Could this be your new interior design office?
Virtual interior design or “E-design” exploded in popularity out of necessity around mid-2020.
In reality, though, virtual interior design has been around far longer than that.
Not unlike the company “Zoom” (which had been around long before the pandemic began in 2020), the concept of interior design by distance had already been adopted by some interior design professionals starting as far back as 2008.
The strange reality is that virtual design wasn’t really recognised or appreciated as viable for many interior design professionals until much more recently.
What is Virtual Interior Design?
If you’re in the interior design, decorating or home staging business and just hearing about virtual interior design for the first time, take note.
It’s getting easier to conduct projects virtually, and although there are still some drawbacks to fully remote design projects, there are many benefits too.
If you are a design professional who finds yourself doing a lot of work remotely these days, you should know that moving aspects your business further online could be a really smart choice.
By streamlining and even automating much of the process of your interior design workflow with the help of dedicated virtual interior design software, you can spend less time on the tedious parts of the job and more on real design work.
Virtual Interior Design for Solopreneurs
Virtual interior design is one of the fastest growing interior design professional tracks out there today and the barrier to entry is extremely low compared with the traditional interior design model.
Are you ready to get started as a virtual interior designer? Want to know what it takes and how to get there?
How to Get Started
Choose your time frame:
- Short track -You are already an interior design diploma graduate, you have worked in the industry, or you are a hobbyist with design skills. The first two ways apply to you!
- Long track -You are really interested in interior design, but you don’t have any skills yet. Everyone starts somewhere. The third option might be your best bet.
What are the 3 routes to become a virtual interior designer?
Say goodbye to real color samples!
- Get a virtual job as a virtual designer! You will actually be working, but the idea here is that you can work from anywhere.
- Work for yourself as a virtual or e-designer. Learn about the tools and what you will need to pull this off below.
- Start learning to become a virtual designer today. The road to a virtual design job or entrepreneurship is shorter than becoming a full-fledged interior designer offering full service interior design.
Trained Interior Designers
If you are an educated interior designer, congratulations!
Virtual design or e-design is a pared-down version of what you learned in design school, and it won’t be difficult to adjust to a fully online design service.
For you it’s only a matter of figuring out two things:
- whether you want to work for an online interior design agency
- Whether you prefer to work for yourself
Comparing Working for an Agency vs. Working for Yourself
There’s no denying that these two options are quite different.
It all comes down to whether you want to purely work on design or whether you are comfortable running your own small business offering design services.
-If you only want to design and don’t want to run a business, consider being hired remotely.
-If, on the other hand, you are up for the challenge, now is a great time to become a design entrepreneur.
Find out more below.
Pros and Cons
|Agency pros||Agency cons||Self-employments pros||Self employment cons|
No need to find clients, the agency finds them for you
You might not get much say in what type of clients you get or what you work on
You can choose the clients you work with and take on the type of work that you want, IF you can afford to be picky
You will need to hustle to find your own clients
You will likely be provided with software for the job and given some training or instruction
You might not get a say in what software you will use or how your design process works
You can choose whatever software or application you want to work with for your design work
You will need to go through the process of choosing, buying and vetting your own software at your expense and time
It’s always great to collaborate with and learn from other designers.
You can get answers to questions, support and handle problems in real time.
Nothing to see here.
There really are more pros than cons on this point, but suffice it to say that it would be great if you like your company and coworkers.
If you don’t, you can always go elsewhere, or, hey, it’s virtual after all, you won’t have to interact as much as in a physical studio.
Perhaps an online community of like minded business people like yourself can help to fill the void that comes from doing everything yourself.
But maybe you like it that way.
You will have to build your own if you don’t already have a team.
If you are a solopreneur, you will have to be happy doing everything yourself and looking for help wherever you can. The buck stops with you.
Depending on the agency, you might get some base pay or it might be hourly or project based.
Nonetheless, with the stress of having to find clients left to the company, you just do what you do best with your time: design.
You are responsible for the work you agree to do and for finishing that work.
Depending on your agency, you may have to bid for jobs by putting out a free proposal and see if you “win” the job.
If you don’t, you may not make anything. Better luck next time.
Clients may be able to ask for several rounds of revisions, which can eat into your time and profits.
Make sure you plan for these factors.
You can take on as many or as few hours as you like.
All profits are yours.
Ultimately, as the solopreneur or head of the company, you are the one that has to pick up the slack if a project goes off the rails.
This means any extra work or hours are yours to pick up.
You might have the option of outsourcing some of your work to virtual design assistants at hourly rates.
This depends on your popularity as a designer and how efficiently you are able to work.
If you find a good virtual employer, you can likely make some money.
One benefit to large virtual design companies is that they can avail themselves of many trade discounts which lower costs for the client, making the cost of hiring and e-designer lower and more accessible.
You are paid by the hour or per project.
When it comes time to extend or renegotiate your work contract, you should try to get a raise, but keep in mind that if demand for work is higher than for designers, you don’t have much control.
Watch out for disreputable companies who shaft their designers.
As the boss, the sky’s the limit.
All profits are yours to keep and if you’re smart you will keep reinvesting into your company to grow it.
Don’t just be self employed, work on building something that can stand the test of time!
Remember that you have to keep on bringing the business in the door, so a fair bit of your time is going to be on lead generation and bidding.
If you aren’t good at this, and you only want to be a designer, the entrepreneurship path might not be for you.
Path to Virtual Designer – First way:
Goal: Designer in pajama bottoms
How do you go about becoming a designer with an online agency or virtual design company?
Just a quick search for virtual and remote interior design jobs turns up quite a lot of internet-based interior design companies looking for new talent.
Here are some examples.
Disclaimer: I have no experience with any of these online employers.
