3.30.2011

setting prices: Are you worth it?

One of the trickiest parts to starting a new business is setting your prices...especially as a decorator.  If your prices are too high no one will hire you.  
If your prices are too low, people will assume you have no idea what you're doing.  
Will they think you are worth it?  

There is a wide range of what a designer might charge.  Of course I think my prices are fair for my area and experience, {$50/hour} and there are other design bloggers charging $100/hour and higher.  And I'm sure they are worth every penny!  

One of the best bloggers out there is Maria from Colour Me Happy.  She is a "colour" expert and uses her blog as a teaching tool as well as developing her business.  I know I will always learn something when she writes.  In 2008, Maria wrote an amazing post and she graciously agreed to let me share portions of her post with my readers.  All italics are Maria's words.  To read the full article click here.

When my installer handed me his invoice of $210.00 for an installation that lasted approximately 1 1/2 hours, I got to thinking; why is it that a home-owner seems to have no real issues with paying for labour? The painter, plumber, electrician, tile layer, carpenter, and so on. But hiring the DESIGNER or COLOUR CONSULTANT--even if it’s just for a 2 hour consultation--to pull it all together, to make it all beautiful and fabulous, seems to fall into the category of LUXURY?


Wouldn't you agree that most people consider hiring a professional a luxury?  They assume a decorator is only for the rich, when really, a one-hour consult can go a loooooong way.
I have a friend in West Vancouver who wanted to hire a local, high-end, interior designer when they started their kitchen renovation. She loved the contemporary style of kitchen this designer was known for and it was exactly what she wanted. When the husband heard how much this designer charged for the first consultation, he said NO WAY. They ended up going through THREE designers before they got the kitchen they wanted. And do you know how much this renovation ended up costing them? I can’t tell you it upset me so much, but I’ll tell you this—A lot more than they would have if they hired the designer they originally wanted in the first place.


Just another example of how designers can actually save you money--they keep you from making the initial mistake that will cost double to fix.


Two years ago, Robert Allen had an event featuring their designer fabrics for spring. Kimberley Seldon was their guest speaker and at one point in the evening she asked “Who here charges less than $100 per hour?”. To the few who raised their hand, she said “Shame on you, do you think you have less responsibility than a plumber?”. This statement, by the way, confirms the first point I made earlier.


When you hire a designer for a consultation or for the entire job, you are looking for the WHY? You have a bunch of ideas, after all, you are the one that has been staring at your house for years! Fundamentally though, you want to know IF your ideas are right and if they are not, you want to know WHY! It’s a great marriage saver because the designer gives you objective opinions based on what’s current, the products that are available, how to mix your new renovations/colours with the old, and so on. Left to their own devices, most couples make decisions based mostly on their likes and dislikes without taking into consideration what works for the space or why.


I received an e-mail yesterday from a potential client who was a bit hesitant to hire me because she had a love for style and design herself.  But her reality is that she does not have the time to pull it all together.  Because I spend my time staying current on available products, current trends, and researching designs, I am able to save her time for what's most important to her--family and work.

If the home-owner makes ONE bad purchase decision – that would have already paid for the designer. And if you are on a budget, you have no budget to waste on mistakes!!



When is hiring a designer, a luxury? Well, if you hire one to custom design every piece of your house down to the tassel on your $1,200 toss cushions, then yes, that’s when a designer becomes a luxury.

Happiness can be restored where there is disagreement very quickly, by hiring a designer for—at the very minimum—a CONSULTATION before you make the mistakes you can’t afford to make anyways. That is an absolute NECESSITY!

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your wisdom today and starting the conversation.

Have you worked with a decorator or designer?  Was it worth it?  If not, what is keeping you from taking the plunge?



