You are trained and have solutions for your clients. They are coming to you to save time and money, and of course, have a new, beautiful, finished project. But….How will your clients pay you for your services?
There are a variety of ways interior designers structure their fees. Before you decide on how to charge your clients, do some homework. Research what interior designers and decorators are charging in your area. Do some detective work and figure out as much as you can, in order to market yourself competitively. Inquire with colleagues and other industry professionals to best judge appropriate fee structures for your target market.
Once you have some data, you can decide what will be best for your design business. Perhaps you will want to organize your fees for residential work separately from commercial projects. Since each project is unique, each invoice will include different costs separate from design fees. Consider these three invoicing categories:
1. Costs and Labor:
This type of invoice is for designers that have to hire outside contractors to help with the work; for example, if drywall is necessary to schedule.
This type of invoice is generally just for the costs of extra furniture, accessories or lighting fixtures needed. It also covers agreed upon extras like paint and wallpaper.
This is the type of invoice that only covers your design fees. It deals with the work that you do alone. This invoice should be included with one of the other invoices when billing a client.
Now, what to charge your clients for your design and planning work? While you certainly do not want to price yourself out of a project, a designer should charge according to experience, skill and reputation. When the client has confidence with an interior designer or decorator, there are few hiccups. With clear communication, a project outline and a written agreement listing fees, timelines, and an explanation of what the designer will do, and most importantly a budget – it makes for a mutually agreeable project.
Interior designers and decorators typically structure their design fees like this: by the hour, a flat fee, cost plus fee, percentage based fee, fee based on square footage or a retainer fee.
By the Hour
One of the most common structures for design fees is based on an hourly rate. This is often applied for the initial consultation phase with a designer, since the client is still in the interview process for the beginning stages of a project. An hourly rate varies by region and the experience level of the designer or decorator. A range from #10,000 to #160,000 an hour can be charged, while #35,000 an hour is the average in some areas.
While on a project, a designer can continue working on an hourly basis for time spent planning, shopping, coordinating, or designing. Sometimes a cap placed on the hourly rate as part of the contract is set so that the client knows ahead of time what the maximum design fee may be.
Some designers like to charge a flat fee for certain types of projects. This is more common with decorators who focus on a particular service and can easily estimate the time and cost which will be involved on the project. A fixed fee structure can give peace of mind to clients who are looking to avoid unexpected charges. Flat design fees are more often applied to services such as paint color selection, room re-designs and shopping trips.
Cost Plus Fee
Designers who specify and order products for their clients often use a cost plus method for calculating the item’s final price. In many cases, designers purchase goods at wholesale prices or discounted costs from their suppliers or vendors. They will then add on a set percentage such as ten to twenty percent to compensate for their services and time. This usually results in savings over retail prices for the client. To emphasize this discount, some designers offer their clients a set percentage off the retail cost of specified items.
Percentage Based Fee
For large design projects, a designer may specify a percentage of the total project cost as their compensation. For example, a designer may charge a ten percent fee on overall project expenses. This structure ensures that the designer will receive appropriate payment based on the size of the job and that additional costs are covered if the scope of the project changes.
Fee Based on Square Footage
Another popular structure for interior decorator fees is to charge a set rate per square foot of interior space. This is more common in new construction projects where a designer is selecting the initial hardware, flooring, fixtures, cabinetry, and wall finishes. Although fee based on square footage fluctuate by location, it generally starts around 500 Naira per square foot and goes up from there.
Some designers offer their clients the option to retain their services with a set rate. This retainer fee is generally good for a specified time period such as one year and can help keep a client’s budget in check. The retainer fee is often combined with a cost plus or percentage based fee structure for items and products purchased with the help of the designer.
As an experienced, professional designer, you are hired to remove the guesswork from the project, as well as to make things run smoothly. When the designer provides a client with clear understanding of the project’s protocol and fee structure, and the designer understands the client’s goals and objectives, the two parties can work cohesively, and even a major renovation or re-design need not be a frustrating struggle.
Thus, designers – do your homework and figure out what fee structure will work best in your area and for the clients you are targeting. Your portfolio, previous client testimonials and dazzling design style, along with a clearly outlined project framework will surely secure new clients! Always be fair, but never forget the value of your education, experience and access. As a professional interior designer you will not only create beautiful and well-functioning spaces, you will be able to help your clients avoid costly mistakes, refer reliable contractors, and select products that meet budget requirements.
Now that is worth paying for!