If building an interior design portfolio with no prior experience was an easy feat, you probably wouldn't be here reading this article right now. Luckily we're here to tell you that building a portfolio sans clients is possible, and we're proud of you for making the moves to make that happen!
Top things to know about building an interior design portfolio:
We talked to interior designer and Spoak mentor Lisa Galano about her best practices on portfolio building and narrowed her advice down to seven helpful tips to get you started. So let's dive in, shall we?
Before you can even build your portfolio, you need to take a step back and bring it back to the basics.
Defining who you are as a designer and what you want your brand to look like is extremely important. Your branding is the ethos and identity of your business. You later bring that to life through your brand voice, persona, visual identity, the services you provide, and how you execute. Lisa recommends thinking about the top 10 words that describe your style and who you are as a designer. Those are probably the words you want to use to describe your brand. If you aren't sure what your style is, that's okay too! We have a "Define Your Style" goal in BeSpoak School that will help you nail down all those important details.
Inspiration will keep you stimulated in your design projects, so never stop letting your creativity run wild! Save those magazine clippings that you love, keep a list of Instagram accounts that inspire you, and save products that energize you—you can use these photos and items in mood boards and inspiration boards in future projects. Even if you don't have an actual client-driven project, you can still give yourself creative prompts, design vibe boards, and other visuals you can show in your portfolio.
Styling is the fun part! You can play interior designer, photographer, and creative director by shooting your mini projects.
I like to think of my apartment as my studio where I experiment, test out different styles, and have fun styling and shooting a space. If you don't have a room in your home that's photo ready yet, try asking a friend or family member if they'd be open to lending a piece of their home for your project. They will most likely thank you for your hard work and design services later. Projects like these are great for portfolio building and showing what type of work you gravitate towards.
It's understandable to think that you need professional photos to build your portfolio. Still, the reality is that you have so many other resources available to help you while you're just starting. Spoak offers a BeSpoak School course called "Interior Photography with Your iPhone," which has tips and tricks on how to make your iPhone photos look like a pro took it. There are also editing apps and presets to help you achieve a clean, crisp photo. Interior design photographers cost a lot of money, so investing that money in other things you need while starting your design business, like quality branding and a website, is best.
How you portray yourself online will help your portfolio (and business) grow. For instance, think about all of the brands and designers you love. You follow what they're posting on their website and what they're sharing online. Your Instagram profile can play the role of your interior design portfolio if your content is geared specifically to your business. So many designers, like Lisa, often share their business Instagram account with clients to give them a better idea of their design style. As a Spoak member, you can also build your custom interior design portfolio on the platform and complete the “Build Your Brand” goal in BeSpoak School. The party never stops here!
If whatever you're considering putting in your portfolio will not serve your overall design goal, it's best to leave it out. Whether it's an inspirational image, color palette, or tidbit about your life, keep everything in your portfolio relevant and consistent with who you want to portray yourself as a designer. Your portfolio is what's ultimately going to sell a client on your work, so make sure you're keeping things as authentic and relevant as possible.
Having a community and support system to rely on is so valuable. Remember, you don't need to go to interior design school to find a mentor to help you in your interior design journey. Spoak offers 1:1 on mentorship with a list of design professionals like Lisa Galano and Tiffany Thompson. If there's one piece of advice we'll leave you with: keep an open mind and always try networking. You might be surprised by who you end up meeting!
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