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7 Different Ways Interior Designers Can Charge for Their Services

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Working as a professional interior designer for many decades, I've been involved in design-and-build residential building projects.

Learn how interior designers get paid for their work.

Learn how interior designers get paid for their work.

There are different billing methods employed by a certified interior designer to charge clients for services rendered.

During the initial interview, an interior designer must explain any options available to the prospective client. This will help a client decide on which mode of payments will be preferable to them.

Both parties will come to an agreement as to the best billing option and whichever agreement is reached, it must be acceptable to both parties involved.

How Interior Designers Can Charge Clients

  1. Fixed Rates
  2. Hourly Rates
  3. Percentage Over Costs
  4. Costs Per Square Metre/Square Foot
  5. Retail Price
  6. Department Store Retail Price
  7. Combination Rates

1. Fixed Rates

With pre-fixed rates, the client and the certified interior designer will discuss extensively - as much as is possible - the scope of the interior design works, and an agreeable fee is set.

This fixed rate is generally supposed to cover all contingencies and on an agreement, a part of this fee is paid in advance before works commence.

How much is paid up front?

The usual amount paid initially may range between 10% and 40%, though this payment is different from a retainer or deposit (a retainer is a certain amount of money paid to a certified interior designer to reserve his or her time to work on a project), but whatever the case may be or whichever terminology is preferred, a deposit, retainer or whichever, it will invariably be treated as a form of deposit.

What does the letter of agreement look like?

Every element must be spelled out in the letter of agreement which needs to be drawn up by a certified interior designer.

Meanwhile, payments will be made as the work progresses and a drawn-up schedule will be set to determine when progressive payments must be made.

What are the drawbacks?

The only drawback of this mode of payment for services is that the scope of work may end up being broader than expected and an interior designer may end up expending more time and energy to complete the job.

Interior designers are always aware of the fact that it is very hard to determine the scope of required works in advance of an interior design project.

Because of the many variables involved, many of these projects require more work and take longer. This ends up displeasing the designer who may then not put in as much effort as is needed. Who wants to work for unjustified pay?

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2. Hourly Rates

A popular mode of payment, the hourly rate method has been used over the years by many professionals such as architects, engineers, therapists, lawyers and accountants. It is well used by certified interior designers, too.

How does it work?

The way it works is that the interior designer is supposed to keep detailed records of daily work and the number of hours spent to execute such works.

At the end of each month, the client is billed as per the number of hours expended.

This mode of payment actually is payment for time spent, not necessarily a payment for the talent and skills of a certified interior designer.

What are the drawbacks?

Clients are a bit wary of this billing method simply because there may be instances where the designer works slower than others. What happens if the interior designer is slow or fast, highly talented or just plain competent?

It poses several problems and clients sometimes feel they may be cheated but have no way to ascertain such fears. This is expected.

For example, if the certified interior designer goes shopping on client A's behalf, spending a number of hours in the process, and whilst doing that finds something for client B, but is unsuccessful in finding client A's products, who pays for the time? Who pays for the time, client A or B?

Well, the answer is that client A still gets charged, but one may ask, "Is it fair?" Unfortunately client A still has to pay for time spent on his or her job. This leaves many clients feeling cheated.

Also, how does a client trust that the number of hours a certified interior designer claims is correct and has not been inflated?

These are the usual question asked by prospective clients. Rightly so!


3. Percentage Over Costs

How does it work?

This method is great for residential projects, though it may be used for commercial projects as well. Charges are the net or wholesale prices that the interior designer pays to the merchants, vendors, etc., and then a predetermined percentage markup is applied to the net cost.

The markup is on the furniture, furnishings and labour incurred whilst working on a client’s project. The actual net cost is paid to the designer plus a commission which is inclusive of design and planning, selection, delivery and installations.

The percentage charged depends on the nature of works to be executed, which can range from as low as 1% or less, if it’s a commercial contract (usually a large contract), and may go as high as 40% if it’s a small residential project. This means that the percentage charge will vary depending on the size of the project.

What are the drawbacks?

Some may have issues with this mode of payment, feeling the designer will intentionally choose pricey items to ensure fat commissions, but because this may make the project end up being of a high standard, and stylish in look and finish, the final result will turn out great anyway, and this probably will please the client and at the same time promote the works of the interior designer.

