Being An Interior Designer (or, that time I got fired)



Being an Interior Designer starting out on my own was tricky. And last year was rough since I had never worked for myself before. My husband has been telling me for years how hard it is to work for himself and I would stare at him as if he was speaking a foreign language. Because in reality, he WAS speaking a foreign language to me. All I could see was free time! my own schedule! not reporting back to anyone! and the list goes on.

Ha. Ha. Ha. The laugh was on me, for sure. But before I get to that, let’s talk about spring, because I’m a little bit obsessed with this week right now.

For the last week or so, I have been quietly and loudly declaring my love of this weather! I’m sure I look like Julie Andrews as she spins around on the grass in The Sound of Music…..except I’m spinning around because I can actually feel the sun on my poor pasty winter skin. (Thank you, Lord, for creating spring.)

During March in Tennessee, it usually feels one of two ways: either spring comes and surprises us like a gorgeous, vibrant rainbow or winter decides to hang around like a cowardly little weasel. (Have I ever mentioned how much I can’t handle winters?) I feel like this spring has been a nice easy transition. Right at the height of my winter discomfort and gloominess (and being over freezing), the weather threw out a couple of slightly spring-y days. Just enough to give me a little reminder of what I was hanging in there for. And then it slowwwwwly made it’s way, surprising us at every turn with the wonderful flowers and trees that take their turns each year. We’re just getting started here and I am D E L I G H T E D to say the very least. As I’m typing in my office, I can peek through the purple blooms on one of our trees out the window and see my kids playing Star Wars with sticks in the back yard. Perfect weather! And just in time. It’s been just at a year now that I started this little company for myself and I’m finally in a place this season where I can look back on my progress and how much I’ve learned. And more importantly, to see where I’m headed from here.


The Interior Maven FB page screenshot.


As I said above, I realized today that it has been a year that I hopped back into the design world and really began. After taking 9 years off from working in that field, it almost felt foreign. So many things had changed. Places had changed. Technology had come so far, thankfully, but scarily. And it has been tough. So here is my get-real-with-you post because I was in for an awakening.

In March of 2015, I began posting things here and there about our life and the pretty, aesthetic parts of it. I had big plans of getting a ton of photos ready for my big blog and website launch last May, but to be completely honest, I got so so busy working with design + staging clients that there was no time. I refused to give up time with my kids, especially while they were home for the summer, and so many things I was doing required more learning as I went. Plus, the actually juggling of children at home all day while I was trying to go on staging consultations was a job in itself.

EPS Logo

EPS Logo

I had just finished up my certification for Expert Psychological Staging with Kristie Barnett – The Decorologist when BAM! the work started rolling in before I was even really ready. But I’m always up for a challenge, so I just tried to roll with it. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed it, but I now know better about having systems in place and things like that. Thankfully, Kristie’s program gives us a year of access to her private group and the questions that I received answers to were so valuable. (I happily paid the yearly fee to continue being a part of her group in 2016 again and am happy to call her a friend and mentor in this Nashville design world.)

Design Books & Resources

I threw myself into projects and learned along the way. And, of course, I’m still learning. Every single day! But, I’m also one of those that devours information. I’m always wanting to learn every new thing that comes along and it’s exciting for me. Sometimes I get hung up on the learning part, though, and forget about the actual doing. That is where my husband can give me a kick in the pants and remind me of my purpose. Which is NOT full-time student. For example: I had never had to write a contract before and so I consulted with my BFF Amazon and she shipped me the tools I needed to remember how to write contracts, letters of agreement and all of that stuff I learned in design school and then forgot.


The hardest part of going out on my own to do design has been the solitude. I have never worked completely on my own before and after 9 years of having children with me constantly, it was REALLY weird! Haha! And it took some getting used to. I still think my best days are when I get to leave my house/office and talk to people at the showrooms or fabric houses or even stop and see a friend (that needs to happen more often!), and I LOVE shopping for staging inventory to stow away in my storage unit for the perfect client. As easy as it would be to just go get a job working as a design assistant to someone else and not worry about all the details on my own, I would not want to give up my freedom of still being available to my children when they need me after school. AND I will admit, I watch a lot of 90210 (the original version, of course) while I write reports and source items for clients online. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do that at a corporate office. Or wear sweat pants on my office days.

After having said all of that, I decided I should share with you one very large milestone today: This week is the anniversary of my first staging job.

Staging Props

On April 1st of last year, I went to my first staging consultation. Ever. (And most people don’t know this story because it’s not something you really tell until much later on. Now I can laugh, but at the time it was the worst thing for my confidence.) Anyway, I went out and consulted with this person ON APRIL FOOL’S DAY (first clue, right?) and I told them I would get them their report done by a certain day. I had never written up a real client report before, so it took me waaaaay longer than it does now. This was also during the same time period that my friend had her baby (which I had promised to take photos of during delivery) and over Easter weekend while I was scheduled out of town for a previously planned trip. To make a very long story short….


From my first staging gig.


Probably because I told them on the day it was due that it would be later than I planned because of the hospital visit. I totally understood that, but the reason stated was because I did not offer to bring in rented furniture for their occupied property. Huh? I was confused. Most people don’t want to rent any furniture and spend more money when they are living in a place full of furniture, so I had no idea that was their expectation. There was definitely a breakdown in communication on this job and so another stager got the job. Lesson learned! Now I always ask what the expectation is and my staging is much more seamless for the client.

