If you love interior decorating--your home draws admiring comments from visitors, you've got décor magazines stacked on coffee tables and nightstands, home design shows playing on the television all day (and night), and you're a home furnishings shopaholic--then this could be the business for you. As an interior designer or decorator, you'll help clients make their home or work spaces comfortable, attractive reflections of their interests and personalities. You'll deal with architects, contractors, painters, wallpaperers and stencilers, and purchase all the elements that go into the home's décor, including window and wall coverings, furniture, linens, and accent pieces. The advantages to this business are that you can work from home, start-up costs are relatively low, it's challenging and creative, and if you're a decorating junkie, it provides the opportunity to redecorate over and over without tearing your own house apart and spending a fortune. You'll need a strong design and color sense and a good working knowledge of furnishings, fabrics and wall coverings. You should also be aware of design trends and traditions. Good people skills are important and organizational abilities are a must--you'll be coordinating painters and other contractor types and furniture and furnishings deliveries, and you'll sometimes be on a ready-in-time-for-the-daughter's-wedding or other special-event deadline.
Your clients can be residential or commercial property owners. You can specialize in types of properties like restaurants, hotels or offices, or you can work with all these and residences, too. Or you can specialize in the type of work you do--instead of completely redoing an entire home, you can do shoestring redesign, redecorating a single room using the owner's existing furnishings in new ways. Network at your chamber of commerce and other local professional organizations. Send brochures to architects and contractors, especially those building spec homes who need a decorated model; follow up with phone calls. Place an ad in your local Yellow Pages. Volunteer yourself as a guest on a local radio chat show and as a speaker at women's clubs.
Some states require an interior design license--check with local professional organizations to find out local regulations. You'll need a computer system with a laser printer and the usual software, a fax machine, sample books of fabrics and wall coverings, and a tape measure. You can purchase a number of interior-design software programs that let you print out floor plans, 3-dimensional room designs and even change decorating colors. If you're a computer person, shop around for one that suits you.