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How to start a lighting design business

Lighting design has become more popular in recent years. Both building managers and businesses now pay closer attention to how lighting affects the people inside their buildings. Now is therefore a great time for tradespeople to seize on this interest and start their own lighting design business.

Starting your own lighting design business means you choose your own working hours and the type of organisation you build. But perhaps the biggest draw is bringing clients’ visions to life and positively impacting people’s mood and experience.

Starting a new business can be daunting, especially in an emerging or developing industry. This guide makes that process easier, running through everything needed to get you up and running.

Getting started with your lighting design business

The first thing to decide when starting your lighting design business is the legal structure. You’ll have to choose whether you work as a sole trader or become a limited company. There are pros and cons for either route.

As a sole trader, you can start up quickly as there’s less paperwork, but you’ll also be legally liable. Establishing a limited company, on the other hand, offers greater legal and financial security but often takes much longer to set up. Based on your structure, you may also need to register for taxes and VAT.

View our ’Should I be a sole trader or a limited company?’ guide to discover the key differences between the two structures.

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Establishing a business plan

Ask yourself whether you’ll remain a lone consultant or if you envisage building a bigger team in the future. If you do want to hire staff, you’ll need to factor in those costs. Either way, your business plan should include a strategy for growth, including key targets, projections and long-term goals.

It’s also wise to take note of all early expenses, such as licences for CAD software. These will be essential for any project you take on.

Market research will help to determine the types of services to offer, as well as USPs. Commercial lighting design is an emerging field, so there’s plenty of opportunity to stand out from competitors.

  • There may be local demand in residential properties
  • Architects and project managers might be seeking lighting designers
  • Specialisms such as public buildings or corporate real estate may also be necessary

For more tips on starting your business, read our guide on how to start a trade business in the UK.

Growing your lighting design business

As a lighting designer, your biggest selling point is your knowledge and expertise.

  • Make sure projects are always completed to specification and ask clients for feedback – both good and bad
  • Use these learnings to develop your business proposition
  • You might find that certain lighting strategies work poorly in certain settings
  • Such knowledge can then be factored into future discussions with other clients

With many contracts in the built environment awarded on reputation, you’ll also need to dedicate time to networking. Industry events and panels are great ways to get your brand out there, as well as keeping on top of the latest trends.

Digital marketing is arguably the most effective tool for lighting designers. A well-designed website with high-resolution images is a must, as is strong branding. The industry is visual by nature so take advantage of different platforms to:

  • Share high-quality images of completed projects
  • Promote recommendations and appraisals from customers
  • Connect with prospects
  • Upload blogs and company updates

One of the hardest tasks for any start-up is building a reliable and relevant list of contacts. Checkatrade’s membership makes this process easy, providing a platform for you to market your business to millions of unique visitors each month.

Start your lighting design business with Checkatrade

We're the UK's favourite online directory for reputable tradespeople

Become a member today

Lighting design business FAQs

How much does a lighting designer earn?

Earnings vary based on experience:

  • The average lighting designer salary in the UK is £28,000 a year.
  • More experienced lighting designers earn around £36,000 a year or more.

Starting your own business gives you the potential to earn more than the average. Pursuing your market niche and marketing effectively allows you to grow your customer base and charge a premium for your consultancy.

As you can see, setting up a lighting design business can result in greater earnings than working for an employer. As the business owner, it’s also important to keep in mind the industry averages if you plan on hiring staff.

What education or training does a lighting designer need?

Perhaps you’re wondering what type of education or training you should be looking out for when hiring? Newcomers typically require a bachelor’s degree or Higher National Diploma in a relevant field such as architecture, interior design, and electrical engineering.

Certification can also be obtained from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).

If you’re looking to start another type of interior design company, see our article on how to start an interior design business.

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