Many prospective clients seem quite comfortable with this mode of billing as every item that is chosen and purchased will only be marked up by the percentage to cover for overheads and profit. And a certified interior designer feels very comfortable with the percentage-over-cost billing method as every single item, large or small, is compensated for. And this may even be continuous if the client keeps on wanting additional stuff.

The popularity of this system speaks for itself. Good to consider.


4. Cost Per Square Metre/Square Foot

How does it work?

A very simple way of charging that is commonly used for space planning tasks and is usually a small amount per square meter or footage. What it entails is the interior designer simply measures the client’s space to determine the square meter (or square footage) to be designed. Then multiply by a pre-determined and mutually agreed amount.

Space planning is a specialized aspect of interior design and involves the design of space allocation to a person or group of people to work in (or within), so that designated tasks and duties can be performed optimally, with added convenience, efficiency and most especially, comfort.

What are the drawbacks?

However, this billing method can be used in combination with other forms of billing systems in the event that additional services are requested for by the client. This is due to the fact that space allocation is the beginning point of interior design and it eventually leads to the final design.

Once it has been ascertained that additional interior design services (asides space planning) are needed, that is, the task of choosing the required elements that are needed to complete the project, then a method of billing must be introduced by the designer to provide for services related to supplies and installations.

This billing method is popular for commercial interior design projects.


5. Retail Price

A method commonly associated with residential interior design projects, this was the traditional mode of payments applied some decades ago. This was before interior design became designated as a profession before the mid 20th century. Later the interior design study started to include complex technological services (electrical, lighting, etc...) for complete interior design projects.

How does it work?

In this billing method, no fee is directly charged for interior design services. Rather, the stated retail price from the retailers is charged the client and the certified interior designer's payment comes in form of discounts given by the retailer (merchants).

The prices quoted by their shops is all the client has to pay. The discount given the certified interior designer by the retailers is always between the designer and the merchant and it’s never the clients business so it is never disclosed outside the two parties. This works well only for furniture and furnishings provisions to a client.

What are the drawbacks?

When other services are needed then a problem might arise. If for example the services of an electrician are required, say to fix a chandelier, the interior designer will have to source for one, hire and then supervise his works whilst installing. Now since there won’t be any discounts on his labour costs the certified interior designer will have to employ other billing methods to charge the client for the electrician’s time and effort.

That’s why the retail billing method doesn’t adequately cover the normal scope of today's interior design projects.

Design services - Great for residential projects but impractical for commercial projects.

Design services - Great for residential projects but impractical for commercial projects.

6. Department Store Retail Price

How does it work?

Many department stores that sell home furniture and furnishings also offer interior design services. These services are usually provided free as long as a stipulated minimum number of items are purchased. In some cases, a fee may be charged for services, but if the purchase exceeds a certain amount then the charged fee is refunded.

What are the drawbacks?

This billing method is great for residential projects but impractical for commercial projects. Some dealers in office furniture, furnishings and equipment offer this service as well.


7. Combination Rates

This billing method is advised if working on a large project and a complex one.

How does it work?

The initial works of space planning can be charged per square metre (or square footage), at a pre-fixed or an hourly rate by the certified interior designer.

Percentage above cost billing can be used for the ordering of furniture, furnishings and deliveries.

What are the drawbacks?

If an interior designer is to purchase rare antique items that are costly, the retail mode of payment will be used. The client pays the price tag cost (no discounts for the client!) and the certified interior designer makes their money from a commission given by the retailer.

The combination method of billing is the best option for such projects incorporating the best methods appropriate for each aspect of the design project.

Drawing Up Agreements for Interior Design Services

With all this said and done, when charges have been ascertained and agreed upon, it is now time to have a formal written and signed agreement (contract drawn up) outlining the intent of all parties involved and this will serve as a guide for the conduct of the business between both parties - the client and the certified interior designer.

It is always better and more acceptable for the certified interior designer to draw up the agreement and then the client may decide to give it a lawyer to go through and advice.

If all seems well and both parties -the client and the certified interior designer - are pleased and satisfied, the contract can now be signed and sealed, and subsequently delivered.

A Book Every Interior Designer Will Find Helpful

I found this book of tremendous help, and you may find it beneficial too. It is written by a veteran designer who is an expert on estimating, pricing, and budgeting systems in the design industry.

Its step-by-step instructions that include case studies and interviews with other professionals have helped designers and professional interior decorators establish prices and budgets that will not only make their clients pleased but also ensure their own businesses are run profitably.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I write up an interior design contract for my client?

