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Advice for DesignersSelling Design

How to Sell Interior Design

By 07/26/2010May 18th, 201965 Comments

have spoken to many designers over the years who say they can’t charge more than they do because. . . and the reasons are many.

How to Sell Interior Design

Interior Design by Maria Killam

My friend Liz Stevenson had no problem asking for money. I have been very lucky to have a few great mentors in my design career but I learned the most about selling design from Liz. She passed away last year in April but I think about her often and miss her a lot.

She was one of the most generous and charismatic women I have ever known and her clients loved her. I have built my business around the rules I learned from her:

How to Sell Interior Design

Interior Design by Maria Killam

Always charge for the first consultation.

A lot of designers complain that clients don’t want to pay for the first consultation. They want to see your portfolio first and get a sense of your personality, your style and whether your look is what they are interested in.

The problem with this, is people generally do not value what they get for free. My friends and family take or leave my advice but my paying clients listen and even take notes.

Liz would say “If I come and see you for free that takes me away from work I’m doing for clients who are already paying me. If you have found a designer willing to come for free, then make sure you find out how experienced they really are. If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Adding colour expert to your list of services is also a good way to get paid for the first appointment. This way the client at least has their colours chosen even if they decide not to hire you to decorate or renovate their home

Of course I would recommend my colour workshop to give you the tools to choose colour confidently and accurately. Understanding colour and especially undertones of colour is the most valuable skill you can own. It’s also where you will make the most money because you will be eliminating big mistakes by choosing the right colour fabric/tile/paint in the first place.

And one more thing. The last time I checked, the internet is not going away anytime soon so the sooner you have a website to show potential clients, who want to see your portfolio, the easier it will be for you. It doesn’t need to be filled with a million photos of work you’ve done, but it gives people a sense of your style just like your website will, before you’ve even added any photos.

How to Sell Interior Design | Maria Killam

via pinterest

Cost Plus VS. Retail

Liz did not believe in selling products on a cost plus basis. A designer has too much responsibility on custom pieces to make sometimes 80% less than a retail store would charge. Also what happens when you make a mistake? Mistakes will inevitably happen because designers are human, however, clients do not understand paying for your mistake nor should they be expected to.

Liz always said “I like to make money, not eat it”.

How to Sell Interior Design | Maria Killam

Handling Price Objections

When Liz quoted on a project to design the kitchen and all the millwork for the home of a Costco Executive here in town and presented her fee of $13,000, his immediate reaction was “$13,000!! Why so much?” Liz countered, “Why do I walk into Costco to buy a gallon of milk and walk out with a couch?” He said, “I see your point” and wrote the check.

“Making money is not a dirty word”, Liz would say, “You just need to have confidence in selling your skills and abilities as a designer“.

Once when a client asked Liz if she could see the invoice from the wholesaler, Liz responded:

“When Costco or Louis Vuitton or any other retail store starts showing their wholesale prices on the tag along with the retail price, that’s when I’ll do the same. At some point you need to decide that I’m the designer who is going to give you the look and feel that you want and everything you buy from me you’ll get at a fair retail price. Be more concerned that I’ll still be in business 5 years from now when you need me to design your next home, or solve a quality issue rather than how much money I’m making.”

How to Sell Interior Design

Via Pinterest

Quality control is Important

When a client came to Liz and said “We found a better price for the cabinetry but we want you to do the rest” this was her response. “I have no problem with that, however, I do not supervise, babysit, bitch at them [to produce the result] nor is my fee for completion jeopardized because you went somewhere else.

All kitchens are not built the same, all issues are not always the same, so quality control and liaison between all the subs and trades is my responsibility. I have clout with certain cabinet companies, they understand and acknowledge my level of quality and that is what my client gets. If you wish to go elsewhere, no problem, but you lose the right to complain to me when they are not what you wanted, took way too long, can’t deal with them or anything else that made you think that it was worth going for $1,000 less in a bid.”

Even though that might seem a little harsh, she was able to say it in a way that still got her the job. Liz called everyone ‘darling’ and was booked months in advance.

