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Art and Design

US Interior Designers: From Freelance to Firm Employment

Last Updated on November 17, 2023


Interior design is a thriving industry in the United States, with many talented designers seeking opportunities to transition from freelance work to employment in firms.

This shift allows designers to expand their skills, collaborate with a team, and access a broader range of projects.

Transitioning from freelance work to employment in a design firm offers interior designers several benefits.

First and foremost, it provides a stable income and financial security, as designers no longer have to rely solely on project-based contracts.

Additionally, working in a firm allows designers to work on larger-scale projects, which may not be accessible to freelancers.

Collaboration is another key advantage of firm employment.

Designers can work alongside other talented professionals, sharing ideas and learning from each other.

This collaborative environment fosters creativity and innovation, as designers can draw inspiration and different perspectives from their colleagues.

Furthermore, firms often have established networks and client bases, increasing designers’ exposure and opening doors to new opportunities.

Joining a design firm also offers designers a chance to expand their skillsets.

Firms provide access to resources, such as industry-leading technology and software, that may be too expensive for freelancers.

Designers can learn new techniques, stay updated on industry trends, and gain experience in managing larger design projects.

In short, transitioning from freelance work to employment in a design firm can be a rewarding career move for US interior designers.

The stability, collaboration, and skill-building opportunities offered by firms provide designers with a platform to grow and excel in their profession.

Background of US interior designers

  1. The interior design industry in the US has experienced significant growth and importance over the years.

  2. With the rise in appreciation for aesthetics and functional spaces, the demand for talented interior designers has rapidly increased.

  3. There are several career paths available for interior designers, offering diverse opportunities to showcase their creativity and design skills.

In this blog section, we will delve into the growth and significance of the interior design industry in the US, the increasing demand for talented interior designers, and the various career paths available for them.

Growth and Significance of the Interior Design Industry in the US

The interior design industry in the US has witnessed exponential growth in recent years.

People have become more conscious about the design and aesthetics of their living and working spaces.

Consequently, interior designers have gained prominence as they possess the expertise to create visually appealing and functional spaces.

This industry plays a crucial role in transforming dull spaces into vibrant environments that cater to the needs and preferences of individuals.

Interior designers utilize their knowledge of color schemes, furniture placement, lighting, and materials to create harmonious and comfortable spaces.

Furthermore, the interior design industry contributes significantly to the economy.

The demand for design services and products boosts revenue in related sectors such as construction, furniture manufacturing, and art.

As a result, more opportunities are created for individuals pursuing a career in interior design.

Increasing Demand for Talented Interior Designers

The demand for talented interior designers is rapidly increasing in the US.

People are recognizing the value of well-designed spaces and are seeking professionals who can bring their vision to life.

With the advent of social media platforms like Pinterest and Houzz, awareness and appreciation for interior design have reached new heights.

Additionally, businesses have also realized the impact of a well-designed workspace on employee productivity and customer satisfaction.

Hence, companies are actively seeking interior designers to enhance their office environments.

Not only residential and commercial sectors, but the hospitality industry also heavily relies on interior designers to create captivating and unique experiences for their guests.

Hotels, restaurants, and resorts employ interior design professionals to ensure their spaces reflect their brand and offer a memorable stay to patrons.

Career Paths Available for Interior Designers

Interior designers have a variety of career paths to choose from, depending on their interests and skill sets:

  1. Residential Design: Many interior designers focus on residential projects, working with homeowners to create personalized and comfortable living spaces.

  2. Commercial Design: This path involves designing spaces for businesses such as offices, retail stores, restaurants, and hotels.

  3. Hospitality Design: Interior designers specializing in hospitality design work on projects within the hotel, restaurant, and resort industry.

  4. Healthcare Design: These designers focus on creating functional and soothing spaces in healthcare facilities, considering aspects like patient comfort and accessibility.

  5. Set Design: Some interior designers find their niche in set design, working on television, film, and theater productions to create captivating and realistic environments.

  6. Event Design: Event designers collaborate with clients to transform spaces for special occasions such as weddings, conferences, and parties.

In fact, the interior design industry in the US has witnessed significant growth and importance.

The demand for talented interior designers continues to rise, offering various career paths within residential, commercial, hospitality, healthcare, set, and event design.

Exciting opportunities await those with a passion for transforming spaces and creating visually pleasing environments.

Read: Sustainability in Design: A Growing Trend in the US

Freelance interior design

Freelance interior design is a career path chosen by many creative individuals who have a passion for transforming spaces into beautiful and functional environments.

In this section, we will explore what freelance interior design entails, discuss the pros and cons of being a freelance interior designer, and provide examples of successful freelance designers.

What is freelance interior design?

Freelance interior design refers to designers who work independently, without being tied to any specific firm or company.

They have the freedom to choose their projects, clients, and work schedules.

Freelancers often work from home or their own studio and have the opportunity to showcase their unique style and creativity.

Pros of being a freelance interior designer

  1. Flexibility: Freelancers have the ability to set their own work hours and choose projects that align with their interests and skills.