Answer: It all depends on the interior design services you wish to provide your client.

For example:

Design and consultation

Renovation (or restoration)

Commercial or residential design

Interior construction (eg. kitchen upgrade)


You will find ideas at -

There, you will find templates that can help you know what to do or how to approach it. There should be one or two that you'll find helpful. I recommend to only use the free downloads for now and substitute for your own business or personal name.

Question: I normally charge my clients, 'per square meters' for my designs projects. If the projects are smaller, lets say 200m² and I charge $10/m², the final amount seems acceptable. But when the area is bigger, lets say 1000m², the clients never agree to pay a fee of $10,000 as it seem too expensive just for designing excluding building cost. Im always in a dillemma, how do I charge?

Answer: What I do in this instance is to charge higher for the smaller projects and lower for large ones.

For example, for anything 200sqm or less, I’ll charge $10 per sqm.

Between 201 and 500sqm, I’ll charge $8.

From 501 to 1000, I’ll charge $6

Anything above 1000sqm, I’ll charge $5

Something like that. These are just examples of how you can grade your charges for interior design services. You can work out what’s best for your business using this as a guide.

Question: Also, I continued to ask to see my fabrics ordered before payment, each time I asked, I was charged $150! Finally, I have bolts of fabrics, but now there is a bolt of fabric not ordered by me! How to Handel this? She wants complete fabric payment, holding my furniture hostage in the middle of upholstery completion. My intention is to pay half up front. Is this correct?

Answer: $150 each time you request to view fabric samples? Hmm.

Once you have contracted the job to her, her charges should have covered for showing you samples when and if you wish.

These are my personal views:

What I would do is first, return the bolt of fabric you didn’t request for.

Secondly, the upfront payment should be around a minimum of 70%. An additional deposit may be requested for before final balances are paid. But this varies from one designer to another.

Question: My designers will not show me what kitchen cabinets actually cost. At the end of the project, I am paying him 15% over costs. Is this fair?

Answer: Yes, it is very fair. Many interior designers charge up to 20%

Question: When charging hourly for interior design, do you charge only for design and sourcing hours or also for drive time to and from stores and client's home?

Answer: I will charge hourly for:

*Creating the design concept.

*Sourcing time, which should commence from when you drive out from your office/home, move around to search for the stuff, till you get back to base.

I will not charge for driving to and from the clients home but will charge for the time spent for consulting.

Question: My designer for a small project (

Answer: The charge of $2k is in order.

Interior designers also receive a trade discount from retailers which he/she may or may not reveal to a client.

Having said that, some designers do still charge over and above a retail shop price, get a trade discount from the retailer, and also charge for services rendered.

This does amount of overcharging. Yes.

Question: Do I show my interior designs first before I ask to sign the contract or is it the other way around?

Answer: At some point, you’ll have to show and discuss your concept with your client, but you don’t give them the complete package before you sign the contract.

It’s a bit tricky in the sense that if you give a client everything before signing that contract, you never know. If he/she/they decide not to proceed with the project, you lose time and money.

What I do is ask for a small fee that will serve as a retainer fee after my initial rough designs. It will be deducted from the overall charges when the contract is finally signed and implemented.

Question: My interior designer wants me to pay up front for fabrics ordered before upholstery is complete. $15,000 also how do I handle fabric I did not want?

Answer: Before you pay for upholstery fabrics, you must be certain about your choice and confirm it officially. You will need to pay for your fabric choice 100% upfront.

If thereafter you dislike your choice, it’s your responsibility.

Question: Is it reasonable for my decorator to bill 20% on furniture delivery fees?

Answer: Personally, I won’t put a markup on delivery charges. I think it is unfair. Markup on the furniture items should suffice.

Question: I work for a residential firm and I was wondering if it’s standard in the industry for an hourly rate to be changed lower to oversee a project rather than charging $120 hr for design?

Answer: If you are going to supervise the project, you can definitely reduce your hourly rate. Clients like it when they understand that they'll be getting a lower rate.

Question: Is there a specific minimum amount for the consultancy that we as interior designers provide to a client?

Answer: It depends on the region where you live. For instance if you live in New York, the minimum you can charge for consultancy will be much higher than in a place like, say Ohio.

No, there is no specific amount.

Question: My interior designer charges and hourly rate of $100. What is the standard mark up/percentage that interior designers charge?

