You will discover that there are many steps to becoming a successful interior designer. One step that I see as critical and fundamental is also one that I see many designers rushing or skipping through all together. And that is developing a Point of View.
Have you noticed yourself immediately recognizing the work of a popular designer before you even see their name credited with the image? Have you also noticed that there is an endless sea of interiors images on Pinterest and Instagram that all look exactly the same and your eyes glaze over in boredom?
People like Amber Lewis, Kelly Wearstler, Leanne Ford, and Joanna Gaines have a very specific style that is easy to spot and credit. Whether you actually like it or not (and some I really don't) its theirs to own. That's why brands want to connect with them and fans wait for them to reveal their next project for inspiration. The difference is that the bigger designers have gotten big by developing a unique and specific Point of View. Personally, I think that should be the goal of every designer. To figure out what your unique voice is in the crowded design landscape and make it heard.
Its pretty easy to look at the finished work of designers you like, study how they put a room together and source the same products they used. Then offer a version of it as your own design product. I see that happen a lot and that's ok I guess. Its how you learn what you like and what you are good at putting together. But I also find when people go that route, they copy one designer's style here, another's there. There is no rhyme or reason to their body of work so that their voice gets lost in the crowd and overall their work is kind of boring. It may sound petty, but what's the point? Why are you even in the design field if you don't actually have a specific POV?
I do believe in developing a consistent body of work. Start small in your own home by styling rooms to exactly your likes and tastes. It may feel a little funky, but its your home and you are allowed to make it 100% a reflection of your POV. Document and share the progress so that people who like your POV find your work and your voice gets stronger. You can hone your voice with images of finished interiors you admire, but make sure to credit the original designer properly. Not intimate by omission that its your work when it is not.
Move onto friends' and family's homes to refine how to make your POV adapt for someone else's needs. How to navigate toning it down for clients without losing it altogether. Document and share that progress too.
Over time, your professional work will become one bigger story you are telling in chapters (projects). Its the client's taste, through your POV filter, to create something special to that place and time. Now you are cooking with gas.
That's how I saw the progression for myself. I know my POV is not for everyone, but I believed in it from the start. Its unfussy, clean lines, playful with materials and color choices but carefully curated. Not busy. There are natural elements and midcentury notes but mostly its fairly minimal so that a few key boho accents stand out. When I go more glam or more coastal for a certain client, the finished product will still have these core elements. I'm not comfortable pretending to be other styles by other designers. When I get asked to be a different style, I politely decline and guide those potential clients to other designers who could deliver exactly what the clients want. My POV is quite rigid now actually and I strive very hard for it not to be confused with other designers' work. Some people think its terrible and that's ok. Plenty of people appreciate it and are happy to see me push it farther along.
My advice to you is take a look at the style(s) you like and focus on what are the defining characteristics. Make a shortlist of forms, colors, materials, and period references that come together to make what you like happen. Then double down on the themes that refine your POV and edit out the elements that don't fit. You might like them on their own, but when you force them into your design work it feels odd. Like a one off. Having a POV is really the only way your work will get noticed and people will start to care about what you are creating. It may feel like you are taking a risk in the beginning and setting yourself up to lose work and receive criticism. That will happen in small doses. Without the risk, there will be no reward. It will be worth it and you will be really proud of the work you create in the long run.