There are two big differences I have found in the way interior designers charge and I wanted to address them because some people may not understand the how and why behind them, and it can affect their experience with a designer.
Interior Designer Cost 1: Consultation Fees
Most designers I know do not charge a consultation fee.
But, I do! Why?
I was at a marketing forum for the Denver Chamber in 2005 when I started my business and the instructor asked each of us to write down what we think we should be paid per hour. He then told us to multiple that times 12- a number that was meant to represent one client hour per month. At the time, I think I wrote $50 per hour, so my total came to $600.
Then he asked if we spent more than one client hour per month giving ‘free estimates’. My answer was “yes”. Then the instructor asked, “Why are you not charging for giving your professional opinion or service? Are you not worth (in my case) the $600 plus dollars for your professional opinion or service? Why do we pay a doctor or lawyer for their professional advice, but not charge others when we give ours?”
There were several businesses represented in the room. He reminded us we were all professionals, and we deserved payment for services rendered. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but I immediately stopped giving away my time for free. I realized I had unique knowledge, special training and even a gift for interior design and when I shared that, it was valuable.
I now charge a flat consultation fee. And I haven’t had anyone, for the several years I have implemented this, not pay me for it. My professional opinion matters. They know I have knowledge, they trust my skills and they become friends and clients because of it.
Interior Designer Cost 2: Rates
Most designers charge in one of three ways: flat rate, hourly, room markup. I personally think the charges should be dependent on the job itself
Flat rate for interior design
In flat rate pricing, a budget is set and expected by the client. All costs for the project are built in. It typically doesn’t change, even if the costs end up being under budget. I typically use this rate model when doing a task that I am familiar with and am confident in the associated costs, and in consultations.
Hourly rate for interior design
For example, on a kitchen or bath remodel, I charge by the hour, because I am usually the director or project manager and there are a lot of working parts that can change.
If the client wants me to shop for them, or with them, I charge hourly. This is my least favorite option because then the client is paying me and also paying full retail prices.
Mark up by room when providing interior design
If I have the opportunity to select and purchase the materials, I pass the less-than-retail pricing onto my clients, because I have access to those lower prices. I try to work with showrooms that offer discounts to the construction and design industry because of those deep discounts that I can, in return, pass on to the client. Some designers don’t pass the discount on, and instead count the difference between the wholesale and retail price as their designer fee.
When we work on your commercial or residential interior design project, I will make sure that you know exactly what I am charging you and I will make sure that your new space turns out more livable and functional than you can imagine!