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How to Build a Strong Interior Design Portfolio

How to Build a Strong Interior Design Portfolio

The key to a strong interior design portfolio is to have a clear point of view and a style that is uniquely yours. A strong portfolio will be different based on your level of experience.

New Interior Designer

For example, if you’re a newbie, you may not have full projects to show. You may need to create project briefs and create 3D renderings to show your style. If you’re active on social media, you can show your style by the photos you take and how you creatively organize your feeds.

Early in your career, it may be scary to develop your own point of view. You are trying to get work and don’t want to turn down any decent opportunity, or to offend a potential client with your personal preferences.

You also may not be ready to declare your style because you’re not sure what will entice your prospects, and you may not have enough experience to know what you like and believe.

Take time to study the portfolios of your design idols:

  • What do you like about their interiors?
  • Do they have a recognizable style? How would you describe it?
  • Do they incorporate details across multiple spaces and projects?
  • Do they have an affinity for specific colors or materials?
  • Is there a cultural influence that you can identify in their work?
  • How do they use space, shape, form, accessories and lighting to create their interiors?
  • How do they style their shots?

Mid-Career Interior Designer

As your experience grows, hire a professional photographer to capture your images. Don’t forget to ask about usage rights. Be sure to have both vertical and horizontal images for social media and your online portfolio. Capture detail shots as well as full rooms. Have the photographer shoot you in some of the scenes as well, so that you have great images of yourself to use in articles about you.

At the mid-career stage, it is typical that designers do their own styling. If you do your own styling, look at magazines for ideas. You’ll often find that florals are over-scaled for how most people live day-to-day, but they create an amazing effect in some of the most beautiful interiors that you see in interior design magazines.

At this stage, you should have a very clear point of view for your work. The more your look is consistent and recognizable (recognizable, not repetitive), the easier it is for your prospects to decide that you are the designer they want to work with.

If you show a variety of styles on your website, it sacrifices the cohesiveness of your brand, even though you may think that it shows your versatility.

Experienced and Established Design Firm

At this stage of your career, you run a very successful business. It’s not a hobby and your work should be displayed at its best according to what you can afford.

It’s time to hire a top-level photographer and stylist and to curate your online portfolio and social media feeds.

You may need to re-shoot previous projects that are less than five years old. Be prepared for your investment to be significant. It’s not unusual to pay as much as $20,000 per day for a great photographer, and thousands for a great stylist.

A few years ago, one of my largest clients wanted to create a coffee table book, which requires the very best photography and styling as you would see in something like Architectural Digest. They hired an NYC designer and stylist, flew them in, and re-shot their projects. The investment was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was worth every penny. When I saw the before and after shots, the difference was astonishing.

Hiring the writer and paying for the publishing was just part of the expense. They also had to be available for book signings and they were required to purchase books themselves. Their investment for the book was probably close to $500,000 in the end, but it resulted in the visibility they wanted and needed for the level of clientele they wanted to serve.

They have reprinted their book at least five different times, and they’re planning a second book. And they have a recognizable style that their ideal clients actively seek.

At the experienced level, you will have an established platform on Instagram with tens of thousands of followers, you’re asked to speak on panels at industry events, and you have relationships with editors. Maybe you’re on your way to high-profile design jobs for the rich and famous. Maybe you’re on your way to having a TV show. At this point in your career, you have the power to forge your own path ahead and make a name for yourself in any way you want.

Planning for the Future

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, the visuals must be impeccable. And, your business operations and client experience must also be top-notch.

Pearl Collective is here to help you achieve your dreams and level up your business, no matter what stage you’re at right now. Give us a call!

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