Via Thom Filicia

The Faster you Specialize the more Money you will Make

Liz charged $2,000 for a complete kitchen design. When a client asked how long it took she said “17 years and as long as it takes me”. She was so busy with work that many times she would actually design the kitchen and pull together all the finishes 2 hours before the clients arrived for the first presentation. How could she possibly do it that fast you ask? Her office was filled with tile samples, granite, flooring, all carefully hand picked and often refreshed as she made the rounds to showrooms and met with salespeople. Liz won awards for her tile specifications and layouts.

To succeed in Design especially if you are self-employed, you must have Chutzpah (maybe)
Liz had plenty of the “I’m going to be successful no matter what” kind of personality and drive. Most of all she was totally likeable and that is the one thing you must have in order to convince people that you are the designer that will change the way your clients live, forever.

What are you worth? Do you think your rates should be higher than they are?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me for on-line or in-person consultations.

Related posts:

5 Ways to Know if you should Quit your Day job to Become a Designer
Do you make this Mistake in your Business/Blog?
Profits that are Hiding inside your Website

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  • Marcus Design says:

    Wow, this is a really great post Maria. Full of so much advice and many great tips. Your friend Liz sounds like she was an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing her advice and influence that she has had on you.

  • heather jenkinson says:

    Excellent post, Maria, you are an asset to the industry. Thank you!

  • Adunate Word & Design says:

    Great article Maria! It applies across the board for many industries, including mine – graphic and web design. I hear the same things…"how can a logo cost so much?" Or "my 8th grade nephew can create a website for next to nothing."

    As you say Maria, clients should look beyond the cost for your service and to the reality that it's a cost for an actual something – something with great benefit. Think what that website will do for you. How it will market your product. Think of the money saved when hiring a color consultant and knowing your rooms are the best they can be.

  • Sally@DivineDistractions says:

    I'm making this post required reading for my staff. It's so easy for creative people to accept the value they create with the knowledge and expertise they have. Often times what we are selling is intangible, and we have to understand and appreciate our value before we can expect anyone else to. There is often a journey to that point in our lives, and if you're not careful you'll starve before you get there. Being clear about our expertise and the value we create for others underlies every dollar we make. This was a good kick in the pants….Thanks, I needed that!

  • Jeanette says:

    Excellent post….all great points!
    I needed this also….

  • Velvet and Linen says:

    I'm saving this post in my "in box" forever!
    Elizabeth is a very wise woman. What a wonderful mentor.
    Great post Maria!!!


  • Teresa Hatfield says:

    Thank you for this important post! Very helpful.
    Teresa (Splendid Sass)

  • Elements says:

    Fantastic post….One the hardest things I find is justifying my fees with enough cponviction that the client feels they will get more than what they had expected and that my time is extremely worth the images I can present to them….I love my work and sometimes its hard to charge for doing something you love. Your post has made me realise I am worth it no matter what my love of it is.

  • Jürgen says:

    I like the kitchen very much; important: in a small space everything, thank you regards

  • Tara Dillard says:


    Especially, "17 years and as long as it takes me."

    Garden & Be Well, XO TAra

  • Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle says:

    As someone who has only worked with a designer once (a friend who didn't charge me.) this gives me a better understanding. In general, and I have owned my own business so I'm aware of this, people always want quality work, but are not always willing to pay for it. I can't tell you how often I was asked by individuals for freebies in exchange for what they called "promoting my business".

  • Joseph says:

    I think part of the problem interior designers have is not being more forthcoming about what they expect to be paid for their services. If I pay someone to design a kitchen for me, and he says, “It’s two thousand for the design fee for the kitchen,” I would expect to pay that. But then he will go on to insist on a kickback from the cabinetmaker and the appliance supplier and so forth. Personally, if the interior designer does not design the cabinetry, I’m not really sure what he brings to that particular party. But when, as is so often the case, he insists on a kickback from the cabinetmaker, then the person who actually does that work must either take less for the job or increase his fee. Either way it is information that is intended to be withheld from the client, so if the client subsequently finds out that he can go directly to the cabinetmaker and get the same work for less, he will be inclined to want to do this.

