Whether you’re just starting out as an interior designer or leaving the comfort of your firm, learn how to set the right fees for your projects. Use Spoak’s free pricing calculator to help you get started.
As an interior designer, you get to do what you love. Helping your clients create even just a single room that speaks to them can spark your creativity and help inspire your love for design. There’s just one problem … you’ve decided to go into business for yourself. One of the most challenging parts of starting an interior design business (or any business, really) is getting the logistics in order. All the nitty-gritty details that allow you to scale and make money while doing it are just as important as picking the right paint color or winning the bid on that perfect vintage chaise lounge.
Taking the leap from working for an interior design firm or starting out on your own can feel risky. Will you be able to build a client base? How can you navigate project management without a team? And probably the biggest question: Will you make enough money to sustain yourself?
Many of these ideas may be swirling like a can of paint on a paint mixer, but we can help. We’ll explain how to structure your design fees for private interior design services so you don’t go broke. (Pssst… we even have a free pricing calculator tool you can use for that). We’ll also cover how you can take on smaller projects by offering different interior design services online.
Cash is king, and it’s time for you to get paid and thrive as an interior designer.
Self-promotion can be hard, especially if you are an introvert (let’s be real) or feel like you aren’t an experienced designer just yet. Remember that everyone starts somewhere, so why not start by promoting yourself to your safest inner circle — your friends and family — to get projects. If you don’t already have a design portfolio, this can help you build one.
We both know that much more goes into interior design besides picking out a nice paint color and selecting the perfect throw pillows. As an interior designer, you have several responsibilities which should be made clear to your clients during their initial consultation — this will ensure that they know what to expect when going forward.
In your consultation, it's vital to ask questions to help you determine the scope of your project. Keep in mind the type of work you could be completing for a client when scoping a job and how you will spend your time. Your hourly rate or fee structure might include some or all of the following services:
You’re the expert here! You’ve invested the time and money in your education (whether through internships, hands-on experience, or schooling) and probably spent a considerable amount of time working alongside other designers to learn more about your work. You keep up with not only how a space will look and feel but also how it will function, keeping in mind building and safety codes.
As the interior designer, you’ll act as the point of contact for any contracted services needed to complete a project. Electricians, plumbers, handymen, painters, or movers will all be hired and coordinated by you, giving your clients the ability to sit back and relax. This part of your role can be especially beneficial for clients considering remodel projects or anyone who wants to be more hands off throughout the project.
Many times, homeowners have an idea of what they’d like but don’t want to spend time shopping around for the perfect piece. That’s when you come to the rescue! You have the ability to scour all the sources to find the pieces that perfectly fit their needs. From furniture to paintings, wall decor, and lighting, you have your finger on the pulse of the latest trends and an understanding of how to pair items together in perfect cohesion.
Pro Tip: On average, designers spend 10 hours sourcing product for one room, but depending on the scope and number of pieces required, it could take up to 50 hours/room.
One of the most important parts of the interior design process is the ability to render a draft of a design plan (sometimes in real time) when meeting with a client. This step includes any time spent creating mood boards, room or building renders, floor plans, elevations, etc. The type of design software you use is important and can help add to the services you offer. It also allows clients to visualize your concepts and gives you a more professional appeal.
While most people think of interior design as simply enhancing aesthetics, you know there’s more than meets the eye. If a room lacks functionality or is somehow unsafe for its users, you’re there to spot the problems and correct them. This is an important selling feature and a great way to explain what a designer helps facilitate inside a home or business.
The national average cost for interior design professionals is an hourly fee of $50-$500. If you charge a flat fee, the average total project cost ranges from $ 1,500 to $12,000, with a median cost of $5,000, excluding the cost of furniture.
Pro Tip: You want to make sure the revenue you’ll get from your client is at least 3x the cost of acquiring them.
There are several options for interior designer charges. Before we get into them all, it’s worth noting that while there is no right or wrong way to charge your interior design clients. Trying out a few different methods is a great way to learn what works for you.
You can opt to charge:
Flat fee rates are usually good solutions for small projects or projects that won’t require many revisions. Other designers charge a flat retainer fee per month for bigger jobs. This structure is typically ideal for designers with more experience who can anticipate how many hours a project will require based on the size of the job.
Sarah Griffin, owner of Desert Marigold Design, shares how flat fees work for her business, "I charge per room with a structure that has different tiers. I offer different options from helping with paint selections to full room refreshes, and offer two types of one bedroom e-design for a set price."