To make this story even more ridiculous, that client experience stressed me out so badly that I broke out with SHINGLES on Easter morning 2015. Kind of hilarious, one year later. Ha!

But my takeaway from that experience is that you canNOT let one person get you down. This kind of thing always can bring me down and I just have to pray about it, talk to my husband about it and have him talk me out of the horrible feelings it brings you. I realized that not every client is my ideal client. And THAT IS OKAY. In a year of working now, I am starting to see who my ideal clients are. They are not stuffy. They love to laugh. They enjoy life. They understand the value of the service I provide and then we work very well together. Again…learning experience.

Family Walking

To say the last year has been a doozy career-wise is an understatement, but things can move slowly, and I’m okay with that. I’m not out to become a celebrity interior designer. I am just out there to create beautiful spaces for those who hire me and help with the money for our family. And some other things happened in our lives that made it possible for the first time ever in our parenting journey for our kids to start seeing Chad every single day. Time with my family is my ultimate goal over any career goals and the blessings we have experienced since a year ago have been amazing. And I’m back, as a person. I’ve learned how to juggle my time better between work and family and I hope to be writing here more often. I hope to spend time with friends more often.

I have a fun treehouse post coming up this week and also stay tuned for a GIVEAWAY coming up the first week of April that you do NOT want to miss.

(Clue: Country Living  Seriously. You do not want to miss this!)



Amanda Carlson

aka The Interior Maven

  • March 30, 2016 - 3:53 pm

    Brooke - I love following your new business. You are inspiring.ReplyCancel

    • June 13, 2016 - 6:05 pm - Thank you so much, Brooke. And I’m sorry I’m just now seeing your comment so many months later. Something is wonky with my blog and it’s not alerting me when people message me. I miss seeing you, but love keeping up with you on FB! :)ReplyCancel

  • March 30, 2016 - 6:36 pm

    Laurey Blinn - What an insightful year! So nice to hear someone admit their journey has not been a cake walk. So now, a designer question: am planning a new build. Would love a 3 D program such as is commonly used on shows such as Fixer/Upper. Any recommendations? Thanks. Keep blogging!ReplyCancel

    • June 13, 2016 - 6:09 pm - Hey Laurey, I’m just now seeing your comment! Yikes! I see that you have already started the home building process, so how is that going? I hope it’s going smoothly. As for the 3D programs they use on the shows….those are created by an outside company and they costs about $10k to do a room or two. (I learned this from Drew & Jonathan from The Property Brothers.) It’s really just a television thing for those amazing remodel rendering videos. So I can’t help you there, unfortunately. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • March 30, 2016 - 8:06 pm

    Judy Sapp - You have had a roller coaster year but you enjoyed some of the twist and turns but also had some not so fun ones. But I’ve watched you start up your business and have seen some things you’ve done. Beautiful! Great job!!! You are a great mom and I’ve seen you continue on as a mom, wife and Interior Designer as this year has quickly passed by. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!ReplyCancel

    • June 13, 2016 - 6:11 pm - Thank you for your super sweet words on your comment from like 3 months ago. Hahaha! I’m just now seeing it! What in the world?! I’ll get the hang of this new blog eventually. Thank you for always supporting me and always having faith in my endeavors. It mean so much to me.ReplyCancel

  • March 30, 2016 - 9:08 pm

    Beth L - Congratulations on your stage-a-versary! There is just DO much to learn, but that’s half the fun… least.ReplyCancel

    • June 13, 2016 - 6:12 pm - Hi Beth, thanks so much for your kind words! I’m sorry I just now am seeing comments from March! Ha! It has been a crazy ride to learn staging and re-learn design after so many years away, but it has definitely been worth it. :)ReplyCancel

  • March 31, 2016 - 2:48 am

    Kim Pearse - Amanda, I was inspired after reading this post. As a new stager and new to the area, I am learning some of the lessons you are talking about. So glad I’m not alone out there. I would love to have a call with you if you are willing. But anyway, I found this to be very helpful personally to me. Thank you and best wishes for a productive 2016.ReplyCancel

    • June 13, 2016 - 6:14 pm - Hi Kim! I feel so awful that I am just now seeing your comment and request for a call to chat. I am just now responding to about 5 comments that I never saw from March. Such a bummer. Anyway, I’m happy for you to be finding your way in this business and if you have any questions for me about being a newer home stager, please feel free to reach out via email or messaging on FB now that we are friends on there. :) Good luck to you!ReplyCancel

  • August 2, 2016 - 1:29 pm

    Glor // Always Creating Blog - OMG, you’re my inspiration! I am slacking with my interior decor biz…I want to start one but not sure where to even begin. I’m working with a friend who just bought a house so I can stage for sale and help decorate her new home. So I’m hoping to use both as stepping stones! It’s one thing to decorate MY own house but totally different when it’s someone else’s. Any advice…and how was your experience with the Expert Psychological Staging cert? Is it online, can I do it from Northern VA? Thank you! xoxo GlorReplyCancel

    • August 3, 2016 - 10:24 am - Hey girl – My experience with the Expert Psychological Staging certification was PHENOMENAL. I have my interior design degree and worked in interior design since 2001. But after taking a break from working to stay at home with my kids, I was ready to ease back into the design world slowly. So, I took this class and knew that staging would be the start to get me going again. Kristie Barnett is amazing. She is my mentor now here in Nashville. She is so encouraging, helps so much with questions, etc. I HIGHLY recommend the course. She has another one coming up in September, I believe? Email me for more information: Happy to give insight into it all. :)ReplyCancel

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