    A lot of people think “markup” is a gouge because they don’t really understand it, and the reason they don’t is because very few ever take the time to explain it to them. If I go to an appliance store and buy a stove for $2000 that the retailer got at wholesale for $1000, then his markup is $1000. Because it’s not been properly explained to them, people tend to think $1000 is the profit in this scenario, but as you all know, it’s not. The retailer has a building he pays for, electricity, building maintenance fees, taxes, and all the other expenses we could enumerate. What’s left, if anything, is his profit on that sale.

    Perhaps interior designers should be completely upfront with their fee schedule. I don’t know what people charge for this work, so I’ll just make up some numbers. Perhaps they should say, “It’s two thousand for me to design the kitchen. Because it takes me time to coordinate with the cabinetmaker, that’s another five hundred. It also takes time for me to pick out the proper appliances, and the fee for that is five hundred.” And so forth. But if that is what you actually intend to charge for your services, and if you are completely honest about everything you charge for your services, then clients can make an informed choice as to whether they want to pay those fees. And those who agree to those fee schedules will be inclined to let the interior designer make all the choices.

    I think Shakespeare was right. You end up with a very tangled weave whenever you practice to deceive.

  • The-Countrypolitan says:

    "If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur."… what a great quote!!!! ~Terri

  • Mona Thompson says:

    Great post. Obviously things we all needed to hear. I would have loved to meet your friend. She sounds great. As a matter of fact, I would love to meet you as well someday. I feel like you are a mentor. You always share such great and useful information. I will save this and re-read many times.

  • Amy @MaisonDecor says:

    Another great post Maria!
    As good for a designer as it is for their client. Thanks for spelling it out. You were lucky to have a mentor like Liz.

  • Mona Thompson says:

    Maria, Just thought of one other thing I would like to add. Not only are clients not all in with us if they are not paying for our advice, I never feel completely invested in such projects either. We put an enormous amount of time in on jobs that we are hired to do. When people are just trying to get our ideas for free, that's about all they get. An idea that is not fully investigated and complete.

  • Kim@Chattafabulous says:

    Maria, once again I have to thank you for this educational post! You are an incredibly valuable resource and your generosity in sharing your knowledge is much appreciated! Thanks for giving proper perspective!

  • Dale at Hospitality Re-Defined says:

    Great post Maria. Very helpful and insightful. We often sell ourselves short, in so many ways, not recognizing our own value.

  • Ideezine says:


    Our industry (as well as most) is in a unique position at this stage of an economic renovation. Value is a real problem for a lot of people because it's defined by excess consumption and throw away conveniences

    Truth in your word holds responsibility, accountability, problem solving and results. Once again individuals have a unrealistic experience with truth because service means high cost and low or no responsibility after you've paid or problems arise.

    Education is the only way to reach individuals and quickly teach them about the real value of design services. The price they're paying is a fraction of it's real value. Because "U" the designer put in years of study, testing, and honing your skills, seminars, current events, brain storming and detail combat learning undertones of color.

    Keeping up on current creativity is of extreme value to designers and clients. That's why blogging, tweeting, texting, podcasts etc. are so helpful. People learn in different ways but however it's achieved it has to continue until there is no resistance at paying for the value of experienced designers.

    Having exceptional people skills is actually where it starts. if you don't charge a client for a consultation maybe you don't value your years of experience…we teach people how we want to be valued by how we answer their questions and respond to their inquiries about paid services. Proof is in honest experience and confidence so without it, doubt it, you'll trip up. That's what individuals are hoping to catch as soon as possible to get something for nothing. Teach them otherwise.

    This post needs to be read often like an affirmation. It is valuable to everyone. Thank U Maria.


  • Karena says:

    Maria, what a great conference! Such good input and feedback….terrific points as always.

    Art by Karena

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Mona,
    Loved the way you articulated this:

    " When people are just trying to get our ideas for free, that's about all they get. An idea that is not fully investigated and complete."

    That is what I told my sister once when they were talking about building a house. If I'm working for free or almost free, will I got to 5 tile stores to find the perfect combination for her? No, it'll be the best I can find at one if I'm not getting paid.

    Thank you everyone for posting such great comments!

  • Ijeoma says:

    As a young designer just about to embark on a freelancing career, thanks for such sound advice!

  • Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home says:

    Love it, love it, love it! i wish I could have met Liz!

