Module 2 – 2.1 Preparation Copy


To be able to work as an interior designer you must decide where your work space is going to be. Whether it’s at your home or in a proper office or studio, you need to make sure it’s a creative working environment where you can actually concentrate on your work. The minimum is a quiet environment with a comfortable chair, large desk, computer (you will probably want to invest in a good computer that can take all the software that you are planning to use for your projects. If the computer is very slow, it will take you forever to make a proper rendering or to use larger programs). I can talk from experience: when I was starting my own business, I was saving money wherever I could so I bought a cheap computer. I waited an hour for one rendering. Then I realised that time is money, so I purchased a very good computer where the rendering takes 4-5 minutes. It is worth it – believe me!

You will also need:

  • Measuring tape
  • Laser measure
  • Business cards
  • Laptop (only if you would like to have a portable ‘computer’)
  • Colour printer/scanner (preferably A3 to be able to print architect plans in the right scale)
  • Digital camera (or a good quality phone will also help)
  • Portfolio
  • Graph paper
  • File folders
  • Scale ruler
  • Draft pencils and erasers
  • File cabinet
  • Calendar (paper or digital format)
  • Design software.

You should also consider buying: hard hat, safety glasses and steel toed footware in case you need to visit a building site.

You will also need a calendar. A good project scheduler specifies not only the designer’s responsibilities, but also the timing of each contractor and, too, the important decisions that the client needs to make to a particular deadline. You can also define the length of each work phase, payment dates, appointment etc.

The next thing that you should think of is the budgeting format. Establishing a project budget is crucial for streamlining the design process. Project budgets can be divided into hard and soft costs. For an interior project, hard costs cover the cost of construction and fixtures, furniture and equipment. Soft costs include, but are not limited to, designer fees, consultant fees, project management fees, insurance, permits etc.

A designer’s primary goal is to meet the budget for hard costs.

When you are setting up the price, it is important to work with a contractor who will estimate the project costs based on drawings and specifications that the designer provides. Estimates should include the price of the construction material and the labour cost.

When you set the price, make a clear listing of services offered and details available to the client on your web site and in subsequent information. Clients have more confidence to make initial contact when fully informed. Many people still associate anything to do with interior design with high cost and expect it to be out of their price range. Check local competitor businesses’ fees and compare their level of experience and standard of work to your own.

Be realistic and charge according to your skills and experience and not according to the highest fee you see a competitor charging. Hourly rates vary from free Initial Consultations to £15 – £75.00 per hour (Central London/Capital Cities). However pricing at fixed rates for set jobs and quoting a total figure after assessing the job is often likely to secure the business of many residential and commercial clients.

When you start in business you will probably have low fees, to get customers and some practical experience. You may want to offer your service free of charge at the beginning, just so you have people who can write and give a good review about you and your service. Remember, word of mouth is the best advert and it’s free of charge!

Remember that as a self-employed person you will pay Income Tax and Self Employed National Insurance which will amount to approximately 30% of profits over and above the personal tax allowance.

Costs for Initial Consultations

The cost for an initial Consultation fee needs to be based on your experience and the type of job you are going out to. Developers and builders will expect a free visit. These are good jobs with options of further work so you are likely to agree. Later in business you might charge a fee offset against further contracted work. A good way to calculate the price for your service is to draft a timetable for a project by detailing each task that you will undertake, summarise your personal total hours and multiply that by your hourly rate to get a total price for your fees. A customer will need to receive a proper estimate before they agree to contracting you for the work. You need to prioritise job details and give the client your best recommendations, and price the costs for them.

Estimating a price and then committing to a quote can be time consuming, but you need to get it right and be clear and accurate. This gets easier and faster with experience. As you become busier, you will probably want to invest money in accountancy software like Quick Books, which will make your admin work much quicker and easier. You can check on the following link:

If you purchase retail items, the client will be able to check the price you paid and you will need to be transparent about how you operate. You may charge a fee for design, plus 5% on-cost for items you source, purchase on the client’s behalf and have delivered. You may get items delivered to you and install as a styling service or delivered to the client. This will depend on the service you agree. Either way your contract and Terms and Conditions of business will cover the responsibility and detail of payment and ownership. A Business Terms and Conditions document is usually a legal document written by a solicitor particularly for your business.

When purchasing items ‘trade’ you can make the decision as to how much of the saving you pass on to the client. You can make your design fee lower and charge the items supplied somewhere between the trade price and retail price. However, making your overall cost to the client competitive and good value is important for you in growing your business.

Do you give the receipts to the client?

Generally no. Usually you keep the receipts for your own business accounts records if you made the purchase. The client’s record is your invoice and you may itemise prices to whatever level of detail you prefer. You do not have to detail every price of every item. The norm is that the client would receive an inventory (detailed list of goods supplied, without prices) plus a quote with a breakdown of services and prices broken down into categories plus an Invoice (or series of invoices depending on service type provided) detailing services and overview of goods supplied referring to the detailed inventory as attached.

Exceptions to this rule may be if the client asks particularly for a detailed breakdown or needs to claim for goods. They may ask for receipts. You could supply on your business letterhead a copy invoice receipt of breakdown of charges you made to them for items.

Estimate Example


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