What should I be charging for my interior design services?!

Filed under Clients

OK, let’s be real. This million-dollar question goes through an interior designer’s brain every time we (yep! I am including myself!) price out a job!

Why do designers think and rethink the way they charge? It is because EVERY job is different and there are so many factors involved with every project, such as:

  • Square footage
  • Construction involved
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Spec’ing out furniture
  • Receiving furniture
  • Dealing with NUMEROUS problems with orders
  • The quality of the furnishings, fabrics, finishings
  • You get it…

Yes, I could go on…again, because every job is different and the pricing model each interior designer is comfortable with is distinct!! I know that I tried many types of pricing until I found the “right” balance for me.

So what are your options for your design and procurement work? Notice, I differentiated between “design” and “procurement.” This is an important distinction.

To clarify-

Design includes:

  • Creating a vision for the space
  • Drawing a floor plan with the vision in mind
  • Presenting conceptual furnishings

Procurement includes:

  • Purchasing furnishings, accessories, finishings, window treatments, art, etc.
  • Working with a professional receiving warehouse to collect items before installation
  • Handling any damages and incorrect orders
  • Installing procured items

Here are the two pricing models that most interior designers use or combine to charge for their services:

  1. Flat Fee Pricing
  2. Hourly Pricing

Flat Fee Pricing

What does flat fee pricing look like and how do you come up with a formula?

Flat fee pricing is charged for designing and procuring. I use a flat fee model for my design services, because I charge for my design creativity, remodel and new build experience, and real estate expertise. I feel that this is the “secret sauce” that only I can bring to the design table. Remember, it’s the “secret sauce” that can’t be shopped around!

To create a design plan, a designer would charge a flat fee based on the square footage of the home, the number of bathrooms, kitchens, bars, etc. In other words, the complexity of the design. Again, every design is unique, so high-end residential designers charge $10-$20++/square foot. This depends on where you live, of course, or how high-end the project is.

Personally, I take ½ of the design fee when the contract is signed and then another ¼ + at the design presentation and the remaining amount at installation. I always procure everything for the home, but if I wasn’t procuring or installing furnishings, I would split the amount 50/50, with the last 50% due at the design presentation. Some designers take 100% up front while others take ¼ of the design fee up front. It is up to the individual designer.

In order to design, procure and install the furnishings, art, accessories and make selections for all tile, fixtures, paints, flooring, wall treatments, I charge a flat fee as well, based on the square footage of the home and the complexity of the project. This can be $10-$20++/square foot. Some interior designers do not charge for this at all, because they include this in their furnishings, accessories, window treatments, etc. pricing, at a cost + basis (usually cost + 20%-50%).

If I wasn’t procuring and installing a project, I would let my clients go for it and not charge them. Frankly, I don’t know how they could do it on their own, as I design my own upholstery and include many one-of-a-kind objects.

Some designers do charge a flat percentage based on the proposed furnishings. The designers who charge a flat percentage are specifying products that are not trade-specific and give all of the details to the client, so they can purchase everything themselves.

I know other designers who charge for drawings and project management separately, but in California, you cannot use the term “project manager” unless you are a licensed contractor. You may call it “site visits” and charge for a certain number of them. Again, I don’t break it out. I hate nickel and diming clients.

Hourly Pricing

Many designers use this option, but I cannot. It is a ROYAL pain to track hours, then bill for them because you are constantly worrying if it is too much or not enough. Also, you end up invoicing your clients weekly or monthly and NO ONE likes a weekly bill. It is OK at first, but then the clients feel like they are being taken advantage of…even though they aren’t!

When I first started designing, I charged $150/hour and didn’t raise my rate for years! Other designers charge $100-$500+/hour and then if they purchase furnishings, they charge cost + 25%-50% plus an installation fee, in addition to anything else needed to create a beautiful space.

So, what should YOU do?

Ultimately, the right pricing model for you is the one that makes you feel comfortable and confident. There are as many right answers to that as there are designers.

My advice is to TRY different models until it feels right. Once you find the best combination, you will know! Remember, use your gut check. Since every designer brings their own “Secret Sauce” to the table, you have to charge for it!! The “Secret Sauce” makes you DIFFERENT from all of the other designers out there. Clients are attracted to you for your sauce. So, OWN IT! Flaunt it! AND, do that until you feel comfortable in your own sauce:)

Click Here to Find Your Secret Sauce





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