Read as Jennifer Hicks talks about her career as an Interior Designer. Find her at www.decorateokc.net and on her Twitter Feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
Certified Interior Decorator
How would you describe what you do?
I create unique home and office interiors that meet the styles, needs and budgets of each client.
What does your work entail?
Color Consulting, home staging, redesign (using a client’s existing furnishings to create a new look), new construction design, small remodels and decorating existing spaces for both residential and commercial.
What’s a typical work week like?
On a slow week I may meet with one to two clients and spend 5-10 hours shopping for a project or communicating with sub-contractors regarding specs or bids. On a busy week, you can add to that two to three additional client meetings, pit stops at a showroom or two to place orders, and working on my social media or networking events.
How did you get started?
When I was in high school I realized how much my own mother wanted a comfortable home that reflected her style but couldn’t seem to get what she wanted on the meek budget she had. Seeing the markup injustice in the decorating industry I decided to change the way design in my city was approached by vowing to offer affordable, unique rooms for everything from 800 sf offices to 6000 sf homes. I started working as assistants for a well-known designer in the city and eventually moved into retail and finally opened my pride and joy, Designing Diva Interiors LLC.
What do you like about what you do?
Seeing the look on a client’s face when I present them with a finished room is all the reward I need!
What do you dislike?
The “back office” work! No one tells the aspiring designer that they will also be the bookkeeper, the PR person, etc. I HATE keeping up with the invoices, the receipts, the bills, and I cherish the day when I got a bookkeeper to take up those duties so I could get back to what I loved- face time with my clients and their rooms!
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
In addition to an hourly fee, there may be a 10-15% mark up on items purchased for the clients when a trade discount is available.
How much money do Interior Decorators make?
The average Certified Interior Decorator in my region makes between $75-$115 per hour, depending upon their range of services and advanced education.
How much money did/do you make starting out as an Interior Decorator?
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
Certification in interior decorating is now the minimum education required since state laws were adjusted last year. ASID designers make more, starting at $150 per hour but that degree program is much more lengthy, comparative to an architecture degree.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Taking the client’s vision and putting it to paper then creating an actual room is by far the most challenging aspect of this job. As designer, I’m often playing the role of mediator between spouses, and three people can describe the same vision for one room but be thinking of three completely different end results. Clear communication is key!
What is most rewarding?
Knowing that I have helped a client achieve a look that welcomes them home after a hard day or offers up the perfect play space for their children. Seeing the look of joy when someone falls in love with their home again is hugely rewarding!
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Start small- take on small jobs for people you know, build your reputation and word of mouth will spread. Don’t be afraid to talk money with your clients and contractors and if ever you walk onto a job site and you’re not sure what you’re doing- fake it! Be confident, if you don’t know the answer, ask someone who does, but never let your clients see that you feel overwhelmed.
How much time off do you get/take?
I used to work 7 days a week just to keep up until I realized that I was setting myself up for burnout before age 30. So now I never work weekends, and during slow months, I meet with clients only on Monday through Thursday to allow time for personal appointments like Dr visits or trips out of town.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Some people tend to think I’m little more than a personal shopper, someone who spends other peoples’ money on useless vases or throw pillows.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Within the next few years I hope to make a name for myself in this region as someone who is an advocate for homeowners, someone who presents attainable ideas within a reasonable budget.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
This is a very fun profession with great reward and plenty of room for growth, however, it is not without its risks and challenges. New designers should protect themselves- legally with proper contracts and physically by not going to questionable meeting places alone. As a single female designer I will occasionally take my intern on new client consultations when I am commissioned by a male client. I have never had an inappropriate situation arise but it’s always best to air on the side of caution!