Links are provided for educational and information purposes only.
Online Interior Design Companies Hiring
This article on Business of Home explains how virtual interior design companies work and hire in more detail.
Online Job Recruitment Agents with Virtual Interior Design Job Vacancies (400,000+ Jobs Advertised!)
It is also possible to work as a virtual interior design assistant if you are in design school and looking for some part time work!
What you will need to get started working for an agency:
- Computer skills
- Design skills
- A design portfolio
- Personal or laptop computer and internet connection
- Virtual design application or software
Be advised that every agency or online employer is different, these are only general common-sense guidelines.
Path to Virtual Designer – Second Way:
Goal: Boss designer in pajama bottoms or Zoom boss, also in pajamas
How do you go about becoming a self-employed interior designer or virtual designer entrepreneur?
What you will need to get started working for yourself or starting your own company:
- Computer skills
- Design skills
- Potential customers or plans to get
- A brand name
- A design niche
- An online portfolio/services page
- Virtual design application or software
- A plan of action
Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that each entrepreneur is different and budgets may differ. These are only general common-sense guidelines.
Online e-Design business bare basics
- Learn the online design platform
- Understand the e-design market
- Understand the main focus points for setting up your own e-design business
- Get access to good resources for e-design, including marketing, invoicing, legal and project management templates
Path to Virtual Designer – Third way:
Goal: Zealous student in pajamas, soon to earn dollars in pajamas
How do you go about learning how to design virtually?
Your only option if you don’t know how to design, is to learn how to become a virtual interior designer.
But don’t worry, learning interior design, whatever your current level and eventual goal, is a lot of fun!
It can also all be done online and at minimal commitment and expense. Even free!
I personally wouldn’t recommend learning and doing at the same time, especially not if you want to rely on your e-design income for your personal income.
Rather, it would make sense to learn interior design skills and software before looking for a job doing virtual interior design or working for yourself.
How long will it take to learn how to do virtual design?
I would say that, depending on how much time you had to actually study and how “good” you wanted to get at decorative design, you could learn enough to start doing virtual design in 1-3 months.
As a beginner it would make sense to start small and offer decorating services.
A guess would be about one month of studying full time and three months part time, if you were studying on your own.
If you are taking a structured course go by the course recommendations.
Some advice on getting started learning virtual decorating or design:
-The more prior experience you have in the building or furniture industry or working on personal home projects (and the more you know about using design software!) the easier you will find learning virtual interior design.
-If you are seriously starting from scratch, I would recommend that you find a good A-Z course that will take you through everything you need to know to get started.
-Remember that learning interior decorating and design is different to learning how to run a business.
-Decorating is your quickest bet, but depending on your future ambitions, you may want to focus on design as well as decorating, or even consider taking an accredited course.
If you are still unsure of what type of designer you want to be this article may be useful:
Are there any platforms out there that teach both decorating/design and virtual design as a business?
You could try Foyr.
It’s unclear how much “design” is taught, but they do claim to teach some basics, such as styles.
The online design software retailer is marketing a software application which can be used as a platform from which to run an interior design e-business.
Perusing the site it appears they aim to make the process of becoming a virtual designer who uses their platform relatively straight-forward.
The application costs $49/monthly for basic, $49/mo yearly for standard and $149 for premium at the time of publishing.
The last option would be used for a team of designers if your online design firm had more than one person.
This product seems similar to Planner 5D, but for e-design.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Foyr.
Resources for Learning Decorating Online:
Super low commitment:
If you’re looking to cover the basics, this course is absolutely free.
Just free information, no sign ups necessary.
Same as above!
This website is a goldmine for interior design and decoating beginners, DIYers and rental apartment ideas.
Decorating, home decor, lifestyle, CAD, 3D rendering, 3D modeling, SketchUp
Get started for free, but you will need to sign up
Learn Virtual Design Online:
Rachel Simon Studio
Again, I have no experience with any of the above decorating or e-design courses. Information is for educational purposes only.
Need an easy virtual design platform and access to a helpful e-design community now?
I’ve been working with Design Files for years, and they have a great community of virtual designers using their virtual interior design platform.
The company started out as Olioboard back when I was a design student, and their tools were hands-down the best place on the web to create mood boards.
Their application included with libraries of real product images and made it a cinch to create 2D boards specifically for interior design.
I used them all the way through design school and I still use their SAAS (software as a service) membership services today!
If you need to create 3D rooms and renderings, I suggest E-Design Tribe.
The Design Files Virutal Interior Design Platform
Fast forward a few years and the Olioboard moodboard community has evolved.
The company, rebranded as Design Files has now turned their focus to serving interior designers who offer virtual services.
The Design Files designer platform offers a complete package for those wanting to get started with their own business, from basic client questionnaire, to examples of legal documents and tons of tools for client and project management.
The private Facebook community for Design Files has more than four thousand virtual and real world designers who make up an active and very helpful community.
If you are just starting out, you won’t have to work in 3D, as their 2D tools can create 3D-like shoppable virtual room boards, which are a cinch to put together.
The owners and ongoing developers of the cloud-based application offer support in close to real time and regularly poll the community about new features.
I can personally vouch for the fact that they are always improving their products and taking suggestions.
It’s been a pleasure working with them thus far.
Please note: I do not actually represent Design Files, I’m only telling you about my personal experience and what I use.
As a long-term designer on the Design Files platform, however, if you sign up through my affiliate link, below, I will receive a once off referral compensation at NO cost to you 🙂
I hope that this has helped to answer some of your questions of how to get started in virtual design.
If you’re looking for more information on becoming an interior designer and about your various options, check out some of my other relevant articles below.
As always, feel free to drop me a line personally if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.