For more extensive projects, you may want to charge an hourly fee. Keep in mind that if you choose an hourly fee pricing structure, you’ll need to keep a detailed log of your time to present to clients with every bill.
Cristina Cleveland, an interior designer based in NYC, says, "I have a consultation call with the client to learn more about their needs, and then I create a quote based on the scope of work. While I don't post them publicly, I do have approximate costs for my hourly rate and the individual elements in my packages (mood boards, furniture plans, room layouts, renderings, and sourcing). I can scale these up or down depending on the size of the project and the amount of time I expect to spend on it."
For larger interior design projects (think remodels or multi-unit renovations), you may find it easier to charge a percentage of the total construction cost. Percentage of costs means you’ll charge a flat fee (usually somewhere between 10%-30%) of the total construction cost of the project.
Another option is the cost plus method, which is similar to the percentage of costs method. You’ll charge a flat fee percentage of the total construction or remodel costs, but you’ll also include any additional fee for time and purchases in this price.
It probably goes without saying that several factors will influence how much you can charge for your services, but some of them may surprise you.
You may have your own parameters to determine the scope of a project, like charging per square foot or the time you estimate it will take from beginning to completion. If you don’t have your own parameters figured out yet, that’s okay too. Our pricing calculator tool will help you determine your rate based on a set of guided questions. Test it out for free, or consider these questions when determining the scope on your own:
In addition to the project’s scope, you’ll also need to consider the project’s size. Is this a project you can do on your own, or will you need to hire additional professionals to assist? A full kitchen remodel will naturally result in a total cost that is higher than a simple bedroom redesign.
Square footage is another consideration to factor into your cost. This information is particularly important if you plan to charge a flat rate for your services. Too many designers take on a project that they think will be simple and realize after the contract is signed that it will take longer and cost more than they expected. Square footage can play into this rookie mistake, so consider the actual size of the space before you quote a price.
Just like rent and home prices are higher in certain areas, your design prices will be different by location, too. If you live in New York City, for instance, you’ll likely charge more for interior design fees than you would if you provided services in Buffalo.
For interior designers who are just starting out, it may be wise to offer a more competitive price while you build your portfolio. Being competitive can help you get more business and create more reviews. As you continue to grow, it’s acceptable to raise your rates. A good rule of thumb is to revisit your rate every year and determine the increase based on your skillset growing and the demand.
If you are a sole entrepreneur (aka not with a design firm and running solo), you may not be able to offer the same scope of services as a firm — and that is okay! There are benefits to running your own business. You will likely be highly competitive when compared with a firm, and you’ll also offer your clients a much more personalized experience.
Your own experience will also play a role in determining your fees. Designers who have multiple years of experience will naturally charge a higher rate. Special certifications and wider design work portfolios (a mix of residential, commercial, etc.) may also allow you to charge more. Don’t let your experience level make you feel hindered. It should make you feel competitive in a world of experienced designers. There are so many different design styles to cater to out there, meaning there’s opportunity for everyone.
Before you schedule that initial consultation, you’ll want to have a few basic answers at the ready for some of the most common questions asked of professional interior designers.
If a client’s budget is too small for their project, consider encouraging the client to make a list of priorities and discuss which ones you can cover and which ones you can’t. Your design consultation should always include a discussion about the project’s budget.
You should also be prepared with an upfront cost for your initial consultation. While some designers prefer to offer an initial consultation for free, it is not outside of the norm to charge a consultation fee, especially for a larger project.
Diana Farberov of Artemuse Design says, "I charge for the initial consult but wave the fee should they proceed to design with me — this way, it's never a waste of time to visit someone, walk their space, and discuss options. I have had potential clients decide they don't want to pay for the entire design job but are still happy to pay for that consult. Given the amount of time and communication my clients have required so far, this hourly structure feels fairer for me than a per-room charge, but I'm still working to find the best model for me."
Even the best-laid plans can often go awry. Setting yourself up for success is important for staying profitable. Here, we outline a few tips for ensuring you’re headed in the right direction.
Spoak is an easy way to help you become successful in your business. Our interior design suite makes it easy for you to offer online interior design services to your clients and bring them visualized renderings of your home design ideas.
If you’re just starting out, that’s great. You don’t need a certain number of years of designer experience to use the tools we offer. If you’re a seasoned pro, we can help you too. Our tools are easy to use and are continually updated to support you and your goals.
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