  • gardenwalkgardentalk says:

    I wish I had a mentor as wonderful as Liz. I see many others feel the same way. You are very lucky to have known such an individual. Your advice is spot on. I had a client who loved my work, but when he asked my hourly rate, was disappointed he was not paying more. He equated talent with money. That taught me something.

  • Donna says:

    Wow, Maria. I really needed this post! No, I'm not an interior designer and I don't have an official business, but I'm constantly sewing, designing banners, and even doing organizational projects for people. I feel so awkward charging the right amount for my work. I inevitably end up working very hard for very little profit. I was floored when someone paid $200.00 for an award winning art piece I did. She knew what it was worth and insisted on paying for it. But I just didn't have the courage to name a decent price up front.

    I'm getting better though. I was planning a beautiful wall hanging but the materials alone would have cost around $75.00. The couple who 'commissioned' me have never been able to come up even with the first $50.00 to begin sewing the top layer. I already spent a good 10-15 hours planning the project and pulling sample fabrics together. I have simply been unwilling to start the project until the come up with the deposit and I'm considering not doing the project at all.

    It must have been wonderful to have a mentor who could encourage you to be bold and ask for a price worthy of your expertise. :o)

    Donna @ Comin' Home

  • Cherri @ SmartyPantalons says:

    I have a slightly different perspective on the free consultation versus paid first visit thing.

    Until recently, my husband and I didn't have much money and we spent very little on the services of professionals. We almost always went without. However, if we did use the services of a professional, we wanted to pay for them. We respected the time and training of these individuals and wanted to pay them for their efforts. We have a good work ethic and value our time as well as the time of others and just would not feel right about free services. In this case, we would be more likely to choose a decorator who charged for the first meet. And then, if for some reason we did not chose to work with this person, we would feel like everyone got a fair shake because they were paid for their time.

  • Karen Davis says:

    I love this post! I totally agree, my biggest lesson was when I was told by a potential client she wanted to hire me because I was cheap. The word cheap horrified me and since then I have valued myself and I am working hard at being hired because I am the best! What great advice Maria how lucky for you to have had such a great mentor!

  • Maria, this is just fantastic, as is evident by the comments! It has taken a long time for me be confident in my value, and it took a lot of positive self-talk! I sometimes think that as women, especially, we tend to under-value ourselves because we are inherently givers. A male designer friend of mine often tells clients "my advice is worth it and I know what I'm doing. You wouldn't call a plumber to design your room, any more than you would would want me to fix your leaky faucet." Thanks for sharing your Mentor's wise words.

  • Les Stevenson says:

    Hi Maria, it's Les

    I read with bittersweet happiness of all you spoke about how Liz mentored, loved, chastized and helped you start and build your interior design business. Your descriptions of how she approached her clients and sold them on her abilities are so vivid to me, so spot on in describing her personality that it propels me back to our life together and how dynamic and adventurous it was.

    My wife was a woman who had guts, or balls or whatever you want to call it. Her desire was to make sure her clients received value for the money they spent and at the same time, make some money for our business and support our family. The quality of her design and her reputation was her guide post and her relationship with her clients was something to behold. She backed down to almost no one. She stood by her principles and practiced them every day.

    I remember when Parklane Homes asked her if she would put together a proposal for a couple of, for them, upper end duplexes. She was asked to bring along her portfolio and make a presentation. She told them that portfolios were used by kids coming fresh out of design school and if they didn't know who she was by now, they never would. In the end, she ended up refusing the job because they would not allocate enough resourse dollars to get the interior where she knew she wanted it to go. She told them they were not going to promote her design if it didn't measure up to her standards and walked away. No disparagement to Park Lane, they just couldn't agree.

    I am so happy that her dreams for you have been realized with your success. You took her advice, made it part of your mantra, built on it so it would be yours and turned it into positive reality. Good for you.

    I know she looks down on us with happiness and joy. Me, because I have managed to get my life together and provide a positive influence for our children in spite of the gut wrenching heartache I have had to endure and you, because you have blossomed and grown, overcoming all the roadblocks you had. She showed you how to not take no for an answer and how to realize your dream.