Answer: Mark-up will always depend on the region you reside in. While in some regions, markups can be as low as 15%, in others, an interior designer can charge as much as 35%. Some designers even charge 40%.

However, a good average is 25% over costs.

Question: I have a project (living room, dining, half-bath, hallway, and entryway) and I quote my client 14.000 materials and labor; I told them I will charge them 30%. Do you think that's okay or should I charge 20%?

Answer: Your charges should be based on the region you reside in. While you can charge up to 35% in some regions/countries, in others, you cant charge more than15%, especially if it’s a large project.

But to answer your question, you can charge your client anything between 20-30%. This gives you some room for negotiation.

© 2010 viryabo


Dawn Kingsbury on August 11, 2020:

Hello, I have found your article above interesting and it has clarified some of my questions. I am trying to find a good template for a residential contract with a combination of hourly rates and percentage over costs. Are there any free templates available? Much appreciated.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on November 02, 2019:

Hi S Richards,

You can bill your clients for some works done by your assistant. For instance, you can charge for the time they spend creating your clients' CAD drawings, visiting job sites (on your behalf), sourcing for products and materials, or visiting showrooms.

But, you can't charge for your assistant's time when he/she accompanies you to meetings, job sites, or showrooms and the like. That will amount to double charging.

Of course, you won't charge your client the same fee/hour that you'll charge for your assisstant. So, if for example, you charge $200 per hour for your time, the charges for your assistant can be about $75 to $100 per hour.

I hope this helps.

S Richards on November 02, 2019:

Hi there - thank you for the great info! We have just hired an should we be billing clients for the work she is doing? i.e. her time to drop off products, installation, ordering, supplier coordination etc?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on June 24, 2019:

Hello Dames.

Yes, $25k is fair. You can negotiate down to $20k.

A 10% charge of the actual budget agreed on is fair.

Dames on June 24, 2019:

Hi, I’ve engaged a qualified interior designer. They work in a fixed rate.

The job includes designs for both the interior of the 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, plus external landscaping, outdoor living and pool.

I said our budget was $200k-$250k and have received a fixed time quote of $25k for their time.

Is this fair?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on June 21, 2019:

Hello Aries.

1 - Well, some clients grouch a bit, so I charge a markup of 15% on B. However, some interior designers charge as much as 20%, depending on regions.

2 - When clients' have a vendor and decide to do purchases themselves, I don't charge for % cost on B. However, if I have to take care of ensuring deliveries and run-around, I charge about 5 - 7.5% on B, depending.

3. Yes. Include reimbursements for such. No, it is not a part of furnishings.

4 - I charge separately for consultation and design which actually includes all you mentioned. I like to separate them from the furnishing aspect. Some designers do charge a blanket fee per square foot which includes consultation, design, and implementation. From my own experience, I've found that separating them is best.

I hope this will be of some help.

Aries Haus on June 20, 2019:

Hello Viryabo,

Thank you for an informative article.

I am a new designer that has just procure a larger project than what I have in the past. In this case, it is for the entire model home. I do want to adapt the combination rates for this project instead of the hourly rate in the past for my smaller single-room projects. However, I do want to avoid over charging or even double charging my client and I also want to be fair in my fees so to build a relationship with this client that may open up to more projects in the future.

I plan on charging per square foot (A) + % cost of furnitures, furnishing and deliveries (B)

Here are where I need your help:

1. What is the fair % to mark up on fee (B)?

2. Whether client has a vendor on where they prefer to order their products, do I charge for sourcing items or is it included in fee (A)?

3. Do I also include reimbursement on other related fees such as electrician fee to install light fixtures or is that part of furnishing?

4. Does the fee per square foot also include time spent drafting the plan, consulting with client, presenting clients with choices for designs?

Thank you for your time

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on June 06, 2019:

Hello Lucy.

I usually add the % markup in my quote for furniture, furnishings, etc... And my client will be made to understand that.

This means that I get paid as well, when payments for purchases are made.

I have, in a few cases, asked for my % after deliveries. But I find that a few clients want to haggle on this after deliveries are made.

So, my advice is to go with the former. Let the client know what they have to pay from the onset.

A majority of clients are accepting of this and will gladly make inclusive payments.

Lucy on June 05, 2019:

When do you pay the percentage for purchasing furnitures, fixtures and fabrics to your interior designer? Upon completion or making the purchase.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on May 01, 2019:

Hello Melinda.

