Christina Kittelstad is a tutor of QC Design School and an accomplished color consultant, home stager and painter whose work has been featured on HGTV’s show House Hunters. She is the owner and lead color consultant for Spiral Design Color Consulting. She’s best known for creating beautiful, functional spaces through the use of color and creating a sense of style and personality that’s as unique as each of her clients.
Whether you are just starting your professional color consultant business or have been in the business for many years, you’ll find that everyone charges differently for their services.
I have been in the color consulting business for over 18 years. I have learned that there is no one right way to charge for your services. It is a personal decision you make after considering your priorities and how you wish to do business.
The design field includes a wide variety of professionals, from architectural color consultants and interior designers to professional home stagers and real estate agents who all work differently and at different schedules.
Factors to Consider When Developing Your Pricing Model
- Location Scope – Do you work locally, nationally, onsite or virtually? If you only take on jobs in your neighborhood, your travel expenses are minimal. If a client is hiring you to travel cross-country, then you should be compensated.
- Hands-on Experience – You should be compensated according to your professional experience. The more experience you have, the higher the fee (within reason) you can charge.
- Professional Color Consultant Training and Education – Do you have the best qualifications to make you competitive? Do you invest time in learning about the design industry and stay on top of trends? Earning a color consultant certification instills value that your customers can’t refuse.
- Scope of the Project – Not all color consultation projects are created equal. Make sure you are being properly compensated for the work you are doing. Larger, more in-depth projects take more time and therefore warrant a higher fee than smaller projects. Charge what the project demands, and don’t feel guilty about charging more if necessary.
- Project Timeline – How quickly does your client need a project completed? You should charge a standard fee for projects with a reasonable timeline. However, a project with a tight deadline should be charged a higher rate as it requires you to temporarily prioritize the project over other clients.
- Type of Client – Are you working with an individual property homeowner or a larger community homeowners association? What about a substantial commercial client? Your pricing structure should reflect the type of client. Larger clients will typically require more time, commitment, materials, communication, and follow-up.
Common Design Service Fee Structures
Once you have considered the above factors, you need to decide on one of the three most common fee structures for your business:
- Hourly fee structure
- Flat-rate project fee
- Combination of both
There are definitely pros and cons to each of these structures for your design business. Offering an hourly pricing structure is easy and convenient. But offering a set project fee allows you to be compensated whether a project finishes quickly or takes longer than expected. Or you can choose to combine both pricing models. Here are a few pros and cons to consider for each model!
Choosing an Hourly Fee Structure
- Charging hourly means you’ll be covered for every hour you work with a client, no matter how long a project takes.
- You can offer clients a smaller, affordable package such as a special 1-hour color consultation.
- Charging hourly encourages both you and your clients to stay on-task and use that time in the most productive way.
- It’s great for ongoing projects that are not on a deadline.
- You are not able to determine exactly how long a project will take.
- You may end up undercharging and not being compensated as much as you should be. This will not keep you in business!
Choosing a Flat Project Fee
- Both you and your client know exactly what the fee is upfront, including the exact services, time commitment, and materials involved from the very start—no surprises.
- Allows you to add a cushion and budget for any project adjustments or unforeseen time and expenses you incur. Always figure in extra time and materials!
- Project fees are perfect for larger projects with homeowner associations, communities, or commercial clients.
- Projects can take longer than expected—always keep this in the back of your mind!
- A client may unexpectedly shift focus mid-project or request additional meetings. This can be frustrating.
- If you finish a project too quickly (because you’re just that good), and your client may feel they didn’t get the value they expected—or feel they’ve overpaid.
Combination Hourly & Flat Rate
An additional option to consider when selecting your pricing structure is a combination of both an hourly rate and a flat project fee.
When using a combination pricing structure, you would charge a flat-fee for the overall project with a set budget and timeline. But you would also include an additional hourly fee for any additional meetings or issues that may pop up along the way. This allows you to be covered no matter how long a project takes and encourages your client to use the time wisely. (Example: Project Fee: $1500 + Deposit: $700 + Hourly Rate: $150).
Once you determine the best pricing structure for your business, it is imperative that you include your detailed pricing structure in every written contract with your clients. This will set the expectations for the project before you begin, and it ensures you are compensated appropriately. This also allows your clients to feel great about working with you!
Whether you choose to go with an hourly fee, a flat-rate project fee, or somewhere in the middle, consider what feels right for you and your unique business. Every designer has a different opinion on pricing. Try the structure that you think works best and then tweak and adjust as needed. Think about how you like to work, who your target clients are, and how they prefer to work with you. Do what works best for you!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in a comment!