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How to start an interior design business

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Get set to run your own company. Follow our step-by-step guide to launching an interior design practice, and be ready for your first clients

Working Interior Designer

Setting up a business needn’t be a trial – but it does have to be done right. You’ll need to follow the correct procedure to start your own company, and appropriate insurance is also vital. A website and social media accounts that allow clients to find you are necessities, too. Here’s what you need to organise – and what you should get in the know about.

Set up a company

Starting a limited company means that its finances are separate from your personal finances. It brings both reporting and management responsibilities.

You must choose a name for your company. You cannot use the same name as another registered company, or an existing trademark. You should also avoid a name that’s similar to another company’s name or trademark because you might have to change yours if someone complains.

You can check online to see if the company name you want to use is available. You can also check if a similar trademark exists

Choose directors

A company has to have at least one director, who must be 16 or over and who must not be disqualified from being a director. Director(s) have to follow the company rules, keep records and pay tax, among other things. Want some assistance with managing these tasks? You can use an accountant, for example, but the director(s) is still legally responsible.

You could also have a company secretary, who can take on some of the director’s responsibilities, but it’s not essential.

Decide on shareholders or guarantors

The company should have at least one shareholder or guarantor. This person can be a director.

Prepare documents

Your company needs both a memorandum of association – a legal statement signed by all the initial shareholders or guarantors agreeing to form the company – and articles of association. The latter are written rules about running the company agreed by the shareholders or guarantors, directors and the company secretary, if there is one.

You don’t have to write the memorandum of association if you register your company online as it’s created as part of the process. Registering by post? Find a memorandum of association template to use.

The articles of association can be standard, model articles, or you can write your own and provide them when you register your company.

Arrange to keep records

You must keep both records about your company, and financial and accounting records to comply with the law. Check what company records must include, and which accounting records must be kept

Register your company

Your company needs to be registered with Companies House, and you can do this via the online service, or by post. You will be registered for corporation tax at the same time.

Don’t want to register the company yourself? You can use a professional – such as an accountant – to set it up on your behalf.

Open a business bank account

The company’s finances are separate from yours, so you’ll need to open a business bank account. Take a look at the different features and costs of business bank accounts via a comparison site such as MoneySupermarket

Consider VAT

You have to register your business with HMRC for VAT if your VAT-taxable turnover – that is the total value of everything you sell that’s not exempt from VAT – goes over £85,000. Be aware that £85,000 is the current threshold, but it usually goes up on 1 April each year.

It should also be noted that the threshold applies to a rolling 12 month period. The bottom line? You’ll need to register with HMRC if your taxable turnover goes over the current threshold in any period of 12 months rather than during a fixed period like the calendar or tax year.

Sort out insurance

To protect you in the event of a claim from a client, take out professional indemnity insurance. As a BIID member, you can join the scheme for members, or choose your own provider.

You may need to pay an additional premium on your current home insurance if you run your business from there: get in touch with your insurer. Otherwise, don’t forget office and property insurance for your studio.

Other types of insurance to protect your business include employer’s liability if you’re an employer, and public liability. You can opt for these along with professional indemnity insurance via the BIID scheme, as necessary, or speak to your insurance broker.

Set up a website

A website’s also a must-have for an interior design practice. You’ll probably want your domain name to be the same as that of your company – or something very similar – but first you’ll need to check whether the domain you want has been taken by another individual or company.

You can find out if a particular domain is available via a hosting company, where you can also buy the domain name, plus website hosting services. Alternatively, check if a UK-registered domain is already taken via Nominet, then buy a domain.

It’s possible to design a good website yourself without being a techie using free or low-cost templates you can individualise, but if you don’t have the confidence, or time, you can call on a website designer to do it for you.

What about website content? Take a look at our advice on making a website work for your business

Start social media accounts

Social networks such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook can all help promote your new business, bring traffic to your website, and attract clients. Although you may already use social media as an individual, you should have accounts for your company that are linked to your website.

Setting up the accounts is easy, but you may need to tweak social handles if your company name has already been taken on a particular network.

Find out how social media can win you clients.

Get savvy on the law

As well as keeping up to date on the tax law that applies to your business, you’ll need to stay smart about other legal issues.

Going to be employing people in your company? It’s important to get in the know about employment law.

You’ll also have to follow the rules on data protection contained in the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Don’t forget your legal duties under the CDM Regulations 2015, which cover health and safety. Use our guide to the rules




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