It depends on how it all came about so it’s hard to say if you can have any recourse in the first place.

If, for instance, your client stopped your interior design service abruptly without a good reason, yes you can.

If there was a disagreement between the both of you about the delivery of service, it will be a different issue. Nonetheless, works done can be measured and if the client owes, whatever the issue he/she has, you should be paid for the works you’ve covered.

Melinda Kennemer on May 01, 2019:


I recently had a client hire another interior designer towards the end of my project. Do I have any recourse?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 18, 2019:

KJR23, some clients do want a breakdown of costs incurred for purchasing items for their project.

What I do is list the retail prices of purchases (some clients go behind our backs to check) as they are on the shop floor.

In my bill, I indicate my % over costs of purchases separately, say x%, whether I get them retail or wholesale.

My fees for creating the design concept, implementing, and supervising, and my time generally, is also indicated separately.

I have found that this way, it’s clear to the client what he/she has to pay for, right from the start.

If they decide to go out to purchase things for themselves, all well and good, but most clients don’t have the time, the ‘eye’, nor patience to do that.

I leave some room for negotiations because most will ask for some discount, no matter how small.

KJR23 on March 18, 2019:

As a designer, I typically use the % over costs. As this encompasses everything, it is great until the client wants a breakdown of how much each item costs. Since it includes my time, design services and product, freight, warehousing and installation, that final price per item seems ridiculously high to them and they compare in their heads what they can purchase it for themselves (now that they have seen it in my presentation). It's a real challenge for me. I don't disclose the % since it varies on whether an item was purchased at w/s or retail. Suggestions?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on August 19, 2018:

Hello Joan,

If your interior designer is ordering for your fabric from, say, out of your locality, It's a good idea to have it listed separately so you are aware of its charge.

It is not considered a "cost of doing business".

Joan on August 14, 2018:

My designer wants to charge UPS freight charge for fabric. Isn't this considered "cost of doing business"?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on April 28, 2018:

Hello LaShunda,

Thank you. I am glad that you found this article helpful and useful for your interior design practice.

Best wishes.

LaShunda LaMotte on April 22, 2018:

Words can not express how very grateful I am to have come across the information you have shared on pricing. This will be very helpful for me to know how to give proper quotes needed when chosen to execute my services as a Certified Interior Designer. I have been Blessed to have several services requested from me but was not comfortable on knowing if I expressed the correct or fair prices. Without a doubt I was not going to stop searching until I was able to get concrete professional satisfied information about this matter in order for me to continue to become very well financially established in my business. So with all of that being said I am truly thankful for your time on sharing amazing information for others like myself to enhance in our businesses. Enjoy your day, be Blessed, as well as a Blessing.

LaShunda LaMotte

Epic Interior Designs

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 29, 2018:

Thank you Mary.

Yes it is standard, and 10% is quite fair.

I hope this helps :)

Mary Bolger on January 26, 2018:

Your article is very informative. Is it standard practice for an interior designer to take a percentage of the fee an interior painter charges- say %10 of his estimate ?

Sou-2018 on January 17, 2018:

Thank you so much . Your response was fair enough!

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 17, 2018:

Hello Sou-2018

Personally, the hourly rate doesn't quite work for me and I don't use it.

Rather, depending on the type of project, I use the rate/square metre (commercial designs), or a pre-fixed rate, which I negotiate with the client.

And if it is a large or complex project, I charge a combination rate.

With experience, I have learned to know when to work with any of the 3 billing systems. I don't stick to only one method.

I hope this answers your question.

Omolara Reuben on January 16, 2018:

Thanks for your prompt response.

Now I know why some don't get back to me. I will keep learning and keep growing.

Sou-2018 on January 14, 2018:


It is always difficult to convince clients about the time that is necessary a job to be done. That is why it is difficult to chagre them hourly even if it is my favorite method of charging. What should I do? Thank you.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 11, 2018:

Hi Lara,

It is true that interior designers, in most cases, wont get paid before doing a presentation. However, what I do is give some preliminary sketches to whet a client's appetite.

For instance, after the initial question/answer with a prospective client and the usual measurement-taking, I proceed to do some initial sketches using a simple software program.

