘social proof,’ which can be instrumental in tipping the scales in your favor when a potential client is comparing you with other interior designers.

7. Cost Analysis

To strike the right chord in terms of pricing, conducting a detailed cost analysis is essential. Calculating all your expenses, including materials, design software, insurance to marketing, gives you a clear idea of the minimum charges you need to keep to break even and profit.

Setting competitive pricing is like setting the right ambiance in a room, too low or too high can be a turn-off for the clients.

8. Hourly Rates vs. Flat Fees

Deciding whether you’ll charge hourly or flat fees can be as tricky as choosing between a modern or vintage theme for a room. However, this decision affects how profitable your services can be.

Transparency about your pricing strategy helps in building a trust-based relationship with clients, setting the tone for smooth project execution.

9. Project Budgeting

Just the way a well-designed room is a delicate balance of aesthetic and function, similarly, project budgeting is about striking that perfect balance between clients’ budgets and their expectations.

Helping clients realistically assess their budgets and deliver pleasing interior design in that price range builds satisfaction and leads to successful project completion.

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10. Payment Terms

Transparency in payment terms is as important as clearly laying out the design plan to the client. Clearly specifying accepted payment methods, schedules, and policies about late fees, reveals the financial layout to the client. It paves the way for a stress-free working relationship, offering a clear path forward.

11. Cancellation and Termination Clauses

Like colorful rugs that cover unforeseen flooring issues, having clear cancellation and termination clauses covers unexpected situations. Outlining procedures for ending contracts, refunds, and ways to resolve disputes ensures a fair deal for both parties if things go south.

12. Active Listening

a luxurious living room with high ceilings and pink sofas.
If your client wants a pink living room, give them a pink living room!

Active listening is the key to clients’ hearts. By investing time in understanding the client’s vision and ideas, you garner the essence of what they seek. We all have our own personal style, but the key to being a successful interior designer is to put your style to one side and listen to your clients.

It’s similar to choosing the perfect focal point in design; when placed right, it elevates the entire space. By applying active listening, you ensure that client demands get accurately reflected in your designs, leading to happy clients and successful projects.

13. Regular Updates

Just like how timely dusting and cleaning keep a room fresh, regular updates keep the client informed and comfortable. By keeping them in the loop about the progress and any changes or issues, you ensure transparency in your process.

It helps maintain the confidence and trust that clients place in you and their satisfaction with the project.

14. Feedback and Revisions

Just as a beautifully designed room speaks volumes about the designer’s talent, feedback and suggestions reveal the client’s satisfaction level.

Open communication lines allow free-flowing feedback, and being prepared for revisions ensures that the end product meets the client’s expectations. This process is the polishing stage that perfects your design and client satisfaction.

15. CAD and 3D Modeling

a CAD drawing of a red kitchen

These days designing a space without CAD and 3D modeling is like trying to navigate a room in the dark. These tools help interior designers create detailed and accurate representations of your proposed designs.

With these, clients get an insight into how their space will transform into reality, increasing their trust and excitement about your work.

16. Virtual Design Boards

Virtual design boards act like a pot of vibrant flowers adding life to a monochrome room. They allow you to present your design pointers to clients, making your concept clear. Just as a flowering pot can change the room’s aura, virtual design boards can change the client’s perceptions about their space positively.

17. Project Management Software

Manage your projects smoothly like guiding a remote-controlled car. Project management tools track tasks, timelines, and client communication efficiently.

Deploying the various features of these tools can save time, cut downtime, and facilitate smooth project execution, all of this resulting in satisfied clients. It’s important to use leading online project management software, as you’ll want a tool that offers quality.

18. Customer Satisfaction

Follow-Up: Just as putting the final accessory completes the room’s design, following up completes the project process. After making sure that the project is executed successfully, reaching out to clients to ensure their satisfaction, answer questions, or address any concerns adds to their overall positive experience. 

19. Feedback Surveys

Feedback surveys act like that mirror in a room that reflects what’s right and wrong. It’s always good to know what clients liked and what you could have done differently. Gathering feedback is like getting a window into your client’s mind, helping you improve and deliver better in the future.

20. Referral Programs

Delighted clients are like lamps that light the path for more potential clients. Establishing a referral program encourages satisfied clients to spread the word about your services to their contacts. It’s an effective strategy, like hanging a beautiful painting in clear sight, which leads to increased visibility and more business opportunities.

Just as one would attentively place the finishing touches on a well-designed room, similar care and thought should be given to your side hustle. With a well-thought-out plan, you can blend passion with profit–and potentially turn your side gig into your main gig. 

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a very small commission if you click through and make a purchase. These links help to pay the editorial costs of writing a blog. For more information, please read my full affiliate disclosure here.

I also use Artificial Intelligence Image generators to create some of my images. These are to show you examples of my ideas and inspiration when I cannot produce the real images myself.

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