2007/08: Ask Me
Q&A 14 years ago No Comments

My Partner and I operate a small residential interior design firm in Southern Maine. We have been secured by an Architect in New Hampshire as an "outsource party" to assist with the matters of Interior Design (i.e., finishes, lighting, color, etc.) on a project. As this service is relatively new to us we want to be fair and not undersell our services and time. Therefore, what is the typical norm of an Interior Designer’s percentage to apply to that of service such as this. I have learned it is anywhere from 2% to 10% depending on experience and region of the design budget – or is it more applicable to bill hourly, as that is the way we typically charge or even that of a square foot method” Any advice would be appreciated.

(submitted by Susan D.)

I know that different parts of the country have different rates so I am coming to you from my part of the country – Texas. As a long-time interior designer and space planner, I have found that by charging an hourly rate and following up with a detailed invoice, not only are you covering your time and knowledge, but you can actually let your clients know that this tends to be a more responsible and reasonable fee structure than by the square foot or percentage.

Another way to do this is to charge your client up front for the initial design consulting by the hour for the programming, design or project description, and plans, and then when they are approved and signed off, do the rest of the project – i.e., finishes, surfaces, furniture selections, ordering, etc. – for a fixed fee based on square footage or a percentage. If additional work outside of the contract is to be done, then there will be additional fees.

When you start working with a new client, however, you really don’t know what their requirements are going to be early in to the project. Things change, and the last thing you want to do is have a client who takes up an enormous amount of your time on a fixed fee and find that you’re working for pennies on the dollar through the completion of the project. Not only are you upset for not being paid for your time and expertise, but your client is not getting the benefit of your full attention because you’re losing money working with them.

Each project requires a different set of parameters and guidelines. Make a list of how you would like to be paid and consider each project individually. But, as you said, you want to be fair (always), but NEVER UNDERSELL YOUR SERVICES AND TIME! Good luck!