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Setting Boundaries for Working With Family and Friends

If you work in the interior design space, you’ve no doubt experienced what it’s like to work with family and friends, and you likely get many requests regarding design advice (read: working for free). So, how do you steer clear of those sticky situations when your personal life and interior design business collide?

The answer: Prepare for the inevitable by establishing healthy boundaries ahead of time. And stick to the plan.

Setting Healthy Boundaries for Your Interior Design Business

Setting healthy boundaries is crucial for you, your relationships, and your interior design business to thrive and flourish, but in order to draw the line, it’s important to take stock of who you are, how much time you have, and what’s important to you.

Reflect on all that you have going on with your personal life, your family life, and how much time you realistically have outside of your business hours.

As interior designers, it’s far too easy to work around the clock. Since interior design is a highly sought-after art, your family and friends are bound to draw from your expertise by asking for your opinions, advice, and sometimes even free consultations or services. Whether you decide to offer them some seemingly “quick” tips or not, it’s important to decide where you will draw the line and to develop some practical strategies for coping when people try to cross it.

So, how do you set healthy boundaries? Read on to learn the 4 strategies every interior designer should have up their sleeve.

4 Strategies for Setting Healthy Boundaries

Imagine you’re at a family gathering. Everyone knows about your wildly successful interior design business. Your aunt is hosting, and she asks if you can offer some “quick” advice on paint colors and furniture ideas for her new living room. While it might feel like a small request, you’ve been in this situation before, and you know it has the potential to turn into yet another design project on your plate. You’re already wading in client work, and you would like to enjoy a stress-free Saturday evening.

So, what do you do?

Strategy #1: Exercise Your “No” Muscles

When it comes to interior design, everyone’s boundaries differ (and evolve) depending on where they are in their career. For example, if you’re just kicking your interior design business off the ground, you might place a higher value on getting more projects in order to build up a solid portfolio. This might mean you’re willing to say “yes” to offering discounts to family and friends, and that’s okay.

On the other hand, if you’re more established in your interior design career, you’re likely so swamped with clients that your free time or family time becomes limited. And as we all know, time is precious. So, even though it’s tempting to say “yes” to everyone, it’s important to remember your priorities and guard your personal time.

Saying “no” does not make you a bad person. It actually does the exact opposite. Your willingness to say “no” shows—to yourself and to others—that you know your worth and that you understand the value of your time.

Regardless of where you are in your career, it’s vital to remember that you are worthy of self-respect and self-care. You work long, hard hours, and not everyone will understand all that being an interior designer entails. Know that you can’t help everyone, you deserve to be compensated fairly for the work that you do, and it’s more than okay (and actually often necessary) to say “no.”

Strategy #2: If You Want to Say “Yes,” Direct Them Straight to Your Business

Let’s say you’re just beginning your interior design business, and you’re highly interested in taking on more clients. The best thing to do in this instance is to lead them directly to your website, give them your card, or have them call you at your office the next day.

When you want to say yes, direct the person straight to your business by having them call you at your office during normal business hours.

You could also opt to have them call your assistant instead just like any other client. This way, everything goes through the hands of your assistant and not you. By having them speak to your assistant first, it creates a professional and standardized experience, so they immediately feel like a client as opposed to a friend just asking for a “quick” favor.

Strategy #3: Have Them Sign A Contract

Once you commit to working with your family members or friends, make sure they sign a contract. This way, they are clear on the process and pricing up front and aren’t surprised later on when they receive your fee.

If all else fails, decide on a standard family and friends policy and stick to it. When asked if you can help out a family member or friend, let them know that you don’t do discounts. Gently explain that this is how you make a living, but don’t be shy about it. That way, they will understand from the get-go that you can’t do any favors when it comes to your business because you have salaries and rent to pay among other personal and business expenses.


Remember, your interior design work is worth paying for! So, don’t sell yourself short. Respect yourself, respect your time, and everything else will fall neatly into place.

If you liked this post, you’ll love this next one by my colleague Margot LaScala on how to perfectly blend your professional and personal life to build your interior design business (without bothering your family and friends).

Angela Sanders, Contributing Author
Angela Sanders, Contributing Author
Content creator. Brand storyteller. Enthusiasm enthusiast. Emoji maven.

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