Well, maybe the actual question should be how much should interior designers charge? I’ve gotten this question several times over the years from readers who are thinking of starting their own businesses. Most of you know, I’ve been officially out of business for a while now (with no plans in the foreseeable future to go back to it—locally, at least). So, while I’m not sure my answer is the most up-to-date or qualified one to offer, I’m happy to be candid with you.
Let me start by restating that I’m not a designer by degree. Mine is in PR, so I technically worked as a decorator. While some would say the degree determines the price you charge, I believe that’s quickly changing in today’s design market. I personally believe that price is most determined by demand. And, thanks to the exposure that the internet (namely blogs, Pinterest, online design sites, etc.) can give you, demand now comes in a variety of different ways. In my experience, having a blog gave me enough credibility to not start at the bottom of the pay scale (whatever that may be. . .).
So, here’s the deal—and why you’re probably actually reading this post: I charged anywhere from $75 (at the beginning) to $125/hour when I was doing design work. (Side note: I was working in Charlotte, which helped. I’m sure location determines rate, as well.) Sometimes, I billed clients hourly and other times, I guestimated the number of project hours and billed them one amount up front.
And, here’s the kicker: I made almost zero profit.
Yep, next to nothing. I don’t think my hourly rate was out of line, but here’s where I believe I messed up (now that I’ve had several years to think about this):
-I rarely charged for consultations. There are differing opinions on this, but time is money. (Time to travel there, time to get ready, time away from your kids, time you pay for a sitter, etc.)
-I almost never marked up product. (And, I would spend way too long looking for deals, based on the price I would pay.)
-I didn’t always build in enough hours to pay for an install assistant, a handyman, an electrician, unforeseen issues, taking returns to stores, etc. (I actually paid for part of a client room once. Bad business and makes you quickly not like your job so much. . . )
-I undervalued my time and ability, when I should’ve been more confident. (This is the biggest one. Yes, decorating is fun—but your ideas are valuable, fun or not.)
Man, this doesn’t sound any good, does it?? It wasn’t all bad, but I feel like I’ve found my niche in blogging full time and am pretty happy about that. IF I were to offer any advice to someone starting out, I would say research the heck out of the business first. Get familiar with your costs, the time involved, what other new (and seasoned) designers/decorators in your area are charging. Build your portfolio so you can justify your asking price. Ask to shadow/intern under a more experienced designer. Consider what your time is worth, along with your talent. And, whatever you do, be confident when you meet with a client. (You probably know more than you think you do. . .)
So, any experience you want to share as a designer or as a client?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how (and how much) to charge.