    This flexibility allows for a better work-life balance and the opportunity to pursue other passions.

  2. Creative freedom: Working independently gives freelance designers the freedom to express their unique style and creativity without the constraints of a company’s brand or guidelines.

    They have the autonomy to make decisions and take risks in their design approach.

  3. Variety of projects: Freelance designers often have the advantage of working on a wide range of projects, from residential to commercial spaces.

    This variety keeps the work exciting and allows designers to gain experience in different areas of interior design.

  4. Direct client interaction: As a freelance designer, you have the opportunity to directly interact with clients and build meaningful relationships.

    This direct communication allows for better understanding of client needs and enables designers to provide personalized solutions.

  5. Higher income potential: Freelance designers have the ability to set their own rates and negotiate their compensation.

    With careful management of projects and clients, they can potentially earn a higher income compared to working for a firm.

Cons of being a freelance interior designer

  1. Inconsistent workflow: Freelancers often face fluctuations in their workflow, with periods of high demand followed by slower times.

    This inconsistency can make it challenging to maintain a steady income and financial stability.

  2. Administrative tasks: As a freelance designer, you are responsible for handling administrative tasks such as billing, marketing, and project management.

    This additional work can be time-consuming and takes away from the design process.

  3. Limited resources: Freelance designers may have limited access to resources and industry connections that larger firms have.

    This can sometimes hinder their ability to acquire new clients or access the latest design technologies and materials.

  4. Lack of structure and support: Working independently means you are solely responsible for all aspects of the design process.

    There is no team or support system to rely on, which can sometimes be overwhelming and isolating.

Successful freelance interior designers

  1. Kelly Wearstler: Known for her bold and eclectic designs, Wearstler has built a successful career as a freelance interior designer with high-profile clients.

  2. Nate Berkus: Berkus started his career as a freelance designer and went on to become a renowned TV personality and author.

  3. Emily Henderson: With a popular blog and successful design projects, Henderson has established herself as a sought-after freelance interior designer.

In review, freelance interior design offers flexibility, creative freedom, and direct client interaction.

However, it also comes with challenges such as an inconsistent workflow and administrative responsibilities.

Successful freelance designers like Kelly Wearstler, Nate Berkus, and Emily Henderson have proven that freelancing can lead to a fulfilling and prosperous career in interior design.

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US Interior Designers: From Freelance to Firm Employment

Transition to firm employment

Freelance interior designers may choose to transition to working in design firms for several reasons:

  1. Stability: Working in a design firm offers a more stable income compared to freelancing.

  2. Networking Opportunities: Design firms provide better networking opportunities and connections within the industry.

  3. Collaboration: Working in a team environment allows for collaboration with other designers and professionals.

  4. Access to Resources: Design firms have access to advanced tools, software, and resources that freelancers may not.

  5. Professional Development: Being part of a design firm allows interior designers to continuously learn and grow professionally.

Benefits of working in a design firm

  1. Regular Income: Design firms offer a stable and predictable income, ensuring financial security.

  2. Built-in Clientele: Design firms already have an established client base, providing a steady stream of projects.

  3. Professional Support: Design firms offer mentorship and support from experienced designers.

  4. Expanded Skill Set: Working in a design firm exposes interior designers to different design styles and techniques.

  5. Collaboration Opportunities: Design firms encourage collaboration, allowing designers to learn from each other.

Challenges that may arise during the transition

  1. Adapting to Hierarchical Structures: Design firms have hierarchical structures different from freelancing.

  2. Loss of Autonomy: Transitioning to a design firm means designers may have to adhere to company policies and guidelines.

  3. Office Politics: Working in a design firm involves navigating office politics and establishing professional relationships.

  4. Client Transition: Transitioning from freelancing to a design firm may require transferring existing clients to the new workplace.

  5. Adjusting to Team Dynamics: Adapting to working in a team environment can present challenges for some freelancers.

Transitioning from freelance to firm employment can be a significant career move for interior designers.

While freelancing offers flexibility and autonomy, working in a design firm provides stability, networking opportunities, and access to resources.

It is important for designers to weigh the benefits and challenges of this transition to make an informed decision about their career path.

Read: The Role of Agents & Managers in a US Artist’s Career

How to make the transition

Are you an interior designer who is considering moving from freelance work to employment at a design firm?

This transition can be both exciting and challenging.

To help you navigate this change successfully, here are some practical tips and advice:

1. Network and Build Connections

Networking is crucial when it comes to landing a job at a design firm.

Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with fellow designers.

Building a strong network can lead to valuable opportunities and referrals.

Engaging in online platforms, such as LinkedIn and design-specific forums, can help you connect with potential employers and colleagues.

Utilize these platforms to showcase your work and interact with industry professionals.

2. Strengthen Your Portfolio and Resume

A powerful portfolio and resume are essential when applying for design firm positions.

Your portfolio should highlight your best work and demonstrate your skills and range.

Include both client projects and personal projects to showcase your creativity and versatility.

