WHY SIGNING UP FOR AN INTERIOR DESIGN DIPLOMA WAS A BIG MISTAKE
This post has been a long time coming and to be honest I've felt very concerned about putting it out there in the public realm due to how it could be perceived, but I do really need to be truthful and honest to the people who send me many, many emails every week and ask me if doing an interior design diploma is a good idea if you want to become an interior designer or interior stylist. Because the answer isn't as simple as you might think. Here's the full story, warts and all, about my experience of doing an interior design diploma (and why I subsequently gave it up).
About 18 months ago I signed up for an open learning interior design diploma with KLC.
(one of the best, most well regarded design schools in the biz). I split the payment over 18 months and I think it was about £90 a month. I was so, so excited and really got stuck in on the first project. I wrote two blog posts , one about how I was fitting it around working full time and being a mum, and then I later documented my first project that I'd submitted.
The first project was fun and I really enjoyed it. It was such a welcomed break from my boring and stressful day job that I was so eager to get home and pick up my special pens to start drawing floor plans! KLC gave great feedback on sections and were always easy to get hold of and ask questions. They also had a facebook group with KLC open learning students so there was always someone to ask if I was stuck. It was so supportive and lovely to talk to others who were struggling on certain sections, for instance.
But between me submitting project 1 and getting stuck into project 2 I got fired from my job and went freelance. That alone was quite stressful so I really didn't have much time to focus on my studies, but I tried. Project 2 I quickly realised was about 4 times more work than the first project. Perhaps more. So It felt very overwhelming whilst at the same time not knowing where my next pay check was coming from. Anyway... things started to get better but the diploma was fully on the back burner by that point.
And then I started getting offered design work via my blog.
Yes, I know. Weird. I had no experience but I guess these people could see my eye for style and could tell that I knew what I was talking about. So before I knew it I was thrown in at the deep end, learning from my mistakes on jobs. Which for me is the way I learn best. Could doing a diploma presentation on window treatments have taught me about the fact that it's really fucking fiddly to put up a pencil pleat curtain while a client stares at you? No. I just learnt. Could it have taught me that you should be reeeeally, reeeeally careful when painting a bit of a client's home not to drip paint on their Egyptian Cotton bedding? Probably not. And I worked out what NOT to do next time. I realised where I was undercharging, where things took more time than I'd anticipated and which things the client couldn't give a toss about (hand inked floor plans / drawings in my case). It's worth mentioning that obviously I'm just doing quite small scale residential projects.
I was learning SO MUCH on the job that I just forgot about my studies. Could I have learnt way more or been more professional had I continued with studying? 100%. Would I have been super stressed out? YEP! Plus I was working all the hours to try and earn enough to live on as a freelancer that I literally didn't even have the time to study. Project 2 alone is hours upon hour upon hours of work. The blog was a better investment of my time and energy because it was paying off with more work and clients that I could learn from. BUT, obviously not everyone has a blog.
I was so naive when I signed up for the course. I thought it would be piss easy. I thought it would be all about picking nice accessories and colours. WRONG. It's about very technical stuff, budgeting, presenting to clients, what buildings are made of and that kinda thing. Plus the creative side of course! Looking at it now, I realise I'm more of an interior decorator than a full on designer. This is more interior designer / architecty. It just wasn't right for me as I realised I wanted to focus on the dressing elements of a room, rather than working out how to change a floor plan or move walls.
Here are some of the questions I get asked all the time and my answers to them.
Should I do an interior design diploma?
That depends on where you see yourself in the future. I always knew I wanted to work for myself rather than work for an agency or design studio. If you DO want to work for a studio or on another designer's team then best believe you will need the kinda skills KLC is teaching and they are bloody good at it. But I didn't want that. I'm a person who wants to do things on my own terms. My audience don't come to me because I have a diploma (or don't) they come to me because they want my eye.
What about the technical skills needed in the industry?
Honestly, I'll outsource anything I don't enjoy. Which will always include techy stuff! So I don't mind if I can't do it. Hopefully my style and brand is strong enough to get work without having those skills. Plus I believe in supporting other freelancers by sharing work and I also believe that when you outsource something to someone who loves it then you get a better piece of work.
How much time do you need to spend on the course?
You're crazy if you think you can spend any less than 20 hours a week on this, unless you want to be doing it for like 10 years (which some students in the facebook group have so know that's not a myth). If you have a job, have kids etc... then really think about it. I was very naive.
How are your finding the work load balance with your family life?
As above. My first blog post about balancing the two things was when I was just working full time and was so motivated to get home and do the work because it was the only creative outlet I had. That was also project 1 which is vastly different in terms of time t Project 2 and thereafter.
Will doing this diploma help me to find work as an interior designer?
I don't have a crystal ball to tell you that. I can't tell you anything about finding work, every person is different. I have a blog and my own brand that is likely to be very different to yours so it's hard to say. Is the course helping me get work? No but only because I haven't stuck at it. They do have a section inside the course that has a jobs board so there are always vacancies at fabric shops or interior designers etc so it is good for that kinda thing.
How important have you found education to be within the industry of interior design?
Personally not very. But that's probably because I gravitate towards people who also have that same philosophy as me - which is that just because you can do formal education and get good marks doesn't mean you're going to be a good interior designer. Not the type I want to be anyway. I.e, if someone asks me for a CV for a job I won't even bother applying.
Ok now, just to wrap up I have to really really put this back on to the fact that this is all my personal opinion. I know so many students who have absolutely smashed their design diplomas and are killing it in the game. This is just personally how I have chosen to go about things, and what I do will not necessarily be right for you. The diploma may be EXACTLY what you need. But I just wanted to share for anyone who, like me, had given up part way into it and maybe needed to know that there was someone else out there like them. Or for those who really want to know the warts and all truth of doing it.
I also want to publicly say thank you to KLC for everything they have done and continue to do for the industry. They really are experts at this and have been nothing but great to me. If this is the route you're gonna go down then you have my backing to do ti with KLC, it just wasn't personally right for me.
Hope it's been insightful, feel free to leave a comment below if you have any more questions or comments.