Depending on the kind of project, I can always whip something out in a couple of hours. No detailed sketches, no dimensions, no 3D's, just vague representations. I don't usually give them copies of sketches and stuff at this initial stage but converse more about my concept while we both view my first sketched ideas, and I 'feel their pulse'.

I have found that this makes the client know you are a professional and they are then willing to go a step further.

With time and experience, I have learned when a client is just out to pick my brain or when he/she is serious.

Lara on January 10, 2018:

Thank you for this topic,

Its common here to see clients ask you for a quote or presentation before deciding to give you the job. In many cases after your presentation you may not get the job but you will notice of n follow up that your ideas are being implemented.

How do you make up for time and resources spent in putting a bid together? How much do you hold back during a presentation and not look unserious?

Kindly share your experience on this ma'am.

Will on November 30, 2017:


Thank you for your quick response.

That is what I thought but I wanted to make sure before I make counter statements to my client.

FYI, your answer is correct. I received 3 California attorneys response to the same questions and they all came back as stating is is perfectly legal to charge fees upfront. Gotta love Rocket Lawyer lol!

Thank You again!

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on November 30, 2017:

Hello Will,

I'm not quite sure what your upfront fees indicates. However, if it's what I think, collecting a deposit which I refer to as a retainer fee is not illegal.

Since this deposit will be deducted from your overall fees, I don't see any reason why a client won't want to pay you a desposit, no matter how small, if only just to show his/her commitment.

What is certain is that it is not illegal.

I'm not very conversant with Californian laws but I doubt if it's that much different from the laws of other regions in the US as it pertains to interior design services. What I know differs is the rates applied by each region, some quite high-end, some not so.

I hope I have answered your question.

Best wishes.

Will on November 29, 2017:


I am an interior designer. I had a potential client tell me that collection up front for fee's is illegal?

I charge a flat rate for services/consultation and have done so for over 2 years now. This was obviously alarming and I don't want to be "outside" the law.

Your help is appreciated. I am in Southern California.


viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on November 17, 2017:

Thank you for your comments, Nina.

To answer your questions:

Yes, it is a good aproach to charge for interior design services and procurement separately. This is a combination method of billing.

Charging an hourly rate for your design concept, and then charging separately to procure items specified in your design concept is the method I mostly use. That way, it's fairer to the client. Charging an hourly rate for product ordering usually doesn't go down well with most clients. They hate that they can't prove you spent Xhrs to source for items.

Communicating the % markup to clients? - Yes, I always think it's best to come clean with a client. They will probably negotiate on this, which is fine. You can determine where to draw the line (in your mind). I usually state it in my bill, but give a little allowance for negotiations.

I mostly have payments made to my company account and haven't had cause to use a billing platform. However, if I have, say an online client, I will probably opt for PayPal.

As per charging them, I always ask for a retainer, a lump sum fee that will be deducted from the total charges on completion of the design phase. But there is no hard and fast rule for this. It depends on what works best for you. Splitting charges for design services into monthly payments is also good. But getting a client to pay some before he/she sees some aspect of work being done (no matter how little) may be difficult.

No, I don't bill clients before I present drawings to them. I first do a 'rough' proposal and when the client prompts me by showing interest in my concept, I ask for a deposit which will include the time I've spent to prepare my 'rough' proposal.

It's true that the work is best completed in phases but clients usually want to have an idea of what they'll be paying for.

Going by your example, if for instance, the project is divided into 3 phases, it will be specified in my bill that the tasks will be divided into three phases (describing each phase in detail). I will also explain that payments must be made at the end of each phase, before the commencement of the next one. Remember I received a retainer (lump deposit) before the commencement of more detailed works.

I hope I have answered your questions :) If you have further questions or more in-depth explanations, please feel free to ask me.

Nina Guslovic on November 17, 2017:

Great and thorough post. Thank you so much! I plan to charge clients an hourly rate for my design services - which include creating floor plans, space plans / furniture layouts as well as designing custom cabinetry, furniture and sourcing everything. As you know, this is all time consuming and the hourly rate would cover the designs that I am passing along to them. Along with this, I will charge a commission of 35% - 40% on all items client buys through my firm. I find this method is very fair. The commission covers the time spent ordering the product on behalf of the client as well as the installation of these products in the client's home once the project is nearing completion. The commission eradicates the option of charging another hourly rate for installation services which could escalate very quickly. Would you agree this is a good method to approach?