Consider creating an online portfolio that is easily accessible to potential employers.

Ensure that your portfolio is well-organized, visually appealing, and includes a variety of project types and styles.

When crafting your resume, tailor it to the specific design firms you’re interested in.

Highlight your relevant skills, experiences, and accomplishments.

Be concise and clear, emphasizing the impact you made in previous roles.

3. Research and Target Design Firms

Before applying to design firms, take the time to research and identify those that align with your design aesthetic and values.

Look for firms that specialize in areas you are passionate about or have expertise in.

Visit their websites, review their portfolios, and read about their company culture and values.

Tailor your application to each firm, showcasing your understanding of their work and explaining how you can contribute to their team.

4. Seek Mentorship and Internship Opportunities

Consider seeking mentorship from experienced designers or applying for internships at design firms.

These opportunities can provide valuable guidance, knowledge, and experience.

Mentorship allows you to learn from seasoned professionals who can provide insights and advice as you navigate the transition.

Internships provide hands-on experience and help you build connections within the industry.

Both can bolster your resume and increase your chances of securing a full-time position.

5. Prepare for Interviews and Presentations

When you secure an interview with a design firm, it’s crucial to prepare thoroughly.

Research the firm and its key projects, so you can ask informed questions and demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm.

Be prepared to showcase your work through presentations or case studies.

Practice presenting your projects and be ready to explain your design process, challenges faced, and solutions implemented.

During interviews, emphasize your ability to collaborate, communicate effectively, and adapt to different design styles and project requirements.

Highlight your problem-solving skills and showcase how you can add value to the firm.

Making the transition from freelancing to working for a design firm requires careful planning and preparation.

By networking, strengthening your portfolio, researching design firms, seeking mentorship or internships, and preparing for interviews, you can position yourself for success in the competitive design industry.

Embrace this new chapter in your career and enjoy the opportunities it brings!

Read: Selling Art in America: Online Platforms vs. Traditional Galleries

Success stories

1. Jessica Anderson

Jessica Anderson started her career as a freelance interior designer but soon realized the benefits of working for a design firm.

She faced the challenge of building a strong portfolio to attract employers.

However, Jessica overcame this hurdle by taking on small projects and offering her services to friends and family.

This not only improved her skills but also allowed her to showcase her work to potential employers.

Eventually, Jessica’s talent and determination paid off, and she landed a job at a prestigious design firm.

She now works on large-scale projects and has gained valuable experience from collaborating with other professionals in the industry.

2. Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens had a flourishing freelance career but felt the need for a more structured work environment.

However, he found it challenging to transition to a design firm due to the uncertainty of a stable income.

To overcome this challenge, Michael started networking with professionals in the industry and attending industry events.

Through his networking efforts, he connected with a renowned design firm that offered him a full-time position.

Today, Michael is grateful for making the transition as it has not only provided him with financial stability but also exposed him to diverse projects and talented colleagues, enhancing his skills and creativity.

3. Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson is an interior designer who successfully transitioned from freelance work to becoming a member of a design firm.

One of her biggest challenges was adapting to working within a team and handling different clients’ demands.

To overcome this, Sarah actively engaged in team-building exercises and workshops to improve her communication and collaboration skills.

She also sought mentorship from experienced designers within the firm.

With time, Sarah became an integral part of the design firm, earning the trust of her team members and clients through her dedication and willingness to learn.

Today, she leads projects and enjoys the creative synergy that comes from working in a supportive environment.

4. David Hernandez

David Hernandez initially enjoyed the flexibility of freelance work but soon realized the advantages of joining a design firm.

However, he faced the challenge of impressing potential employers with his freelance experience.

To overcome this, David showcased his independent projects and highlighted the entrepreneurial skills he developed as a freelancer.

He also emphasized his ability to manage time effectively and work under pressure.

These strengths caught the attention of a prominent design firm, which offered David a position.

Now, he is grateful for the stability and opportunities that come with working for a recognized firm, allowing him to focus on creativity and professional growth.

Transitioning from freelance work to working for a design firm can be a rewarding experience for interior designers.

These success stories demonstrate that dedication, networking, and continuous learning are key to overcoming the challenges and achieving professional growth in the industry.


This blog post explored the journey of US interior designers from freelance to firm employment.

We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of both options and highlighted the importance of considering both paths.

Whether you choose to work as a freelance designer or join a design firm, it is crucial to weigh your options carefully.

Freelancing offers flexibility and autonomy, allowing you to pursue your own projects and have control over your schedule.

On the other hand, working for a design firm offers stability, the opportunity to collaborate with a team, and access to a wider range of projects.

Ultimately, the decision between freelance and firm employment should be based on your career goals and aspirations.

Consider the level of risk you are willing to take, the type of work you enjoy, and the kind of environment you thrive in.

This decision can significantly impact your professional growth and the satisfaction you derive from your work.

We encourage readers to do their research, network with industry professionals, and seek advice from experienced designers.

By making informed decisions, you can align your career path with your goals and set yourself up for success in the world of interior design.

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