A couple of years ago I was invited to a local school to talk to students about their careers. I was astounded at the reasons why people wanted to go into a certain career and I couldn’t believe the misconceptions and preconceptions some had about what skills were required and the ways to qualification for interior designers, building technicians and architecture students.
For clarity, here in the UK you do not need a formal education in interior design to become an interior designer. There are many skills that are required and lots of experience, but these are not things that should hold you back from pursuing a career if it is something that you want to do. My advice is to find the right teacher and start getting as much experience as possible.
Across my career, I have mentored and taught interior design, architecture and construction detailing to colleagues, workmates, students and assistants. In my opinion, the only other important thing required other than a great teacher and experience are the following personality traits:
Problem Solving Skills & Creativity
These are probably the most important skills because they not only relate to every project (there is always a point on a project where you need to be creative and sort out a way to provide a solution to a problem), but creative expression has to be a passion for you, or else it will exhaust you.
Good Design Knowledge & Intelligent Flexibility
Knowing when to give up on an idea but still being able to make something intrinsic to a design work, is a key skill to anyone in a creative field.
Your initial ideas need to withstand physical alterations or value engineering by a builder or client. This is where I see many a designer turn to blaming others for the failure of a “great idea”.
You need to be able to see the opportunity to better your design when something gets in the way, not just give up and blame someone because they inhibited your project from succeeding. Being flexible but also having the skill base to support your decision is really important to success as a freelance interior designer.
Excellent Communicator & A People Person
This relates to anyone running a business but is even more important in a service based industry where you are translating peoples desires into reality. Your clients will be revealing many of their lifestyle choices to you and you need to be mature and intelligent enough to deal with all situations that arise either with your clients, suppliers and other consultants including builders.
Communicating ideas and speaking clearly about your project are absolutely critical to your success as a freelance interior designer.
Organization and Management Skills
You are your own boss, so it makes sense that you need to run your own business. You will need to organize your invoices, client communication, taxes, furniture and fitting suppliers, builders etc. You will be in contact with lots of people on a daily basis on any one project, so it will be important that your digital and hard filing are completely in order.
Losing information or misplacing things is simply not an option.
Tenacity and Motivation
There is a reason why some interior designers become successful and others don’t and I do believe it has more to do with tenacity and motivation than any other skill. You don’t have to be the best to be the best. You just have to put your hand up and be ready to take an opportunity when it is presented to you and don’t give up when things get hard and don’t be afraid to take on a project that seems a bit of a push. Get help if you need it, don’t give up.