I recently had a student contact me with a list of questions for an assignment in school. I often get asked by various students during their career week various questions about my chosen profession. Many students are just looking to find someone... anyone... willing to help them check the assignment off their list so they can move on. Several of them have actually made an active decision to find out more about my profession as an Interior Designer and have decided to pursue the career for themselves. I hope I inspire you as you read this blog post to ask questions that will hopefully lead you to a career path you love as I do this one.
Cudos go out to Meghan
1. What is the average salary range for starting out?
a. Salaries for Interior Designers vary greatly, depending on experience, employer and area of specialty.
b. In 2008, the median salary for a National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certified Interior Designer was approximately $45,000 (www.bls.gov). The highest earners made more than $83,000 and Interior Designer working in architectural services earned the highest salaries. Of course location and years of experience play into these earning equations. An entry level designer can expect to start out around $30,000.
c. Interior Designers who are self-employed or work for small firms usually earn an hourly fee and a percentage of the total cost of furniture and accessories for the project. Commercial projects are sometimes charged by the square foot, while some Interior Designer charge flat rates. Self-employed Interior Designer must pay for their own insurance and other benefits.
2. What is the average work week?
a. A work week is a tailored as the work environment and the expected responsibilities where a designer is employed. Since I am a partner in a company as well as a director over other employees, I have the added task of managing the workloads of not only myself, the projects and our employees.
b. I usually work an average of 50 to 60 hours a week. Some weeks I travel quite extensively. Other weeks I am in the office more than I am out on project job sites. Many times I am pitching in to draft the projects in CAD, render a concept drawing, select materials and finishes, meet with clients and contractors or attend a social function to solidify relationships that will hopefully translate into a client or better yet… a lucritive project. In this business, it is all about relationships and connections so the social functions are equally as important as the business functions. You cannot ignore either one.
3. What is the average work load?
a. The average work load is much like the area of expertise, position within a company or years of experience.
i. The first thing an Interior Designer does when starting a new design job is meet with the client to determine style, budget and needs. The designers then plans the space, often using a CAD program, and determines color palette, furniture options and interior layout. Additional considerations include structural changes and building codes. Once the design is approved, the designers begins shopping for the furniture, window treatments and artwork. The designers supervises the installation of the design and ensures the satisfaction of their client.
ii. Interior Designers who work independently as small business owners or contractors may spend a significant amount of time fostering new clients and networking. Other duties of a self-employed Interior Designer include performing accounting duties, completing paperwork and hiring assistants.
iii. Working for a design firm allows Interior Designers to focus on working with clients and decorating, though entry-level designers may work as assistant designers. A decorating assistant performs tasks like reviewing decorating catalogs, ordering samples and carrying out the designer's vision. Interior Designers who work for furniture or gardening stores don't usually visit a client's home, and they typically work with only their employer's products.
4. Why you chose to do interior design?
a. Working in the interior design field has provided me with the opportunity to express myself creatively on a regular basis.
b. Each interior design project presents its own problems and challenges. I have always embraced the opportunity to be challenged as it gives me the chance to use all available resources to achieve client goals on time, under budget, and up to expectations.
c. It soon became clear this career path would be rewarding and satisfying on a multitude of levels. Whether helping a family to design their dream home or assisting a small business owner in renovating or remodeling, a designer can be involved in helping others make positive changes and ultimately improve the environments they encounter be it personal or public.
d. This line of work can allow you to spend time both inside and outside of the office and can include a pleasant mixture of client meetings, supplier visits, and more thus providing an active and often unpredictable day to day interaction. It is definitely not boring nor does it lead to a monotonous routine. It can be fast paced at time leaving me totally exhausting, but ultimately satisfied by the result and the happy client.
e. I knew that I would eventually want to be on my own, setting my own pace and creating my own freedoms. Initially it is beneficial to work several years under the mentorship of an experienced designer or architect. However, if you opt to go out on your own, working as an independent designer or contracting your services to a firm, then you could enjoy the freedom of being your own boss thus creating a potential for entrepreneurship or leadership in setting the standards or better yet raising the standards in your community.
5. Would you recommend this career for others?
a. First, before I can recommend this profession, clarification of a misguided notion of the terms DESIGNER VS DECORATOR.
i. People often use the titles “interior designer” and “interior decorator” interchangeably, without realizing the very important difference between the two. Should you be contemplating a career in either field, you will want to know that difference!
ii. Interior design is not about drawing pretty pictures and choosing attractive fabrics – it is about the ability to improve interior environments (commercially and residentially) not only by creating practical, personal and beautiful environments, but also by adhering to practices that protect the health, welfare and safety of their clients. When I began seeking a second career option, I was unaware of the differences between “designing” and “decorating”. Many men and women have preconceived notions it is nothing more than picking out pretty wallpaper, fabrics and paints… HGTV and the DYI networks have further cheapened this profession by giving “Joe and Jane Q Public” the impression that anyone can do this… no education necessary. If anyone had told me I would be forever defending and validating this career as a serious profession, the scope duties of what we actually perform, I probably would have chosen a different career path. Now that I am older and more experienced, of course, I also realize that the rewards of being an interior designer are equal to, or even greater than, the challenges and demands it brings. Instead of fighting against the ignorance of Joe and Jane, I am educating the public as to the importance of this profession and have joined the South Carolina Interior Design Coalition to help bring about the awareness of the Interior Design profession and to help it become recognized as a true professional career path much like a doctor, lawyer, teacher or a nurse is esteemed.
iii. Interior decorators are not required to have a college education, so their capabilities are more limited. And though many of those who hold this title are very good at what they do, others treat it more like a casual hobby, practicing out of their homes, getting random jobs by handing out business cards that they have downloaded for free off the Internet, working hours that suit their own needs and rather than the client’s needs, and charging low hourly fees that undermine the efforts of their more conscientious colleagues in the interior decorating field.
iv. Interior designers, on the other hand, are required to have a formal education from an accredited institution, to be licensed (in many states), to keep abreast of the latest developments in their field through continuing education, and to have the ability to work in a collaborative team with architects, engineers and contractors. They also have to be familiar with country, city, state and national building codes, to display superior availability, and to do anything it takes to get the job done correctly and on time. And if they meet all of these requirements, they are able to charge the same professional fees that are on the same level as those in the fields of medicine or law, because the work they do is equally important and valuable.
b. In short, yes I definitely would recommend this as a profession. That is why I am an active board member on the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) as the Emerging Professionals Director. The very survival and validation of this profession lies in the hands of the up and coming designers of our future emerging professionals. It is my desire to mentor others to succeed in this field.
Have computer and camera, will travel... is my motto. I have enjoyed traveling Europe to study the ancient architecture and look forward to taking that influence into my profession. I have a passion for the historic, but embrace the new and wonderful realm of the architectural and design influences of today. Kermit the Frog once said, "Being GREEN isn't easy", but is necessary in ensuring our future.