Also, should I communicate to the client the percentage I plan to markup every product by? This way, the client can pretty much guess what is the wholesale price of their item if they were to do the math :D

What platform do you use to bill clients? PayPal, etc. Do you recommend charging them monthly only? There are various platforms for billing, which one do you consider ideal?

Finally, do you bill clients every month even before you present the designs to them? By this I mean, you've created a design and spent X amount of hours working on them. Do you go ahead and bill them once that "phase" of the project is completed and present once payment is received OR do you bill for every single phase and then present when you've got ALL the design phases ready? I'm thinking the actual presentations to clients are done in phases, no? Such as Phase one "floorpans, layouts, custom cabinetry and/or furniture drawings. Phase two, finishes such as paint, tile, wooden floors, etc. Phase three " furniture + accessories" presentation. I feel if the presentations are divided the clients feel less overwhelmed by all the information we are giving them. Phase 1 and 2 could be combined for a smaller project. Thank you so much in advance.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on October 30, 2017:

Sandra, your interior designer need not make you purchase from a particular vendor, especially as you've found you can get your furnishing items for less. Even with the 20% discount, you may find that you'll still be paying more.

In a case as this, I make sure my client can use any vendor, even asides the ones I suggest. You can insist on using the less expensive vendors and your designer should charge you for time/hour expended only.

Hope this helps.

Sandra K Hanks on October 29, 2017:

My designer was vague about the billing practices. Proposals were drawn up including custom drapes, rugs and furniture. I did some comparative shopping and I am paying 30-65% more than the same products would cost at other retailers. The designer holds firm that I am being discounted 20% of the cost of the items. How does this seem to you?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on October 04, 2017:

Hello Jerry.

Yes, I do get a deposit, after my client and I have concluded on charges for design services. I usually refer to it as a retainer.

However, it varies from 15% to 25%, depending on a few factors and whether it's a residential or commercial project. For the larger projects, I charge 15% upfront.

Hope this helps.

Jerry on October 02, 2017:

Before you carry out any design work do you get a fee?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on September 12, 2017:

Okay I see.

As the client, if your work involves designing, for instance, a room or an interior of a building, your designer will charge for design services that will involve creating a concept for you. Here, you will be charged for design services.

Now, if after it all, you need the designer to procure furniture and finishes for your project, on your behalf, here is where the combination rates can come in.

Because procurement and design services can be separated,

"Percentage above cost billing can be used for the ordering of furniture, furnishings and deliveries" as I mentioned above.

It can be a tricky situation in that a designer may claim it took them X hours to find what is required to buy. And you may never know if, while sourcing for your goods, they are sourcing for goods for 3 or 4 other clients at the same time. Then charge you all the same amount covering the X hours or even days.

It's best to separate the two at times because you can't really prove they spent X hours to look for your own requirements.

The designer may spend just a couple of hours to source but claim they spent many hours and sometimes days to find what's right for you.

I have found that many of my clients prefer to separate the two. But then, there is no hard and fast rule about it all as long as you can both arrive at an agreeable conclusion, with a bit of a haggle at times.

Ellaquince on September 12, 2017:

Thanks; somewhat. But I'm the client, not the one doing the charging. I am asking about the designer charging ME both an hourly rate and commission -- not commission paid by the store or dealer. Does that make a difference? I think if I am paying for designer's time, I should not have to pay commission for the same shopping trip. Conflict of interest.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on September 12, 2017:

Hello Ellaquince

If the commissions are based on goods purchased on behalf of your client, then yes, you can charge both for hourly rates of the interior design services + commission on goods.

Hope this helps.

Ellaquince on September 11, 2017:

What do you think of designers charging an hourly rate plus commission?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on September 07, 2017:

You are welcome, Jayne. Glad you find it informative

Jayne Marino on September 07, 2017:

Extremely informative. Thank you so much!

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on June 05, 2017:

You are welcome, Suresh. Glad you found it informative.

suresh patel on June 04, 2017:

its nice information for me..thanks

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on May 23, 2017:

Thank you for visiting Thameem, I'm glad you find this informative.

Best of luck in your interior design freelancing career.

Thameem on April 29, 2017:

Thanks to give me such a wonderful idea, ill gonna start my interior designer freelancer work this is very help full to me to get some idea to approach client as a decent manner, thank you viryabo

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on October 03, 2016:

Thanks SAllen,

Design charges per sq. metre (or foot) vary from one region to another with charges ranging from as low as $5/sq.m to as high as $9.50 for residential projects.

