When you walk into a house, do you notice the paint color and fabric choices first? Do you run through room layouts and arrangements in your head? You’d probably love being an interior designer. A full-time decorator, of course, has a college degree and his or her own office, but there’s plenty of room for a freelancer to tackle this job or help a busy designer.

You can assist in everything related to home design including: picking out furniture and laying it out in the room, designing and purchasing décor to outfit a mantel, faux finishing walls with a paint treatment, or even helping people find the perfect pillow to match the sofa. For from-scratch designs, your customers will expect you to provide them with complete details, swatches, clippings, drawings, cost estimates, and timelines for the work schedule.

Salary of Interior Designer or Interior Designer Rates:

Potential hourly price range: You can expect to charge approximately $10 per hour as a designer’s assistant and up to $25 per hour for original design work.

Equipment or supplies needed for Interior Designer:

Costs: Minimal for basic designs, high if you’re doing the actual work such as painting

Logistical considerations: You’ll need basic measuring tools such as a tape measure, ladder, tool kit, and a level. More advanced decorating will require tools such as painting gear, power tools, or moving gear. You’ll need transportation to your client’s home and to the stores for supplies. An Internet connection, computer, and phone are essential for tracking down price estimates, putting designs together, and arranging deliveries. Have a digital camera for taking before and after pictures

Permits/licenses needed for the interior Designer: None

Skills/education needed for interior Designer: Formal education is not necessary, but know the basic principles of design. Check your local library for books on basic interior design. You’ll need to stay current with design trends by reading magazines, searching online, or through watching home decorating shows. You’ll need drawing or drafting skills to show your plan on paper. You’ll also have to know — or have access to — cost estimates for the materials you use.

Fits with these interests and attributes: Creative thinking and problem-solving skills, good attention to detail, ability to communicate and define problems through customer discussions, people-handling skills for dealing with movers and painters — or a tough customer — independent work-style, ability to meet deadlines and budgets

Customer’s profile of Interior Designer:

Personal: Your primary customers will be homeowners looking for small decorating assistance. For instance, a new parent decorating a nursery or someone trying to spruce up the family room doesn’t want to pay expensive rates to a professional designer. He or she will appreciate your assistance if he or she has confidence in your abilities.

Businesses: Few businesses care about interior designing their spaces, and those that do rely on big firms. Realtors and home stagers, though, could use an assistant during the busy spring open-house season. You probably won’t get a lot of original design work, but it’s a great way to show off your skills, which could lead to more advanced work.

References needed: Minimal, your portfolio and design sketches will speak for themselves

Seasonality: Year-round, but might peak a few months before big holidays such as Christmas or spring events such as graduation or open houses

Safety issues for Interior Designer: Personal safety when working alone, with strangers, handling power tools, lifting heavy furniture, or climbing up and down ladders; potential to damage client’s property or possessions during the work stage

Marketing ideas and how to reach your potential customer as Interior Designer:

Spread the word to the adults you know, especially those involved with real estate or new home construction. Post before and after pictures to social networking sites showing off the designs you have done — even if it’s your own room. Ask your parents to let you decorate a part of your home and take pictures to put in a portfolio. Put up a flyer advertising your help during the busy season. Enter your decorations (with your parents’ permission) into “Parade of Homes” type events in your area. Be sure to display your name and hand out business cards, so people know you did the design.

Build in special offers and package deals or create group sessions: Offer an added bonus to people who hire you, such as a piece of your original artwork or a photo album documenting the redesign. Be creative and find cool pieces or wall treatments only you can provide. Offer a satisfaction guarantee for all your work, and don’t expect payment until the work is done.

Sectors to work as Interior Designer:

Think of all the small areas in a home that need to be decorated or changed with the holidays or special occasions. Every one of these spaces or holiday updates makes the perfect job, will fill your portfolio with great photos, and can open the door to larger projects. Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking

  • Baby’s room or children’s playroom decor
  • Game room, family room, or home-entertainment spaces design
  • Hand-painted wall designs or stenciled quotes
  • Photo or art search for the client — based on subject matter or color
  • Create a photo wall of framed family photos
  • Personal décor shopper — can be as specific as looking for an antique buffet
  • Holiday mantel design or tablescapes for dinner parties
  • Feng shui consultant
  • Outdoor space design such as decks or patios