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How do Designers Charge their Clients? Let Me Break it Down for You

So just what do interior designers charge their clients? I’m sure if you’ve considered working with a design professional, it’s one of the first questions you want an answer to.

Today I thought I’d lift the lid on how I charge my clients. It’s possibly how a lot of designers charge, but definitely not all of them. If it’s one thing I’ve learnt on my journey in this industry, it’s that you do what works best for you, your clients, and your small business. And my approach might not work for everyone.

So in the interest of transparency, I think it’s good for you to understand how the charges work and why they’re there. It might mean that less of you approach me to work on your home as a result. But what it does mean is that if you are ready to work with me, there will be no awkward conversations around budget or money. Because nobody wants that, right?

melbourne interior designers tlc interiors grey armchair with faux fur throw

What Do Interior Designers Charge?

Well, here it is quite simply. No smoke and mirrors, just the facts on what this interior designer charges the clients he works with. And there are three main figures to keep in mind here:

  • Phone consultation: Free
  • In-home consultation: $275
  • Hourly Design Fee: $150

Now Let’s BID: Break It Down…

Below I’ll go into detail about what interior designers charge with regard to the above figures. I’ll also tell you how the process rolls out so you can get your head around when charges occur and why.

melbourne interior designer tlc interiors scandinavian living room design with blue velvet tub chair

The Free Consult Costs Nothing (Der!)

Like the Blondie song goes, Call me. On the line. Call me, Call me any, any time. Actually, not anytime. Between the hours of 9am and 5pm is preferable. What do interior designers charge here: Nothing, nada, zippo. It’s free, the call goes for about 20 minutes, and it’s a great way to ask all the questions you need. It’s also an opportunity for me to assess what it is you’re after, and whether I’m the best designer to help you (more info on how to prepare for the call here).

This is the first step in working with an interior designer. And if you want to take that step, click here to book in a time to chat. I should point out that not all interior designers do this initial call free of charge. Some do longer phone consults or Skype calls with a fee attached. But not yours truly.

I find a quick 20-minute call is a nice way to get a feel for one another. And after that, you’re free to book an in-home consult if you wish.

flannelette sheet set in pale blue and white from lorraine lea

The In-Home Consult is $275

I never used to charge clients for consulting with them when I first started my business. I felt bad to. I felt a bit awkward about it.

But you know what happened time and time again? I would drive for an hour to someone’s home. I’d spend over an hour with them giving them all of my advice, hints and tips (intellectual property, as they call it). And then I’d drive another hour to get home. That’s three hours in total out of my day with no income to show for it.

Turns out you can’t pay bills and buy Christmas presents with mere appreciation from people 😉

Some people (dodgy, dodgy people) would use me up for the hour, get everything they needed, and never call back. Truth is, they often had no intention of working with me. And I was left rather annoyed I had invested so much time, energy and expertise into a consult that went nowhere. And the truth is, I have too many clients wanting to work with me now to to dedicate hours to a consult that’s not going to progress.

So now, you get me and my glorious, varied design skillset for up to 90 minutes, in your home, where we can discuss anything you like. This is a great opportunity to pick my brain (with no obligation to go further) or we can use the time with every intention of going further.

We can put together a list of products and requirements you have for the home, I can take measurements, and we can start to develop a style story you want to tell across the home.

tlc interiors design consult

The Hourly Design Fee is $150

OK, so you’ve decided you want to work with me after our consult. That’s fabulous news. What happens now is that I estimate how long I think I’ll spend working on your project. This helps me calculate a rough design fee.

Let’s say it’s 40 hours overall, for example. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. But let’s say 40 to make it easy. That means across the course of the project you’ll spend $150 hourly rate x 40 hours = $6000.

If this has you falling off your seat, run for the hills now. I never said interior designers were for everyone. But trust me, when it comes to what interior designers charge, it’s a very competitive hourly rate.

If you agree to go ahead after the estimation of hours, I will ask you for a 50% deposit. So following on from our current example of a 40-hour project, I’ll ask you to pay for 20 hours upfront ($3000). This ties me to your project and gets me started working on a concept for your home.

Once I’ve worked close to the 20 hours on your project, I will let you know we’re reaching the end of your 50% deposit. From this point onwards, I will invoice you weekly for the remaining hours I work on your home. Which, if I’ve estimated correctly, should be an additional 20 hours!

melbourne interior designer tlc interiors scandi living room design with grey sofa and black art

Now, Not all Interior Designers do it this way

Some designers don’t break it down for you. Totally their prerogative. I’m absolutely not here to compare myself to other professionals in the industry.

