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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, no college degree is required for entry into the interior design profession. But joining the ranks of the country’s 40,120 interior designers may give new meaning to a crowded house. Not having a college degree won’t hold you back in this line of work, but you’ll need to get as creative as the materials and furniture you work with to make your business a success.
Join an organization such as the American Society of Interior Designers or the Interior Design Society, which boosts 3,000 members as of September 2011. You do not need a college degree to become a member, and many organizations like these have state- and city-level chapters where you’ll find local seminars, courses and ways to network with other interior designers in your area. You can also list yourself on some of these organizations websites, which potential clients can search by zip code.
Teach yourself some of what you would have learned through a college degree program by studying on your own. The American Society of Interior Designers offers a searchable book database on its site – which doesn’t require you to buy anything; you can just mine the titles and check them out of your local library or used book store.
Join a referral ring. Partner up with local design-related businesses that may be able to refer you to their clients. Options include real estate agents, carpet installers, home inspectors and painters. With a small circle of one of each of these kinds of industries, you can begin generating interest outside your own current client base.
Make your own look book. Even without much experience or portfolio examples, you can design a look book that represents your goals and professionalism. Use a computer graphics program along with scanned images to create interior design work samples. Use designs that best represent your preferred type of work, from exterior patios and gardens to green living and building. As you accrue more interior design experience – and portfolio pictures – you can replace your fabricated examples.
Work from the local ground up. Take notice of any community events happening, such as small business festivals, home and garden shows, arts and music celebrations and citywide extravaganzas and set up shop. You don’t have to invest in anything too elaborate; a table with some fliers, pictures of sample work, a couple of decorations and lots of business cards are all you need to start getting the word out.