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A home decorator helps people use the space in their home or office more efficiently. They’ll recommend the colors, layouts, and furnishings that will best complement a room. Traditional interior designers will do the shopping or the preparing of the physical items that go in the space. Unlike interior designers, they’re not expected to use computer-aided design programs or architectural principles when on the job.
Who is this business right for?
This business is excellent for someone who appreciates how and why different pieces work in different rooms. Decorators need to be creative and flexible, shifting their perspective based on both the physical characteristics of the room and the wishes of their clients. They should enjoy working with people, as they’ll need to understand a client’s personality before suggesting patterns or arrangements for them.
What happens during a typical day at a home decorator business?
Decorators will spend the majority of their time going through different options for the many rooms they’ll plan. However, they’ll also need to make time for client consultations, marketing efforts, and invoicing matters.
What is the target market?
Upper and middle-class homeowners will likely be the primary target. Home decorators are highly coveted by many people, but high rates can sometimes make them an underutilized profession for those without substantial incomes.
How does a home decorator business make money?
Home decorators typically charge people for their professional advice and efforts either by the hour or by the room.
What is the growth potential for a home decorator business?
Growth potential can be staggering for the right home decorator. Even the most modest of homes can benefit from a decorator's critical and creative eye, and because trends change often enough, even home decorators entering a saturated market may find they can grow their business quickly with a little ingenuity.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful home decorator business?
Decorators need to be creative and thoroughly in-tune with the basic elements of design. It’s not necessary to have formal education, unlike in the case of an interior designer, but it may help to take a few classes to get a better handle on how function meets form.
What are the costs involved in opening a home decorator business?
Because a decorator relies primarily on selling their time, the costs can be minimal to get going. Owners should have a professional website showcasing their work — even if it’s just simulated images on a basic computer program. A good website can cost a few hundred dollars per year if the decorator designs the site themselves. They should have business cards and a physical portfolio to show their clients. Finally, decorators will need some type of commercial insurance to protect themselves in case they make a mistake in their client’s homes (e.g., moving a piece of furniture and accidentally breaking an expensive vase.) Decorators can work from their home to maximize initial profits.
What are the steps to start a home decorator business?
Once you're ready to start your home decorator business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your home decorator business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your home decorator business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
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What are some insider tips for jump starting a home decorator business?
Home decorators need to showcase their dedication and creativity to their clients at every opportunity. Ideally, decorators will be able to complete much of their vision without making a client buy a lot of extra furnishings or accessories. Owners may want to start their business part-time to see how well they can handle different styles and spaces.
One of the biggest hurdles to cross when running your business will be how you’ll get the necessary supplies for your clients. Making relationships with suppliers or home furnishers can help immensely when it comes to knowing what’s available, what’s a good deal, and what should be avoided. Decorators don’t have a lot of rules when it comes to how they help their clients, which can work to their advantage. Decorators can spend their day attending auctions and estate sales, refurbishing client’s old furniture back to its original glory, or negotiating with suppliers for a better rate.
Decorators need to find the best ways to attack different problems without stepping outside their client’s boundaries. They need to give their clients a reason to choose them rather than relying on the thousands of articles and books written about interior decorating. Owners should emphasize the value of their expertise and why customized advice is really the only way to get the best results.
As decorators start learning the ways to efficiently solve the puzzle, they’ll find their business begin to grow. Decorators can also consider offering their services online to get started. This is a growing form of decorating that can open up your target market considerably, even if the personal element will be somewhat lost. This can also help you cut down on your initial expenses, as you'll essentially just need to give advice and nothing else.
How to promote & market a home decorator business
Home decorators will likely find their business primarily through word-of-mouth, which is why it can be helpful to start by helping family or friends with their home decoration dilemmas. Decorators may also want to join community website groups on sites such as Facebook where people swap advice with one another. They can recommend professional advice for free in an effort to get their name out there and inspire real business.
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How to keep customers coming back
Clients want a beautiful home at an inexpensive price. They want one-of-a-kind pieces they can use as conversation starters when they have guests over. The more a decorator can provide this, the more likely it is they’ll be able to keep their clients while simultaneously growing their customer base.
How and when to build a team
You likely won’t need to hire a team unless your workload spins out of control. In that case, you may want to hire an accountant or secretary before hiring additional decorators. This can ensure your style isn’t corrupted by another decorator, so you don't risk your reputation.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a home decorator business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A home decorator business is generally run out of a home or small storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a home decorator business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your home decorator business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Home decorators charge based on their experience and reputation. To simply spruce up a room and give a few final touches, they may charge $100 for an hour or two worth of work. For a complete redesign, they may charge $500 for a full day. Established decorators may charge much more than this — especially if they specialize in finding inexpensive furniture or in restoring old pieces.
What are the ongoing expenses for a home decorator business?
Expenses for a decorator include insurance, website upkeep, employee salaries, and the rent or mortgage for their office space (if applicable).
How much profit can a home decorator business make?
Home decorators have high profit margins, so the pay can be quite substantial. If a decorator has 200 clients in a year at an average of $400 per client, they’ll make about $650,000 per year, assuming their business expenses run around $15,000 a year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Decorators can consider becoming interior designers if the demand is high enough in their area. This will mean more schooling and official certification, but the rates a designer can charge will be higher than that of a decorator. Or they can consider adding one-off services to clients, such as furniture restoration.