How Much Should Interior Designers Charge for Consultations?

“Ohhhhh, you’re an INTERIOR DESIGNER??? You have to come check out my house – I’ve been looking for someone to help me with my kitchen remodel!”

How many times have you heard this or something like it?

And how many times have interior design consultations turned into a big, fat dead-end? Wasted time you can never get back, spent driving across town and back, to talk with someone who wasn’t really that serious to begin with.

Because, we’re just lounging around in the studio all day playing with fabrics and have nothing better to do, right?

Thankfully, the trend of free, in-home consultations has mostly gone the way of the Dodo. Charging an up-front fee – you know, for your valuable time – has become common practice, separating serious prospective clients from tire-kickers.

But, deciding on what to charge for your consultation can be a daunting task. Think about it: that rate is part of your first impression with the prospective client.

The number you choose communicates something. How Much Should Interior Designers Charge For Consultations?

In this post, we’re going to talk about three, different fees you could be charging for your consultations – but after we talk about that, we definitely need to talk about something very important …

How to get qualified prospects in the first place. More on that later.

The amount you should charge for consultations all depends on your ideal client (see below) and the overall fee for your services. The higher the design fee, the more you should charge for your consultation. But, let’s take a look at a few numbers to see what they might communicate to a client.

$197

Two hundred dollars is the absolute minimum you should charge. This amount is perfect for a small, single-room project. It communicates an “express” style of design for clients who are just starting to dip their toes into working with a design professional.

$397

Four hundred dollars is a good consultation fee for a mid-range home remodel. It’s high enough that it will deter tire-kickers and rate-shoppers, but will also communicate that you are serious about your work.

$997

One thousand dollars means business – it’s the Linda Evangelista of consultation fees (90s supermodel reference, anyone?). A $997 consultation fee says, “I’m worth it – you either get it or you don’t.”

With this fee, you definitely want to spend a good amount of brainstorming time with a client. Meet all decision makers at the house or the site, walk through it and conceptualize a grand plan. Bring an assistant along to record everything. Be prepared to wow them on-the-spot with your amazing ideas. Follow up in two weeks with a concept board.

With all of these consultation fees, definitely apply the rate as a credit to the overall fee for the project.

However, all of this information is pointless if you’re not actively attracting the right client to you in the first place.

It doesn’t matter what you charge for a consultation if your lead hasn’t been properly qualified or prepped; meeting with the wrong client isn’t worth any amount of money.

Let’s talk about that now, how do you attract the right interior design clients for your business?

Step One: Ideal Client Avatar

In order for you to attract the proper clients, you must know who they are – both demographically and psychographically. We call this an ideal client avatar (ICA).

Demographics are things like age, marital status, zip code, household income, etc. Those are all very important things to know.

But psychographics are your clients personality quirks, their media preferences, cultural touchstones, who they aspire to be, and – most importantly – the design problem they have which you can solve.

Who are these people, on and off paper? You must know them intimately so you can …

Step Two: Talk to Your ICA in Your Content

Keeping a blog, posting to Instagram, writing Facebook business page updates are all important things to do, but doing these things isn’t for you – they’re for your client.

With your content, you should be sharing useful information that provides value for your client. Each time you write or post, ask yourself, “will my ideal client find value in this?”

But I’m not just talking educational value – which is important – I’m talking about emotional value. What would connect better with a client: talking about paint colors or talking about the emotional triggers that have prompted them to seek the assistance of a designer?

Emotional triggers are things like:

  • Wanting a suitable home for their family
  • Avoiding entertaining because their home is dated
  • Needing a sanctuary because their job requires 70+ hours a week

If you don’t factor your ICA into your content, you’re not talking to them – you’re probably just talking to yourself. If you’re not talking to them, you can’t expect they’ll be able to find or connect with you.

Or hire you.

Step Three: Target Your ICA with Advertising

Let’s be real for a second: your services as a designer probably aren’t for everyone. That’s my way of saying you’re expensive.

While many people are perfectly fine with DIY-ing the interior environment of their home, your client prefers to leave things like this to a professional – that’s you.

Further, the relationship between client and designer is intimate because you’re delving into the finer points of their personal lives. For these reasons, you want to make sure you’re only giving time on your calendar to the right people.

Sites like Houzz may give you good exposure with consumers looking for interior designers – but it’s passive marketing for you, meaning: you get what you get in terms of views on your profile.

However, with targeted advertising, YOU get to decide who sees your ad.

With this power, you can target an unlimited array of criteria: age, zip codes and cities, marital status, household income and net worth, home values, and endless interests.

Active marketing like this allows you to focus on finding and working with your ideal client, rather than simply working to get hired by whoever reaches out to you.

Which brings me back to the consultation …

Even when you’re charging for it, you still want to close as many consultations as possible. And, when you’re a designer, your leads are valuable – so, even a 20% increase in revenue for you could be HUGE.

Yes, charge for your consultations, but start to actively target your ideal clients if you haven’t already.

Want to join our FREE Facebook group just for interior designers? Sign up below and save your spot!

8 Replies to “How Much Should Interior Designers Charge for Consultations?”

  1. I charge differently. My first visit is a consultation only to see if the project is a good fit. We talk about scope, format, expectations, fees, budget and time frame. No specific design information is given out. My fee is $250 for about an hour, give or take; we should be able to cover those items in that amount of time. Anything beyond that usually starts to be a brain picking session. When they start asking “What would you do with…” I stop them and say “That’s part of the design process; I never shoot from the hip.” And then I say, “Where would you like me to send the proposal?”

    1. I also charge $250 for a first time consult which lasts about an hour. This is credited back to them if they decide to use my services. At this first meeting we walk through the house and they tell me all of their wants, needs, desires and budget, and I give them a little information here and there just to peak their interest. I then relate a few appropriate stories and share a few appropriate inspirational images to show them that I understand their design aesthetic, and I know what they are looking for. I don’t give away too much information, I merely get them interested and excited so that they want more. At the end of the session I ask them how they would like to proceed, and most of them there and then (since they have already been pre-qualified in a phone interview) hand over their retainer money. We then make a date for when we will meet again in the near future at which time I will have a comprehensive presentation prepared for them. This presentation includes images, prices, sources, a shared Pinterest board and mood boards. I also give them an estimate of the cost of the presentation (which comes out of the retainer) based on the hours it will take me to gather and prepare all of the information. This presentation is their blueprint and is full of valuable information. We then embark on the decision making, purchasing and installation phases of the project.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I am constantly having to sidestep the clients that don’t want to pay for the consultation. Having the fee set definitely sets the tire kickers apart from actual clients who are willing to pay for the service.

  3. I charge $375 for the initial consultation and I keep it to 1.5 hrs where I do what I call “walk and talk” where I keep asking clients to give me their pain points about the project. If they get into asking specific questions I remind them that good design takes time and I do not shoot from the hip. I measure the space and take pictures. I also collect my client questionnaire I have them fill out in their own words so I can prepare a proper design fee proposal for them.
    This article has been very helpful, thank for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *