MYTHS ABOUT BECOMING AN INTERIOR DESIGNER
When I told my family that I wanted to study architecture, they said it would be too difficult and that I should consider something easier. They were right, it wasn’t easy at university or work, and it wasn’t easy starting my own business, but I loved every second of it!
For that reason, I’m glad I didn’t listen to them! Your family love you; they want you to be happy; they want you to be safe and to have a comfortable, fulfilling life. They think they know what is best for you. Only you know what is in your heart and what is best for you.
It is Too Hard To Be An Interior Designer
It’s something I hear every day. “Isn’t it too hard to be an interior designer?” “My parents say I shouldn’t do something artistic”, “I worry that I won’t get clients”, “do I have to work long hours?” or “I’m worried I will be struggling all my life.”
And so they go off and get a “real job” like becoming an accountant, doctor, lawyer or go into IT or marketing. They make a “good living” doing something they don’t love. Then usually around the age of 30, they get restless, knowing that their heart is pulling them to express its creativity in the way that only interior design can. They can’t think of anything else, dreaming about it at lunchtime (and enjoying every second of it!)
By the time they decide it’s time to do what they love, they’ve got so much fear around changing careers that they doubt every bit of themselves. “I have a mortgage to pay”, “I hear it’s hard to get clients”, “I’m not technical enough”, “I’m told that I need to be exceptionally creative and talented”. Their friends and family tell them it’s too hard or it’s too risky, and ask them why they would throw everything they have already achieved away.
The reason why I help start-up interior design businesses is because it’s hard. But it’s not hard to make money, learn the technical side or solve problems creatively; it’s hard because we have to learn to overcome our fears and move through them before we can gain the confidence to truly accept ourselves into a new career that we love so much. The difficulty isn’t in the profession itself, its in teaching it correctly and gaining the confidence to do it.
Everyone who starts a business or changes careers worries about something, but it doesn’t stop them, and I have seen people making a good living selling far more obscure and rare things than interior design services. Now that interior design is more affordable (thanks to online shopping and e-services) the world is slowly starting to accept interior design services as something within reach.
Yes the average person needs some education about what benefits interior design can bring rather than just “making a space pretty”, but that comes down to your services, how you offer them to people and how confident you are in your abilities (all things I teach you in my mentorship program!)
I promise you, it’ harder doing a job you don’t love (or a job you despise) than getting up daily, excited to make a living “working” in with clients that bring you joy and happiness.
You Need A Portfolio To Get Clients
In the past year, our little interior design studio in Reading has been winning jobs over much more established interior design firms, something supposedly impossible considering we still don’t have a single image of our work on our website – or what you would consider anything resembling a portfolio!
When I first started my interiors business, I began without a long list of clients, without anyone to fall back on, without loads of money and without a big project to carry me through the next 18 months. I was a foreigner living in another country, with no family, friends or any outside support. We had just moved cities, my husband was trying to rebuild his own guitar teaching business after the move, and we were afraid of losing everything we had only to survive.
In that first year, we earned much more than we had ever made working for someone else. These days, I still get asked by my clients why I don’t have a portfolio on my website – but it doesn’t stop them from hiring me. Not having a portfolio hasn’t stopped our little studio growing year after year and winning more substantial and more significant jobs. That first year of business, we had over 60 projects come through the door – and I didn’t have a single photo of my work on my website.
Now I get asked by students “well how do you get clients then?” and of course there isn’t one single answer to that! It varies, depending on what kind of interior design services you want to offer. These are all things I teach in my mentorship program why all our students who complete our program – get clients, in most cases, even without a portfolio!)
Interior design schools, (worldwide), focus on building a meaningless portfolio that is supposed to prove your ability. Yes, it can demonstrate your ability to other academics and potential employers, but in most cases, a university or course portfolio will not land you a client or project.
You Have To Be Naturally Talented To Be An Interior Designer
This is my favourite. Mainly because this is still how some interior designers covet their skills and make interior design look like magic that only they can do, I’ve seen the most talented people in many universities gain little to no success in the design field and yet I have seen those with tenacity and less talent succeed and scale far greater heights.
In my opinion, talent isn’t the right word. If you want to succeed in anything, you have to have an interest, and a driving force that motivates you (whether that’s tenacity or passion) and interior design is not different.
Talent, in my opinion, doesn’t come into it and I say that for two reasons. Firstly, the most “naturally talented” people I have seen are usually pretty lazy and don’t do much with their “talent”. Those that aren’t considered talented, however, but who are passionate, interested and motivated, spend every second of the day learning, growing, working and honing their skills.
Yes, this eventually gets seen as a talent by those who haven’t seen the effort, but it should be respected for what it is – determination and many, many hours of hard work! And I don’t mean hard, physical labour, I mean the toils that you go through when you challenge yourself emotionally and mentally, honing a skill with joy and passion.
Natural talent can be seen as something unattainable, and that’s why I don’t believe it’s required to succeed as an interior designer. It’s also insulting to the many years of dedication designers have put into their profession, insinuating that it was “easy for them” because they have some magic power that others do not.
For the younger generations, it’s hard to imagine a world without the internet. But the internet and the expansion of interior design as a profession have almost grown simultaneously, which means that interiors as a profession have become more accessible, but it also means that the amount of confusing information online sends everyone around in circles.
For that same reason, us younger designers are shaping the future of this industry, and that means that it’s up to us to create the new future of interior design and to stop believing these myths of an outdated industry.
About the author
Jo Chrobak is the founder and CEO of The Interior Designer’s Business School. She has over 20 years of experience working in architecture and interior design, across the world on commercial and domestic projects from international hotels to developments and new builds. Her vast experience transcends industries to give her unique knowledge of processes and strategies which she passes on to her students to help them succeed as interior designers as quickly as possible.
Growing up in Sydney, Australia, Jo decided to travel the world in her twenties to gain experience and education from as many sources as possible. She graduated with first class Honours, top of her graduating class and a Bachelor of Architecture in 2007 and since then has worked on projects in Norway, Oman, The UAE, Egypt, Australia, Canada and across the UK and Europe.
She currently runs her architectural and interior design studio (www.jochrobak.com) and specialises in complex projects that require both architectural and interior design knowledge.
Jo is also trained as an Ashtanga yoga instructor, a life and business coach and is a passionate artist creating bespoke artwork for clients.
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