How to Get an Interior Design Portfolio When You’re Just Starting Out

Back in the olden days, when you wanted to find a local tradesperson or professional you would grab your copy of the Yellow Pages. 

Remember that?

A giant yellow directory, filled with telephone numbers of all of the businesses in your local area. 

Or instead, you might speak to a friend and ask for a recommendation. Or you might look for a card in the window of your local post office.

(Yes, young 'uns, that's how we used to roll!)

Today of course, things are radically different. Thank goodness.

If you want to find something, what do you do?

You google it.

And you click on the first few links that come up on page one right?

If someone is looking for some help with interior design, this is exactly what they do. They open google and they type something along the lines of:

interior designer <INSERT NAME OF TOWN THEY LIVE IN>

This means three important things for your interior design business:

  1. You need to have a website
  2. You need to get it onto page one of google
  3. Your website needs to be enticing enough for people to contact you.

Setting up a website and ranking on google (getting to the top of their search results) are huge topics, which we're not diving into today.  I recommend all of my community to start out with a simple website built in Squarespace.  It is by far the best option out there in terms of price and simplicity and you can achieve some amazing results very quickly.  Follow this link to access a 100% free trial so you can begin to kick the tyres and see for yourself. Quick warning however... this can become very addictive!

Here in this blog we are going to look at how to make your website enticing enough to make people want to call you.

So how do you do this?

By having a portfolio of course!

Actually, your whole website is essentially a portfolio. Your potential customers will be judging you on the look and feel of your site, the words you use, and (most importantly) the imagery and photography you use.

Photography- examples of your work- are top of the list when it comes to someone deciding whether to make contact with you or not. The client wants to see what you can produce, and what you will create for them. They want to know you are a good fit.

Now, that's all very well for those designers who have worked on lots of projects, and have wonderful photos to show. But what do you do if you are a newbie?

What if you've never had an actual, real, paying client before?

What if you don't have those wonderful after shots?

This is a question which comes up a lot from our students who are studying for the Level 3 Diploma in Professional Interior Design  with us.  Students have a great advantage in that they can gain some exposure whilst studying.  We encourage this exact process during our Diploma to build both confidence and also the beginnings of a portfolio.

But what if you have already studied and are just starting out? Here's what you can do to bring a portfolio together:

1. Be clear in your branding

Your website is a showcase of what style of interior design you offer, and what sorts of services you offer. It can be really tempting when you are starting out to think that that you will serve anyone and everyone, but that's a seriously bad idea.

Let's say you want to design modern country interiors. Your branding needs to show this: from the fonts you use to the colour schemes you choose, to the images that you present.  We have a whole section dedicated just to branding in our Hub Insiders membership site (we take it that seriously) but for now there are a couple of online tools which will get you started to create a cohesive brand image;

Firstly you need a logo which encapsulates your brand and communicates your message.  You can access completely free tools such as Canva (which we use to create all our graphics at the Interior Designers Hub) or you can pay someone to be creative on your behalf at a site such as Fiverr

If you want to design modern country interiors then make sure that every image you have on your site fits in with that style. If you designed an art deco room for your friend as a favour, don't put those images on your website, no matter how impressive they are, as they send out a confusing message. 

Your website visitor will click away within seconds if they don't think that the look and feel of your website suits them.

2. Use your own home

If you've never had a client before and you don't have any photographs of projects you've worked on, using images from your own home can work well. Most people who go into interior design are passionate about what they do, and they will have 'cut their teeth' on decorating their own home. You may also have been asked by friends and family to help them with a decorating project, so use this work to showcase your designs.

Just because it wasn't paid, doesn't mean it isn't valid!

Remember, you don't have to take photographs of a whole room. You can create small vignettes or style a small corner of a room to give a taste of your style.

3. Hire an Interiors Photographer

The thought of hiring a photographer may seem a bit scary at first, or like an unnecessary expense. However, a good interiors photographer is worth their weight in gold. The angles that they see, the way they use light, the quality of the equipment (and hence the results they get) are not easy to replicate by yourself. If you can stretch your budget to hiring a photographer, it is highly recommended, but make sure that you do your research first. Just because someone calls themselves a photographer, doesn't mean they're good. And how do you know if they are good? By looking at their portfolio of course!

4. Create Design Boards & Sketches

Even if you have never worked with a real live client before, you can still show off your design skills, on designs you have created. Professional looking design boards, floor plans and elevations showcase your work, and they are easy to create from the comfort of your own home.

Over in our free Facebook group we periodically run 5 day challenges as in introduction to the process of Interior Design.  This challenge begins with a client brief and walks you through the process step by step until you have a Professional looking design board, floor plan and elevation to present.  These would be great to include on your website and bring your brand to life for the client.

5. Testimonials

Testimonials are a little trickier to get, but not impossible! Think about who you could ask for a testimonial. Perhaps you have given a friend some interior design advice that was helpful, or maybe you went shopping with a relative to help them pick out fabrics. Perhaps you used to work with someone and they can write about how reliable you are, or your excellent customer care skills. 

Until next time x

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