Setting up a website is a bit of a chicken & the egg situation when you are just starting your business. You know a website is super important, but you may put it off because you don't have any portfolio images to display, but it is also harder to get clients without a proper website.
So should you put your website up without photos or should you try to get clients so you have projects to show on your website?
My advice is to get a website up as soon as possible.
How do you get project photos without clients? How can you get clients without project photos?
Trick out your website
Make your website as robust as possible from the beginning. It can be more than just a portfolio. Hire someone to take lifestyle/brand photos. Visit a coffee shop, the beach, a park, your friend's amazing home or downtown of your town and take photos. Where you choose should reflect your branding.
You can also create a great about page and a page telling potential clients how you work and the services you offer. A blog can be a great addition when you are just starting. This helps your SEO and helps potential clients get to know you and your work in a more intimate way.
If you can create a website that is professional, beautiful, branded, and shows clients who you are then they may not miss the portfolio images.
Instagram is a more casual place to post images, you can post progress photos, or what inspires you and potential clients will get a feel for your aesthetic. You can get followers and publicize your design services. There isn't as much pressure on Instagram photos to be magazine-worthy as on your website. Let followers see your process, or that DIY project that you are working on, or a shopping trip that you share your favorite finds and how you'd use them. Be sure to put contact information in the profile and that you are an interior designer accepting new clients.
I still advise purchasing a domain and setting up a basic website even if Instagram is your main focus. Put your contact information on the site and a link to Instagram.
If you've done any work - helped a friend's nursery, styled your mom's kitchen, done your own bedroom, photograph it. All work counts and a talented photographer can showcase your space in the best light possible. If you don't have a whole room, you can create a few vignettes and take photos of those.
If you have not done any projects that you can photograph, create a few vignettes in your home. Many vendors will let you borrow things and that way you can mix in more expensive pieces. You can also ask a local showroom if you can stage their showroom and create some vignettes. If you have a friend with a good house, you can do the same. Essentially you find a location, do a bit of staging and styling and then take photos. You can do a lot with a few tight shots.
Projects While Working for Someone Else
If you are starting your business after working for someone else, you may have a lot of project photos from your previous employer. Ask your employer if it is okay to use these images before you do, they don't belong to you. If you don't want to ask or they say no, then do not use these photos on your website.
If you meet with a potential client you can always show them the breadth of your previous work and your role in the project when you meet with them in person, but keep them off your website.
You may also like: