This is by far the most common question we get asked by our interior design community. Whether you’re an independent operator or part of a big studio, understanding the different ways to charge for your services, (and crucially making sure you don’t under-charge for them) couldn’t be more important.
Also curious? We’ve put together the most common options we see, and a few tools that could help you work out the best option!
Top 3 pricing options
1. Fixed design fee, and that’s it
This is the simplest form of charging structure. Figure out how much time you think the project will take, and charge a fixed fee for the service. The obvious issue is understanding what the time commitment is up front. Now, if you’ve been working with clients for years you’ll have a good sense on how long the project should take. Although we often hear the unexpected means it can take a lot longer than you initially thought.
Pro-tip from other interior designers: Estimate how many hours you think the project will take and formally state it in the contract. This gives you the option of going back to the client and re-negotiating your fees in the situation it’s more work than you initially estimated. In many situations you won’t want to go back to re-negotiate even though it’s run on. Maybe you care more about maintaining a good relationship with your client, or perhaps you think it’s taken longer because you mis-budgeted. Nevertheless, at least this way you’ll have the option of going back!
2. Margin on sourcing product
Often combined with a design-fee, this is where you keep some (or all) of the trade discount you get on the products sourced. When the suppliers are willing to offer you trade discounts of 30%+, this can be a very lucrative way of earning fees. It also doesn’t impact the clients as without you, they just don’t have access to these prices.
Pro-tip from other interior designers: clients are becoming increasingly suspicious when they don’t know the real cost of product. We’ve heard some of our interior designers say their client has started calling suppliers pretending to be an interior designer and asking what the trade discount is! Being transparent about what you charge and why you charge it up front means all these complications go away. Some will also say, if your client doesn’t appreciate the work involved they’re probably not the best client to work with anyway. Controversial topic…let us know if you disagree!
3. Time based fee
We’ve seen this become more popular in the US. Have a price per hour, and log your hours. That way you know you’re being paid for all the time you’re working. Many clients aren’t a fan (and many interior designers are also not a fan), but it’s an option to consider.
Pro-tip from other interior designers: there are a few tools out there which help you keep track of the hours you’re working. Try out Toggl or Harvest as a way to track, along with Your Rate to calculate your freelance cost.
Other options we’ve heard of are charging a ‘price per room’ or ‘price per square foot’, but these are less common.
How to charge for your work is a big topic for many industries, but especially for interior designers where some clients don’t understand the work that goes into completing a project. All the options above have come together from talking to our community; if you have other ideas, or have come up with a strategy that works for you, let us know. We’ll share it back.
Suppliers with over 40% discount