    Thank you so much for portraying the gift that Liz gave to so many people, including you. Her mantra: "Go big or go home" resonates through all you do. I know you see no boundaries to what you can accomplish, see no hindrances to your success. Please, keep it up. I, and Liz, are rooting for you.

    I am going to send your blog to my children so they will have a sense of how their mother helped you and now in turn through you, so many others. Thank you again for remembering a truely wonderful lady who shone her light on so many. I miss her every day still.

  • Melissa @ Veranda Interiors says:

    Seriously, one of the best post EVER!!!

    Rob & I sometimes get hounded by clients when it comes to the price of the home and I have to explain that you really do get what you pay for in this industry. If you want a home built at a track home price then build with a large volume builder where you are a number and have 2 hours with an interior designer to select everything for your home. If you want the beautiful custom designed home with cabinets built-on-site and an unlimited amount of time with me to do all of your selections and cabinetry designs then select us, you are not a number you really are part of my family since I will spend more time with you than my parents over the nest year or two.

    With my on-line consultation work I do find that people can try to edge out information from you for free. I tend to get notes every now and then asking about a light fixture in a room I have done, or what flooring option they should go for. Being the type of person I am I will reply right away with the answer and hardly ever get a simple 'Thank You' back in response. My time is valuable and I do not think it is fair to my clients that are paying me but I am hoping that it will lead to more or maybe something in the future…it is a fine line to walk.

    I am rambling now, but I just think you get what you pay for. 🙂

  • carak says:

    Maria, I love this post. Such great advice and such a nice way to remember a dear friend.

  • Laura@Developing Designs says:

    Valuable, fantastic, awesome advise. You my dear were blessed to have such an amazing mentor. I look up to you, your gift and your generosity in sharing, I am very grateful for that. Without question, the steps you take, the journey you are on are guided by love and devotion.

    I wish to write more, but after reading what Les wrote I am finding myself moved beyond words….I need to go find a big box of tissues.


  • amymeier says:

    This was one of the best posts I have read in a long time! Your friend Liz had a lot of great advice on how to communicate with the client. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Amy Meier

  • The-Countrypolitan says:

    I came back by to follow the conversation, and the reactions and responses have been really tremendous. And Les, your voice has made this conversation so much greater…

    I find that clients come in different types when it comes to paying for services…

    There are those that want and expect something for nothing… and I don't even call them clients… because I won't take on their projects.

    Then there are those people who don't really appreciate being "given" more than what they are paying for,… often because they don't even realize that it is being given to them unless you make it known to them. And typically, I think it makes them expect more from you that is for free, and very little appreciation.

    And there are definitely those that think that services that are less expensive must equate to lesser quality.

    I have found that the best solution is to determine your own self worth and to be consistent in how you charge.


  • Struggler says:

    This post was powerful stuff on its own, but reading what Les had to add made it extremely special…
    What a great tribute.

  • Carmie, the Single Nester says:

    I am not a designer but this post is applicable to anyone with their own business. Thank you!

  • Cherri @ SmartyPantalons says:

    Terri, I love what you said. It makes so much sense.

    "I have found that the best solution is to determine your own self worth and to be consistent in how you charge."

    I think I need to print this out and paste it up somewhere. Oh, and then read it and remind myself of it regularly.

  • Elizabeth Brown says:

    It's huge to finally come to terms with and shed all of our limiting beliefs about making the money we deserve. But it is essential if we want to succeed. As a child, I was conditioned to shaking in my boots just to ask my dad for a quarter for the vending machine.

    Now, after much work, I can ask for the order with presence and poise.

    I've been enjoying reading The Prosperity Bible, the Greatest
    Readings of all time on the Secrets to Wealth and Prosperity.
    It's a collection of nineteen authors including Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon Hill. all saying the same thing. It's HOW we think!!

    Thanks for the timely post, ms. rockefeller.

  • Anonymous says:

    As someone who makes less than 20 per hour paying 75 per hour with almost 100 percent mark up on the identical item later seen at a local furniture store, is something I can not abide by. (If my husband did not have a decent job I never would have gone to the decorator in the first place.)
    This soured me on using a decorator. Never again.

