Your Interior Decorator Salary: 5 Impacting Factors - QC Design School

Tammy Hart, I.D.D.P, CAPS is a graduate and tutor of QC Design School, as well as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist from the National Association of Home Builders. She is the owner and award-winning designer for the Designer Chick Co., and the Past Director on the National Board for DDA (formerly CDECA). Today, she discusses 5 of the main factors that influence the interior decorator salary!

During a key note speech at a design conference I attended, I recall the speaker saying, “Interior decorating isn’t a ‘get rich’ job!”

Now, that being said, I know she does very well. So, it was ironic that she said this to an audience of upcoming professionals. Could it be that she knew something we all didn’t?

Perhaps. I think it’s like every other industry. There are the leaders; the industry excellers. Then there are people who do well, along with those who do it simply because they want to share their gift.

According to ZipRecruiter, “the average annual pay for an Interior Decorator in the United States is $42,272 a year. While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $60,500 and as low as $11,000, the majority of Interior Decorator salaries currently range between $35,000 (25th percentile) to $47,000 (75th percentile) across the United States.”

One thing is for certain: an interior decorator salary is impacted by numerous variables!

5 Factors That Will Impact Your Interior Decorator Salary

1. Certification

Designers and interior decorators are given a unique gift: you naturally have the ability to visually and creatively foresee the end result of a space. Priceless, right?

So, can you be hired for this innate ability? Sure you can! But not necessarily on its own merit. Rather, you’re more likely to get hired if you first obtain professional training and have some sort of credentials to your name.

For instance, could you strengthen your resume by taking QC Design School’s Interior Decorating Course and adding an International Design and Decorating Professional (IDDP) designation to your qualifications?

Definitely! By showing prospective clients that you’ve taken the time to learn your craft properly, you’re bettering your chances of them booking with you. This, of course, means a better salary for your interior decorator business!

Like with any industry, the more knowledge you have and the broader your skillset, the more valuable you become. This will give you the power to price your services a little higher.

2. Location, Location, Location

Unit G of QC’s Interior Decorating Course is the Business Unit. In this unit, my students hear me teach about properly valuing your business services through conducting market and competitive research.

There are professionals in your area who have worked hard to establish a price point. They’ve gone through the trials and tribulations of finding out what the clientele in your service area are willing to pay for services like yours.

So yes, in major metropolitan areas (such as Toronto or New York), the salary of an interior decorator is likely to be higher than in a smaller, less populated town.

3. Owner vs. Employee

There are many valuable perks of being an owner of your own company. For example:

  • Tax breaks
  • Flexible hours (eventually)
  • Freedom to pick and choose the clients you want to work with
  • Better vacation time (again, eventually)
  • Getting to be your own boss
  • And so much more

If you’re a one man/woman show, you get to keep the profits from your services rendered (after paying your overhead, etc.). But you also work harder to find clients, and put countless hours into growing your business. For the first few years, your salary will be lower as you grow and get your name out there. As a business owner, these items should be considered when determining an annual interior decorator salary.

I remember back when I first started in the industry, I’d landed a sweet paying job making 6-figures. Unfortunately, the politics, drama, and lack of direction in the start-up company weren’t worth the amount of money I was receiving. But it’s important to note that many other businesses do not operate this way.

My point is, excellent paying positions DO exist in the industry! Thankfully, not all are attached to politics and drama. As a launch pad for your career, I highly recommend considering the opportunity to work for a team. This can be an excellent way to learn the ropes and build your experience. Consider it a paid internship!

At the very least, it’s a chance to learn (a.k.a. make mistakes) on someone’s dime.

modern living room interior

When considering the interior decorator salary as an employee, another consideration is retail vs. corporate/firm. Most retail positions will pay minimum wage plus commission (in some circumstances). Firms, on the other hand, will pay a predetermined salary and sometimes provide performance ‘bonus’.

4. Services Offered

Truth be told, when it comes to the services my own business offers clients, I enjoy color consultations and DIY consultations the most. In fact, I actually LOVE them!

Why? Yes, they’re super fun – no doubt about that! But they are also EASY and QUICK income revenue streams. For instance, a color consultation can bring me $500 for 3 hours’ worth of work! The scope of the work involved in that timeframe would typically include:

  • The onsite 45-minute client consultation
  • The non-scaled drawing
  • Color selection
  • Color layout
  • Presentation
  • One revision

A single DIY Consultation (helping do-it-yourselfers with strategic planning, guidance, or advice) is $150 for one hour’s worth of work and a summarized email!

Then there are the e-design services that can open up a whole new world of business for you! In today’s current global pandemic, virtual consultation services are essential to pivoting your business. For those who don’t yet have experience in providing virtual services, I challenge you to take QC Design School’s Virtual Design Training Course.

This mini course can help you understand what’s required in order to pivot your business successfully. Ask yourself: what in-person services are currently in your portfolio that you can now offer clients virtually?

For example, space planning services once offered in-person can easily be offered virtually. This eliminates commuting costs, which in turn will increase your productivity. It would also eliminate travels costs (i.e. gas, wear and tear). This is less money being spent and more profit you can keep in your pocket!

As an added bonus, your client will be the one to measure all of the spaces and furniture for you. Let’s just hope they measure twice!

By offering a variety of e-design services, you can increase your revenue and overall interior decorator salary – provided that you’ve done your market research and have determined your target market’s needs.

5. How Strong is Your Presence?

The number of followers you have on social media doesn’t necessarily determine what your interior decorator salary is going to be. Neither does how much in-person networking you do in a year.

But what these both do is create a stronger presence for your business by developing a larger network of individuals who will grow to “know, trust, and like” you. In developing those relationship, you’re more likely to get referrals and recommendations for your services. This, of course, will strongly drive your company’s revenue.

young woman using social media on phone

Food for Thought

The greatest advice I can provide you for determining your interior decorator salary is to know your worth. You are an expert in the field and have intellectual property (that is, your creativity) that not everyone else has. This is valuable!

At the end of the day, you have your reasons for working in this industry. Whether it’s simply for passion, or being a leading decorator in your area – those reasons are sometimes worth more than a huge salary.

The more certifications on your resume, the more you can continue to raise your interior decorator salary! Until October 30th, get TWO QC Design School courses for the price of ONE!

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