**Don't forget to check-out my two week, Spring Sale on design services here.**

35 comments:

  1. That's surprisingly true! If you want a serious answer to the question, I got one. It is surprisingly simple, and probably one thing a stylist loses sight of because they know so well what they do, contrary to the rest of us mere mortals ;-) I think people don't hire a home stylist because they think this stylist would need much more time than just a few hours to get the job done. The way I thought of it, a stylist would come to my home, look at the rooms in question (which would sooner or later probably be all) and then go home and work out ideas and research products to buy and then come back, discuss them with me, I'd get them and he/she would arrange them. Im my mind, that's a few days of work with 100$ per hour. Which accumulates to about 3500$ with 7 hours a day for one week. So maybe it would help if you described what a stylist can do in a short time, and how far one could get with only a few affordable hours instead of a week or so? I mean, me and my boyfriend for example have enough dough between the two of us to hire a stylist for a day or so if we were to ever find a new house, but I doubt that we'd be willing to plunk down thousands on it. So if you told us the benefits of a "short room therapy" maybe more people would have one :-)

    Relatable Style

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  2. Abby, great article! I loved Marias comment about paying for trades but thinking designers are a luxury. Why does no one respect this profession? We are responsible for so many, many details and WE orchestrate the trades. No one does what we do, and yet people don't always see the value...

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  3. Great article Abby! Thanks for sharing:)

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  4. Abby, fantastic post. Maria is a mentor for me and I think her advice is fantastic. I love the way you presented it here. Like any profession, a designer is worth hiring for the right advice. I think most of the time if the designer isn't valued, it's because the client doesn't understand the value of design in the first place. I think it's also our job to set the appropriate expectation with the client so that they know what to expect from us and what our actual service is. We don't just make things look nice. There is a reason why we do what we do. Maria is right -- our value is in answering the WHY of things. Again, great post!

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  5. Creativity is always hard for people to pay for and I doubt that will ever change. Setting prices is such a challenge but I think a basic economic rule can help decide, supply & demand. The more work you get, the more you can charge because you are in demand! Charging $500.00/hour sounds great but is not realistic if no one will hire you!

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  6. What a great great great post!

    I have heard this discussion around blogland and from others for quite sometime. I think this article sums up a lot of what is going around. It is so important to make sure that designer and creatives alike stick together.

    Preston Bailey posed a similar argument on his website a few weeks ago.

    It was a great read.

    Thanks so much for doing this.

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

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  7. Great post. I agree pricing is really hard. When I first started I was really budget friendly, but it got to the point where I was making really little an hour after all of the emails/meetings/installs. At this point I was doing package rates.

    I learned quickly to stop doing that. I finally had the push to raise my prices and work only hourly when I saw my clients had no problem paying my handy man a nice hourly rate and he was making more than me at that point. Not fun.

    I'm still on the budget friendly side for NY, but I make sure now that I'm getting paid for my talent and time.

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  8. What a fantastic post! I'm currently taking an interior decorating program and having been going over stuff in my head as I think about setting up my own business. This gave me some things to think about! Thanks so much for sharing it! :)

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  9. What a great post -- and great for people (like me, on the other side) to read and know! We pay contractors for their knowledge and expertise...and because we know we'd eff it up if we attempted ourselves...same goes with making design choices!

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  10. This was a fabulous post and I agreed with every word. Up until this point, I have done everything in my house myself. Hiring a designer for my kitchen has been a totally fabulous experience and I feel totally worth every penny-

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  11. What a wonderful post and I think you would be worth every penny!!! =)

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  12. Great post Abby, it is amazing how many people want you to give them "tips" for free, but will pay top dollar for contractors, plumbers, etc. There is always a fine line on how much your time is worth, especially when you love to do it anyway.

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  13. This is a great post (obviously (c:) and some other great conversations being generated by it...I'm just busy drooling over all the amazing pics you posted with it! The dining room with the amazing mirror is going on my lust list...(c:

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  14. Oh and no I didn't know about the widening the margins thing...I am a complete computer dunce!!! Thanks for the tip! (c:

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  15. Great post. I tell all my clients they will make back all the money they pay me and more just on the trade discounts I can get for them. That usually helps to move things along:)

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  16. Awesome post and love that article. A lot of people need to be educated about how a designer can actually save them money. Who of us hasn't bought an item for a room that ended up not working? I'd guess very few. I'd also think that it would be easier for a designer to pull together a cohesive look when they're not living in the space, constantly second guessing their choices.