    • Mel says:

      In regard to the anonymous post: For someone making 20 per hour, you should have even MORE understanding of WHY we charge what we charge. I would ask you to try and go through every step of what we, as designers, do to create a custom unique room, that you will feel comfort from for years to come. Then tell me if you actually had the time or money to even pull the perfect plan together. Dont comment on something you have not experienced please!

  • Christine @ says:

    What a great post….thanks for providing further insight into the always daunting question…"am I charging enough? Should I charge for the initial consultation?"

    Love your blog and I always look forward to receiving in my inbox! Have a great day!

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    Maria said: what I told my sister once when they were talking about building a house. If I'm working for free or almost free, will I got to 5 tile stores to find the perfect combination for her? No, it'll be the best I can find at one if I'm not getting paid.

    Even for FAMILY? You are sooooo mean! And realistic. And I hope it's at least a big tile store.

    I get the same pressure, because there are nurseries around her that will give you a 'free' design with their plants if you buy enough. I charge more, but the client walks away with a plan, a plant list they can call around around to nurseries, alternate plants, and a schedule of what needs to be done and when.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Lazy Gardens,
    Well I have to defend this one. Family are the ones that take advantage the most. Does my chiropractor brother-in-law spend hours and hours on me in his office or even give me free insoles? No. How about my Accountant brother-in-law, does he do my taxes? No.

    So will I spend hours and hours of time doing free design work for my sister if and when her and her husband build a house at some point? No I will not. Tile selection is a drop in the bucket at all the work that would need to be done.

    I have already spent countless hours on my sisters homes, one has to draw the line somewhere.

    There, I had to say something on this one. Thanks for your comment, maybe others thought I was MEAN too without understanding the whole entire scope of what would need to be done!

  • Anonymous says:

    To anonymous…

    It's not the designer's problem that you have settled to earn less than $20/hr. It's yours. And good luck finding a qualified designer for $75/hr.

  • Anonymous says:

    To the other Anonymous,

    Yes, but she had a mark up of around 1000 on the coffee table over the furniture store price, plus her 75 per hour fee, plus the normal retail mark up. I figure she made at least 1500 for one hour of work. This is not in my price range of what is acceptable. As I stated, I later found the very same coffee table, it was the same size and same manufacture, sitting in a furniture store at their regular price.

    I most likely should not have stated my pay range. I work for a non profit, thus our budgeting has to be rather selective. We have chosen this life and it is rewarding.

    I felt swindled by her pricing structure. I do not expect something for nothing but I do wish to be fairly treated. If she had told me up front that her usual rate was in the 1000 per hour range I would have declined to work with her.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Dear Anonymous #1,
    I'm sorry you had that experience, it makes the rest of us look bad. Obviously designers should not be marking up products that are already retail. In fact I know one designer who tells her clients that they get paid through her discount (when she shops retail), if her discount is 30% and she's charging cost plus 20% for example, then her client saves 10% and she still gets paid and everybody's happy.

    I would only recommend that kind of pricing structure if you were shopping high end because it's hard to make money otherwise. But that is where cost plus also becomes a problem because it has a designer look for more expensive items rather than the fab thrift store find that can be re-done.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • dcz665 says:

    Hi Maria – this doesn't just apply to designers. Any professional who has a skill must respect that ability and charge accordingly. My husband, a plumbing contractor, is often questioned because his price on a plumbing fixture is higher than the price in the flyer/internet/etc. His response – fine, order the item but you are responsible for delivery, hauling the item to your 4th floor, inspecting it to verify all is in working order and if there's a defect, you return it. If you pay me price I'll do all that PLUS I'll deal with the company if it's defective. It has gotten to the point where his customers will pay (almost) anything because they know in the long run it's cheaper to pay his price than pay for sub-quality work that has a lower initial price but could cause problems later on. Good designers should value their work – you have a skill that someone else wants. Be reasonable, be clear and always follow-thru. Your customers will learn to appreciate quality.

  • evangelia says:

    Hello Maria,

    Thank you so very much for this post. As I read through I couldn't stop the tears remembering Liz and how much I missed her. She had a great gift for connecting with people. She left us way too soon. What an incredibly talented designer, amazing mother, loving wife and friend. She will always be in my heart and my thoughts. I will post this as this is all such valuable advice. Thank you!

