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Are you thinking about becoming an interior designer and want to know the average interior designer salary? Here is the average salary of interior designers in the United States. Some might say that money doesn’t matter if you’re doing something you love, but why not do something you love and also get paid well?
Employee or Owner?
Decide how much stress and control you want in your life first. An interior design business owner will almost always make more money than someone working as an interior designer at an already established company, but there are pros and cons to both.
If the company fails, or some sort of act of God happens to their building, the business owner foots most of the responsibility. An owner will also be putting in more hours, have more stress, and get paid less initially. Your life basically gets tied up with the company for the most part. Once your company is established though, you can expect to earn more.
Being an employee, on the other hand, means that you can work your scheduled hours, and get to go home at the end of the day to focus on other things that may be important to you. Yes, there will be projects where you will have to take some work home, but for the most part, it’s a less stressful lifestyle.
That being said, what you should do depends completely on your life and circumstances.
Experience Matters Less Than Other Jobs
There are many jobs where more experience ultimately means that you will be paid more, but one of the benefits of becoming an interior designer is that experience has less of an effect on your salary. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll still need experience and you’ll still most likely start off on the lower end of the salary scale but it’s much easier to get to the upper end of the scale. When people hire interior designers, they choose based on your portfolio, rarely do they ask “How long have you been an interior designer”.
We’ve come across several interior designers who started making more in their 2nd or 3rd year, than a seasoned interior designer of 20 years. Interior design is definitely a job that pays exponentially more for creativity and being able to delivery exactly what your client needs.
Average Interior Designer Salary As an Employee
As an interior designer working as an employee for an already established firm in the United States, you can expect to start around $40,000 to $50,000 in your first year, and usually, after about 5 years of experience, you can expect to make around $80,000. These are numbers based on the averages of the interior design salary reported on GlassDoor.
These numbers are rough estimates based on the average salary, and that means many people are paid less and many are paid more. There are lots of companies out there hiring with an interior designer salary of $100,000-$150,000 as well, so your salary depends a lot on how willing you are to keep your options open.
Average Interior Designer Salary as a Business Owner
The money you stand to make as a business owner varies greatly and it has a lot to do with how you run your business. If you run a tight ship and only hire the staff you need while outsourcing tasks like bookkeeping and HR, you can save quite a bit yearly and make more of a profit. The income also changes a lot based on the city you live in, and even what neighborhoods you serve the most. As a very rough estimate, expect around $100,000 to $500,000.
Keep in mind that this is a very rough estimate and it definitely starts out very slow the first year or two as you build a name for your company. Your income will also depend on whether you work exclusively in residential, or if you do commercial interior design as well. Commercial interior design is slightly harder to get into but makes significantly more since the projects tend to be larger and have larger budgets as well.
Which States Have the Best Interior Designer Salary
The states that pay the highest for interior designers include New York, California, Washington, and Florida. These states have cities that pay on average 20-40% more for interior designers. The closer you live to the city, the more you can expect to make since there will be more of a population for you to serve.
Since interior designers don’t usually carry inventory, you can also expect some clients to fly you out to their city if they really like your style, so don’t be discouraged if you live in a smaller city.
How Can I Get Paid More as an Interior Designer
There are many ways to increase the value you bring to a company, which ultimately raises the salary you make as well. Having a degree in a related field definitely helps get your foot in the door initially, but as an employee, your portfolio brings much more to the table. Having a portfolio with varying styles that align with a company’s own styles is also a great start.
Many interior designers also choose to start out working for another company so they can use the opportunity to learn and build up a portfolio. Don’t be afraid to branch off and start your own business if you think that’s what you want to do in the future, as long as you aren’t taking clients with you when you leave, there’s nothing unethical about starting your own business.
Most of the clients we work with actually help prepare employees to run their own companies as well!
If you’re starting an interior design business and are feeling overwhelmed, feel free to contact us and we can help you in whatever way we can. If you need a company to help with your bookkeeping and/or taxes, we can do that as well.