Which Costing Method is Best for Interior Design?

Setting interior design fees is a tricky business. You want to be fair to your clients but also make sure you’re profitable and can run your business with a decent salary.

One way to do this is to use a fixed fee. This can be calculated on a per square foot basis or as a lump sum.

Job Costing

Job costing is a popular interior design fee structure for commercial projects. In this method, you calculate the total project costs, including period expenses such as rent, office supplies and utilities, then divide the amount by your rate per square foot (or metres squared if working in metric). This allows you to charge a fair price and manage your project expenses effectively.

Another common way to price your service is by the hour. This works well for seasoned designers who have years of experience under their belt and can deliver projects within the desired timeframe, without having to resort to overtime. However, newer designers might find it challenging to sell this model. They need to build up their reputation and demonstrate that they are worth the price tag.

Another way to charge your services is by a flat fee, which can be based on different formulas. Some interior designers use this strategy to ensure that they make a profit no matter what the project is. In this scenario, the client has full visibility of all your fees from the start, which might lead to a more transparent relationship between both parties. However, the disadvantage of this method is that it can be difficult to predict how long a project will take. As a result, it might be hard for your clients to plan their budget.

Per Square Foot

There are many ways to price interior design projects. Some designers choose to charge by the hour, others by square foot or by room. There is also a push for designers to be transparent in their pricing structures so that clients understand what their work will cost and have a clear understanding of the scope of their project.

Pricing by the square foot is typically reserved for commercial projects, but it is not unheard of for residential designs. This method works well for larger spaces such as a great room, master bedroom or kitchen. The range for this method is from $10-$17 per square foot. Interior designers will often use this as a base and add a percentage to cover furnishing costs, management of contractors or other services.

The problem with this type of pricing structure is that it can be difficult to predict how much time a design will take to complete. There are many factors that influence the amount of time a design will take including size, complexity, client communication, furnishings choices and other details. What one designer can accomplish in a day may take another designer an entire week.

This can cause confusion for clients, particularly when a contractor or fabricator is quoted the same rate. It can also lead to the potential of undercharging which could result in a loss for the designer.

Lump Sum

A lump sum payment is a single one-time payment as opposed to a series of payments over time. It is often used for retirement plans, inheritances and lottery payouts. If you are considering a lump sum payment, you should consider several factors before making a decision. For example, you should consider the tax consequences and whether a lump sum will be more beneficial than an annuity. You should also consider your estate and gift planning goals. In addition, you should research the financial professional who will be managing the lump sum, including their track record and reputation.

A lump sum can be a large amount of money and is often more desirable than the periodic annual payments associated with an annuity. However, a lump sum may be subject to taxes and investment fees, which can make it more expensive than an annuity. The simplest analysis compares the monthly annuity payment to what you think you can get from investing the lump sum. You should include the amount of time you expect to live, the potential return on investments and the risk level in your calculation.

Pricing your interior design work as a flat fee or lump sum is a good way to ensure you are making a profit on the project. This method is a bit more challenging than pricing by the square foot because you must be sure that your retail markup covers your design time and any costs related to purchasing furnishings.

Variable Rate

One way to price interior design projects is to use a fee schedule. This is a list of fees that you entail your clients, and it can be used to determine the scope of the project and how much you charge for each service. It can also help you protect your bottom line and make sure that you are not overcharging for your services.

This method of pricing is commonly used for large residential projects, but it can be used for commercial work as well. It requires the designer to anticipate all the costs of the project and add a profit margin and contingency reserve to come up with an estimate. Then, the designer divides this number by the square footage of the project to come up with the fee.

The disadvantage of using this method is that it can lead to budget issues, especially if the client’s scope of work expands beyond your estimates. Another problem is that it can be difficult to track hours spent on a project, which can result in inaccurate billings.


A good way to prevent these problems is to negotiate prices with vendors. A good design firm will be able to obtain significant trade discounts that are not available to retail or even commercial individuals. These discounts can save your company money and also make the project run more smoothly.

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