Some will just give you a design fee at the start. Some want you to pay everything upfront. Some ask for 50% deposit like me. And some will only charge you an hourly rate from the beginning.

Trust me, I have tried it a number of ways since I started this gig years ago. And doing it with a 50% deposit upfront is in everyone’s best interests. It commits you and the designer to one another. And I find by telling the client upfront what my rate is, and how long I’ll spend on the project, it keeps everything very open and transparent. No smoke and mirrors. You know what you’re in for, and so do I.

But again, every designer has figured out what works best for them. You either love their process and roll with it, or you look for another design beau elsewhere. There’s a hat for every head.

lorraine lea taya white bedding set with blush cushions and throws

What do Interior Designers Charge Outside of Design Fee?

OK, so we’ve covered off what you pay me for my time and expertise across your project. That’s me taken care of. Now let’s talk about what else you’ll pay along the way. It’s really only one additional thing, actually, and that’s product!

Paying for Products

Outside of the design fee you obviously have to pay for any products I specify and you approve. Turns out those pesky furniture and decor suppliers won’t give them away for free (bummer!).

What you’ll pay for products is also estimated after our consult based on how many rooms you’re furnishing, what level of furniture you want, what style it is, and whether trades will be required. Things will cost more if we’re wallpapering or painting or tiling, for example, and trades have to come in to carry out those tasks for you (I organise all the trades, by the way).

Of course, the initial product cost is also an estimate, because things can change. You might want more product than originally discussed. Or you might have expensive taste; opting for a sofa you have your heart set on that costs more than some of the other options presented. I do find, however, that my estimates are usually pretty spot on.

If you want to figure out what a decent product budget is for your home, click here for more.

what do interior designers charge their clients chris carroll tlc interiors

Has this Made Things Clearer?

Hopefully this has answered the most-common question of what do interior designers charge. If you have any additional queries, do drop me a comment below and I’d be happy to answer them. Or, as I said above, if you want to book in a consult, click here.

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Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

Comments (10)

  • Deb

    Thank you Chris for the helpful info. I am studying to be a interior designer and decorator and yuoir honesty is so refreshing. Happy styling

    reply
  • Jazz

    We paid about $7,000, 4 years ago. It was a set fee, we had an outlined schedule. It was a new build and they helped us work out exterior, tiles for all 7 wet areas, curtains for 90% of the home, internal paint colour, light fittings and a few pieces of furniture.
    I didn’t love their attitude unfortunately. We weren’t given a broad range of furniture company options and they were quite secretive about suppliers. The curtain company were a shambles. Furniture arrived weeks after promised and we end up with hire furniture.

    4 years on I have a much clearer perspective on what I love and hate (including one of my wallpaper feature walls, which we’ll be changing ASAP) .

    Would i use an interior designer again? maybe, but I’d have to know they were really working for us and excited to take the job

    reply
  • Mel

    Hi Chris
    As a new comer to the industry I would like to thank you for your refreshingly honest and transparent insight into your fee structure. I’m all for removing the smoke & mirrors that surround interior design & keeping it real! I love how you deliver your decorating advice without the bulls###!
    Mel

    reply
  • Beejay

    I love this! I’m diploma qualified but have had to wait to start up (family issues) and was so scared to charge people “too much”.
    I still don’t think I’ll charge quite as much from the start as I’m a little rusty shall we say but it’s great that i can now be confident and clear when giving fee information.
    THANKYOU!

    reply
  • SANDRA BURNS

    HI,

    WOULD LOVE TO RECEIVE WEEKLY NEWS LETTER

    reply
  • Amanda Dennis

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks so much for the helpful info as I’m just starting my journey as an interior designer.

    One thing that has me a little confused is how trade discounts work on furniture and accessories?
    I can understand if you as the designer pay the trade price and then charge the customer the retail price, but then aren’t you responsible for the warranty? Or do you just get the customer to pay the supplier directly giving them the discount?

    Thanks so much,

    Amanda

    reply
  • Marti

    Awesome read Chris – thanks for being so transparent – I think its definitely something our industry can do better

    reply
  • Ellen Ramas

    This is very good! Very transparent. That’s the way to do business!
    Clients really appreciate the clarity, transparency.
    This is very helpful. Clients can then plan and do the budget more accurately.
    Thanks for taking the time to explain.
    I appreciate the honesty.

    reply

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