  • Keegan says:


    My partner sent me a link to your blog and it could not have come at a better time. I am owner of my own interior design business for the past four years with some nice sized projects but I always seem to get frustrated with the amount of profit I make or rather don’t make. I always look at my fellow peers and wonder how they are able to stay in business or have such opulent homes. I have come to the conclusion that I am undervaluing myself and my services. Your blog will definitely be apart of my daily read.


  • Cathy says:

    Love this post—this one and the post where you reference the work it takes for a designer to “make” a custom pillow are two of my favorites! It is hard for people to see the value in the arts of any sort vs. the technical fields (medical, accounting, engineering,etc).

  • Cynthia says:

    Great post! It took me awhile to get to this same place in my thinking, especially about transparency in my pricing for purchased merchandise and charging for my initial design time.

  • Farha Syed says:

    Great Post Maria
    Your mentor Liz was an amazing woman – She knew who she was and knew her abilities really well; from what I understand from your description of her. Must have been amazing to work with her. Thanks for sharing her advice with us. I love your blogs, very informative and interesting.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Hello Maria. Love your post. Having attended a Landmark course myself you are so right about your belief systems inherited from your parents. I run an interior design business in the UK and clients are frequently surprised at my charges. Like your friend Liz said “it takes 17 years . . .” to gain the expertise, knowledge etc and we need to educate clients into appreciating our skills and in turn, paying a fair price for them.
    Kind regards

  • Cheryl says:

    Just found this after searching for ideas on how other people charge! I know feel validated with your wonderful friend’s advice. This is exactly how we charge and get grief sometimes about not doing cost plus. But I also have a retail shop. Small but allows me to buy at true wholesale on many vendors. This has worked well for us but only for interiors. When I do a kitchen or bath I seem to lose money. So many details and decisions. I am an award winning and fairly well know kit and bath designer yet make the least amt of money in this! I struggle with how to do it. Selling product not so good because plumbing etc is fraught with problems and low margins. At any rate even tho post is old wanted to thank you for sharing and making me feel like I am on right track with many things and inspiring me to raise our rates on kit and bath design! Thank YOU!

  • Hi Maria, I’m not sure if you remember me, I used to do picture framing and art consulting for Liz. I spoke briefly with you on the phone after her tragic passing.
    I counted Liz as a close friend also and miss her presence and strength in my life. You captured Liz’s perfectly put retorts to objections perfectly.
    She certainly had a way to balance blunt truth with charm. What a gift! Anyway, it’s great to see you are doing well, exercising Lizs’ legacy and enjoying success. All the best! Susan Morabito

  • Adedayo Adeyemi says:

    This is a masterpiece, i am surely not alone with the issue at hand .however i m praying to be able to attend your colour expert class someday.

  • Just wanted to say hi and was quite impressed in your use of color have a nice day mam’ gilbert ramos

  • Mia Hannom says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing this, Maria. You know how sometimes you read or hear something, and you can never be the same after that- it changes you forever? This article did that for me.

  • Nare Moremi says:

    Maria, Thank you so much for great insight. Very refreshing and assuring to get confirmation of what we are doing right or new suggestions for ideas that work from someone who has the best interest of both client and professional in the design process. VERY POWERFUL!!

    Best regards,
    Nare Moremi

  • Janet says:

    Maria this post was so helpful to me personally. I plan to print it and read it again when I find myself questioned. I also enjoyed reading all the comments and insight from other designers. How fortunate you were to have such a force to guide you. Thank you for sharing!

  • Bravo, I wish I had met her, we seem very like minded.

    I’ve never understood designers who give free consultations. When I meet with a client, I’m working hard from minute one!
    They get what they pay for with me and I’ve only had 2 client in 12 years ever ask me if I would provide a free consultation. Once I’ve explained that I’m working hard from the get go, they realize my value and book the design consult.
    Glad you do the same!

  • CarolAnne says:

    great post, thinking might be the best one ever, so sorry for your loss, Liz was one special lady, would loved to have met her

  • SConn says:

    Love your post, Maria! Thank you!

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