How Are Interior Designers Hiring Employees? A Comprehensive Guide

Building a strong team is crucial for growing an interior design business, but navigating the hiring process can be complex. Recently, a member of our community asked about different approaches to hiring employees, sparking an insightful discussion among experienced designers. This comprehensive guide explores various strategies for bringing new talent on board, from independent contractors to full-time staff, and the important considerations involved in each approach.

Member Query:

“Hello! I’d love to know how designers are hiring their employees. Are they brought on as individual contractors and therefore “self-employed” and paid hourly? (And if so, are they required to work a typical 9-5 workday?) Or are they hired at a yearly salary and provided benefits and typical workday schedule?”

Insights from the Interior Design Community:

Selected Comment 1:

“As a former attorney I can’t help but always chime in to your prompts 😂 if you control the direction of their work, they aren’t contractors. There are very few instances where someone would work as an IC for a design firm, although people hire IC’s frequently. You risk having to back pay them for meal/rest periods etc. plus fines. You can hire employees part time though to avoid paying typical benefits. Because work flow fluctuates it may make sense to use a firm for virtual help ❤️” – @jihan_spearman_spaces

Selected Comment 2:

“As an interior design business owner, it’s important to understand the distinctions between employees and independent contractors, particularly when it comes to how they are classified and managed.

W-2 Employees: When you hire someone as an employee, they are classified as a W-2 employee. This means they are on your payroll, and you are responsible for withholding and paying their income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. You also need to provide them with a W-2 form at the end of the year, summarizing their earnings and tax withholdings. As a W-2 employee, they are typically required to adhere to a work schedule set by you, and you have more control over how, when, and where they perform their tasks.

1099 Independent Contractors: On the other hand, if you hire a designer as an independent contractor, they are classified as a 1099 contractor. Independent contractors are self-employed individuals who provide services to your business. They are responsible for their own taxes and will receive a 1099 form from you at the end of the year if they earn $600 or more.

As a 1099 contractor, you cannot require them to work a specific schedule. They have the flexibility to decide how, when, and where they complete their work. You can set deadlines and specify the results you need, but you cannot dictate the day-to-day operations and working hours. This autonomy is a key characteristic of independent contractors.” – @sagecollectiveco

Selected Comment 3:

“You need to be careful when classifying an employee as an independent contractor or employee. From the IRS website:

‘If you classify an employee as an independent contractor and you have no reasonable basis for doing so, then you may be held liable for employment taxes for that worker (the relief provisions, discussed below, will not apply). See Internal Revenue Code section 3509 for more information.’

Paying someone hourly and having them work 9-5 but classifying them as a contractor can make it look like you’re trying to get out of paying employment taxes.” – @kacilane6

Understanding Employment Options for Interior Designers

Full-Time Employees vs. Independent Contractors

When it comes to hiring, interior designers have two main options: bringing on full-time employees or working with independent contractors. Each approach has its own benefits and legal implications for your design firm.

Legal Considerations and Classification

As highlighted by our commenters, properly classifying your hires is crucial. Misclassifying employees as independent contractors can lead to serious legal and financial consequences for your interior design business.

Flexible Hiring Strategies for Design Firms

Some designers opt for a hybrid approach, using a mix of full-time employees and contractors based on their business needs and project requirements.

Making the Right Choice for Your Interior Design Business

When deciding how to hire, consider factors such as your workload consistency, budget, and the level of control you need over your team’s work. It’s also wise to consult with a legal professional to ensure you’re complying with all relevant employment laws in the design industry.

Building Your Dream Interior Design Team

Regardless of the hiring approach you choose, focus on finding passionate and skilled individuals who align with your design philosophy and can contribute to your firm’s success.


The way you hire and classify your team members can significantly impact your interior design business. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, understanding the distinctions between employees and contractors, as well as the legal implications of each, is crucial. By carefully considering your business needs and the insights shared by our community, you can make informed decisions about how to build and grow your interior design team.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can I hire interior designers as both employees and contractors?

A: Yes, you can have a mix of both, but ensure you’re classifying each correctly based on their role and work arrangements.

Q2: What are the main differences between W-2 employees and 1099 contractors in interior design?

A: W-2 employees work set hours, receive benefits, and have taxes withheld. 1099 contractors have more flexibility, manage their own taxes, and typically work on a project basis.

Q3: How do I decide whether to hire full-time or use contractors for my interior design firm?

A: Consider factors like workload consistency, budget, level of control needed, and specific skill requirements for your projects.

What has been your experience with hiring in your interior design business? Share your thoughts and strategies in the comments below!

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