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  17. Great post, and thanks for the mention! The first commenters point was interesting and something to consider for another post!
    x
    Maria

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  18. totally agree! great post. I was thinking about this today. Just left a client meeting today thinking I need to charge more--we basically designed her whole home in an hour--and on a budget. You really can save money hiring someone!

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  19. Awesome post Abby....A designer will absolutely keep you from making a mistake. Just believing you are worth it is half the battle when it comes to charging! Intellectual property is not free :)

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  20. I too would like to know more about what happens when you hire a stylist. The first poster makes a good point. I have a background in design (industrial design - took it in college) but, like many, ended up doing something else. So even I don't know what to expect. Her idea of what a stylist does is the same as mine and that seems far too expensive and intimidating. A two hour consult is more 'user friendly' but what happens during that two hours? Thanks so much for this post :-)

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  21. Great post. I to, struggle with what to charge. And it's difficult t raise your rates, because people who hired you in the past expect you to always keep them at the same rate you started (even if that was 2 years ago). Anywho, Maria convinced me to raise my rates and I'm really glad I did (I attended her Colour Expert workshop in February). I found your blog through her today, and just "liked" you on Facebook. Come visit me when you get a chance :)

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  22. We worked with a designer once and the result was just fantastic! It was definitely worth the money but I haven't had the confidence to do so again. Why? Because we moved from the UK to Houston and I desperately need recommendations!

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  23. Great poet. I wish I had money for a designer.

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  24. It is always beneficial to get help from an expert...interior design is a very tricky business and it is so easy to waste money on bad decisions.

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  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  26. Great post! Have been thinking about my 'worth' as a decorator and stylist lately and this cemented a few thoughts I have been toying with! Thanks! Great blog! Miss Walker xoxo

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  27. Hiring a designer is a great way to avoid costly mistakes and it's so reassuring to have someone that can see the big picture of how the room will come together. I make custom draperies for designers and have written about this subject as well ! Oh, Maria is great, isn't she ?
    I'm a new follower...

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  28. Google is being sassy and won't let me follow ! I'll try again later.

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  29. Love that you did this post, Abby! So true!

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  30. Amazing post Abby. I'm saving this one. My rate is fairly low, AND I end up throwing in a bunch of hours for free, because I feel bad when I see the hours accumulate. It's a mess. I think the more you demand, the more you get and the better you perform.

    For people who can handle part of the job themselves, 6-8 hours can get you SO much and doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

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  31. Great post Abby! My partner and I just went to a meeting with a business coach and when I said we were going to charge $80 per hour... she immediately said "NO you are charging $100 per hour you are worth it" Can't argue with that!
    Love your blog!

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  32. Thanks for this great post...you and Maria said it perfectly!! An ongoing problem for decorators and designers. I think we have to do a better job of educating our clients as to the value that we bring to their decorating projects...upfront before we walk in the door for the first consultation.

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  33. While I would definitely agree that a designer can help save time, money, regret and sanity, I would hardly agree with Maria that it is a NECESSITY. Getting a toilet or faulty plumbing fixed is definitely a greater necessity. Putting food on the table and paying for health care are real and immediate necessities. Our world is full of so much need for the basics of life to be met that calling the work of a designer a necessity seems to only fuel the great divide in world-views between those who have (the vast majority of us in America and the west) and those who do not (the staggeringly high numbers of those who live in poverty all around the world). Designers are certainly inspiring, helpful, and often worth every penny for those who can afford it, but that service is definitely a luxury (as are cleaning services, dry cleaners, hair dressers, personal chefs, personal trainers, lawn care services, etc), even if there are no fancy tassles or marble floors involved.

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  34. This was a fantastic read and a very timely one for me! Having a new blog and being at the entry stages of this busniness, pricing is something that I am torn on. When doing decorating consults in person, I gave too much of my time away in the past and I am trying my best to learn from that mistake. I think that the comment about the plumbers salary is a good analagy...and a correct one.

    Thanks for raising this subject Abby!

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Abby M. Interiors is a boutique design firm based in Grand Rapids, MI. Combining the new traditional, vintage and a dash of the unexpected is her ideal. Contact Abby M. Interiors for more information on available interior design services for clients near and far. abbyminteriors@gmail.com

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