Start a virtual interior designer business by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your virtual interior designer business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a virtual interior designer business?
The costs of starting your virtual interior design business are going to vary depending on what you already have. If you have been doing interior design professionally for a while, you probably already have all your software and equipment. In this case, your startup costs will be minimal. You may need to pay for professional-level services such as Zoom and your preferred cloud storage, which can cost a few hundred dollars a year. But otherwise, the biggest cost will be time – time learning how to offer your services online.
However, if you are new to interior design, your costs will be quite a bit higher. Your various software needs (you will need multiple programs because no software does it all) can cost $500 to $2,000 or more. You may need to upgrade your computer to handle these programs, which can cost several thousand dollars more. And then you will need to pay for professional-level services on top of these costs.
What are the ongoing expenses for a virtual interior designer business?
The ongoing expenses for a virtual interior design business will include services like internet, phone, communications platforms (such as Zoom), and software subscriptions. These could add up to several thousand dollars a year. You will also need to update your equipment software regularly.
Who is the target market?
Different virtual interior design businesses have different target markets. The most common target market is residential homeowners. However, it’s also possible to target businesses with interior design services. It all depends on where your interests lie and what your business goals are. Renters are also a potential target market, but they tend to have less disposable income to purchase full interior design packages – and fewer design opportunities, like applying new paint and other semi-permanent steps.
How does a virtual interior designer business make money?
A virtual interior design business makes money by charging clients for interior design services. The most common billing method is the flat fee. In the initial interview stage with a potential client, you agree to offer certain services in exchange for a flat fee. You can also consider other options, like charging hourly, depending on the type of work you are doing and what makes the most sense for you and your clients.
How much can you charge customers?
How much you charge your clients will vary based on many factors, such as the market you are serving – residential or commercial – and the types of services you are offering. However, you can look at what some of the more popular virtual interior design businesses are charging to get an idea of possible rates. For example, right now Havenly is charging $79 for a basic analysis of a room and design suggestions. For a collaborative session with a designer, the company charges $129 for a room.
How much profit can a virtual interior designer business make?
The profit a virtual interior design company can earn varies widely depending on the size of the company, the services offered, and the target market. During your first year, you may only make $25,000. After several years of building a solid client base, you could increase your profits to anywhere between $50,000 - $100,000. Of course, the more high paying clients you get and/or the bigger your client base, the more money you will make.
One nice thing about a virtual interior design business is that your overhead should be quite low because you can run the business out of your home office all by yourself.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are multiple ways to increase the profits of a virtual interior design business. If you become well-known and respected, you can increase the number of clients coming to you for services. You could also find higher-paying markets for your services – such as corporate clients or wealthier clients. Another option is to find the niche or niches that reap the most profits and invest your energies here.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your virtual interior designer business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: 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.
STEP 6: 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.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: 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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
How to promote & market a virtual interior designer business
One of the most effective ways to promote your interior design services is to pick a specific niche and focus on it. This is advice that goes contrary to popular assumptions. If you offer a wider range of services, you will get a wider range of clients – right? Well, maybe. If you offer a wide range of services, you are equally as likely to be overwhelmed with too many requests for too many different services. You are also less likely to attract higher-paying clients because you are viewed as a generalist instead of an expert.
How to keep customers coming back
There are a few things you can do that will make it more likely to get repeat customers. The first is to keep your commitments. If you agree to provide certain services to a client, do your best to follow through. If clients can depend on you, they are more likely to be happy with the transaction.
The second thing you can do is listen to what your clients want, and be kind in your delivery. Some interior designers make the mistake of assuming they know what a client should want and fail to listen to the client’s needs. Others make the mistake of being dismissive or appearing snobby to clients. You want word-of-mouth advertising, so be good to the people who will provide it.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Virtual Interior Designer Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
A virtual interior design business is right for entrepreneurs with an artistic eye and a passion for perfecting interior spaces. If you are already an interior designer, starting a virtual interior design business is an obvious choice. But even if you are just an aspiring designer, there’s no reason you can’t learn your trade and offer design services online.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a virtual interior designer business?
A typical day at a virtual interior design business starts with a review of client needs and to-dos. Running an interior design business typically means working for multiple clients at once. That means you may focus on a single client’s tasks some days, or you might work on tasks for multiple clients in a day.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful virtual interior designer business?
The most obvious skills and experience that will benefit your business are interior design related. The more comfortable you are with interior design, the better your services will be. However, it’s also important to understand how to streamline your virtual services by using the right technology. Video chat and photo sharing are all technologies you need to be familiar with if you want to appear professional. While some of your clients may be tech-savvy, some won’t be. Gain proficiency with all of your tools – both design tools and communications tools – before offering services to clients.
What is the growth potential for a virtual interior designer business?
There is a lot of growth potential for a virtual interior design business. SInce your business operates primarily online, you are not limited to your local market. You could design interiors for clients globally, or at least across the country. Virtual interior design services are a fairly new thing, so this is just the beginning for the industry.
TRUiC's YouTube Channel
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Take the Next Step
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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a virtual interior designer business?
One useful tip for starting an interior design business, virtual or otherwise, is to create mock clients and design for them. You can go through the whole design process for one or more mock clients to learn your workflow and how to optimize your efforts. Even if you have plenty of design experience, this process can still be useful because you have to develop a virtual interior design workflow as well. Ironing out the kinks of your process with mock clients will make it much easier to get your business off the ground when you get real clients.
How and when to build a team
When you are first getting your business going, you will need to keep costs down and therefore will probably want to do it all yourself. But if business is good, you will eventually not have enough time in the day to meet your clients’ needs. And, you are likely to start falling behind on other business-related tasks as your client base grows. Once you reach a point where you have to sacrifice the quality of your work to meet client demands, it’s time to hire someone to help.