(In some regions of the world, they go as low as $2/sq.m)!

For commercial projects, we are looking at pricing within the range of $7.50 to $16

Many clients are generally comfortable with this kind of pricing, more that hourly rates, for reasons that's quite understandable.

With specialized items like designs of built-in wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, etc... pricing should be per linear metre (foot)

A great place to find more information on this is from the ASID chapter in the part of the country you work/live in.

I hope this helps.

SAllen on October 03, 2016:

Great article. I have been in business for 10 years but changing my pricing methods. I plan to use the sq. ft. method however, I'm not sure how to determine the appropriate sq. ft. dollar amount for the market I'm in. Any suggestions on where I might find useful information to help with my question?

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on September 15, 2016:

Glad you find it helpful Po Ku.

Po Ku from Toronto on September 14, 2016:

Hi, very helpful article. I am a custom home builder and use a standard project management form. I've tried other ways of charging for services but always come back to the project management method.

Arco Hess from Kansas City, Kansas on November 07, 2014:

I think most actually charge a combination of what you mentioned (at least in my area). Department store costs, plus a contract "bonus" at the beginning and then some other fee, possibly hourly.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on May 08, 2014:

Thank you so much for the nice comments Kayla. Blessings.

Kayla Danielle from Illinois on May 08, 2014:

I cant get over how perfect that picture is at the top of the page. The ground floor one. I just have not seen anything like it and its so fascinating. Your page is really amazing and You did a good job.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on September 10, 2012:

So true Fotoviva. Thanks for visiting.


fotoviva from Swansea on July 20, 2012:

I think these days many home owners think they are interior designers! Truth is, they are to a degree but you can never replace the inspiration a professional interior designer can bring to your home.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on May 29, 2012:

Thanks for visiting and reading, Man from Modesto. That's a good idea you just suggested which i will carry out very soon.

I am sure, as you said, that interior designers starting out will appreciate a guide on how to get into the business.

Thanks for the suggestion.


Man from Modesto from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California) on May 29, 2012:

I know a young woman who just got certified as an interior designer. Could you write a hub on how to get started in the interior design business? I'm sure others starting out would like to know how to build clientele as well.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 01, 2012:

Hello Jun, thanks for stopping by.

It depends. What is the curriculum of your six month interior design course? If it covers major topics in interior design such as space planning, lighting, colours, etc.., then once you graduate and start working, you can work your way up to the top of the ladder.

Yes it will take a number of years, but it is achievable.

On the other hand, you can (after completion of this course you are on) pick an area of specialisation in interior design, and do additional courses on that, on-line, e.g. furniture design, custom designs, stage design, lighting design, space planning and design, custom cabinetry (bathrooms, kitchens), etc..

You will have the time to still work and learn more as you go along.

Experience they say, is sometimes the best teacher.

Best of luck Jun.

Jun on March 01, 2012:

Hii, interior designing is my hobby. I love to spend my most of the times in designing things. So i took admission in interior designing, bt my course duration is only 6 months. With this short duration will i be able to become a professional interior designer in my future life.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on August 04, 2010:

Hi ericosiu, thanks for visiting and for finding the time to leave a nice comment.

And welcome to HubPages.


ericosiu on August 04, 2010:

This is definitely some great stuff here for starting interior designers. Great work!

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on May 11, 2010:

Hello Jenny. Thanks for the visit. The great thing about this profession is that you need not have any starting off costs. All you need are your creative ideas, your computer (if you use software programs for interior design), or a simple sketch pad and pencil. That's how i started off, drafting on a drawing board.

Your first client should pay you some form of deposit.

Hope this helps

jenny on May 11, 2010:

Hi, lots of helpful information, but how do you bill your very first client when you have no revenue to start?

:-( Thank you

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 26, 2010:

Hi sreeiit, you are welcome. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice comment.


@shanel, Im glad you found it informative. Sometimes it seems the billing methods are not clear cut, and a lot of designers have lost some revenue because they are unsure of how to bill appropriately.

Thanks for your visit and taking the time to leave a comment.


shanel from Seattle on March 26, 2010:

Thank you for all of the practical information regarding billing practices for an interior decorator. Nice hub.

sreeiit on March 02, 2010:

This is good information and an interesting topic to write on. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

sreeiit on March 02, 2010:

This is good information and an interesting topic to write on. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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