Questions on charging clients (structure, trade discounts, other fees)

Hello, this is a post about how I, a new remote designer, have all of the questions :slight_smile:

  • What is the best way to charge a client for space planning, designing, and product selection? Segmented payments by benchmark?
  • What benchmarks are there?
  • If I have a trade discount, am I supposed to pass it along to the client or charge them the regular price and keep the difference?
  • Do you charge differently if you are remote vs local?
  • How much do you think I need to pad into my quote to get a photographer to shoot the space after it is done?

Lots of great questions here! Here’s what I’ve done in the past:

  • Whenever I’m working with a client, I try and get a sense for what the scope of the project will be during our consultation. Let’s say they want all the services you listed (space planning, design, sourcing, etc). I estimate how many hours it will take me to do said things, and offer a flat rate fee based on those things. I usually try and do this for things like spacial planning/floor plans, mockups, and sourcing because I have a good sense of how much time it will take me to do those, and I find that flat fees make my client more at ease. You really have to know how much time it will take you though otherwise you can sell yourself short! On the flip side, if you’re offering hourly, you can set a cap to ensure you don’t go over and offer the client any surprises. It’s always a conversation and is a little different for each client. Sometimes I do a mix of both, where I offer flat fee for the aforementioned services, but an hourly charge for in-person install and styling. TLDR: Any time I’ve asked other designer friends this question, there doesn’t seem to be a straightforward answer. It’s whatever feels right/best for you and your client.

  • When I’ve extended my trade discounts to clients, I’m always the one ordering the products for them and will add a markup service cost that essentially covers me acting as a concierge for ordering. This still leaves them with a discount on the products and would be cheaper than them buying on their own. I don’t ever pass along discount codes (most trade accounts don’t work that way anyway), but I do think it’s an added perk that a client should be paying you for if they want to save costs on their products.

  • On remote vs. local work, yes! If I’m on a local job, there is usually a lot more in-person meetings, being on-site, etc. That’s where I would lean into my hourly rate. For anything that happens virtually on the computer, that’s where I do flat fee and follow the model I mentioned above.

  • Photographer rates are so dependent on where you located. In NYC, most photographer rates start at around $1,500 and have a set number of photos they deliver. Unless you have a photographer in mind already with their rates in mind, I would recommend adding photography services as an optional add-on to your projects so that you can figure out the cost later.

A lot of words, but I hope this helps! I would love to hear what other designers have done for pricing/trade discounts. I know @dianafarberov has experience in this world so I’m tagging her in, just in case she wants to share :slight_smile:

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@danielaaraya - Would you mind expanding upon point #2? Maybe @dianafarberov can expand on her experiences as well. I know this topic is such a challenge for someone new to the industry and working on their own.

  1. Ordering for clients: do you pay for the furniture/ items upfront and then have your clients pay you back? Or, is it common to have the client’s credit card on file for ordering so you are not held responsible for costs?

  2. For ordering on a client’s behalf, I understand most states require a resell ticket. How do you manage the accounting side of it? I simply never wanted to entertain this process for the thought of managing the taxes and accounting piece. etc.

I am a person who likes to know every step from A-Z (ordering to managing the accounting), so any insight you can provide would be helpful.

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These are good questions!! So I have a credit card authorization form I send to my clients who want me to handle ordering for them, which means I pay using their card. I’ve only had one client that did a custom order with me that I paid for with my trade discount, but I waited to handle payment until I had the money from them because it was a large order. To be totally transparent, my accountant handled all the backend stuff for me because I’m not as familiar with the tax side of things. There’s so much paperwork and organization that’s required the deeper you get into resale, and I’m not at a stage with my business where it makes sense to do that so that’s why I prefer to order with my client’s CC when possible. Hope this helps!

And yes I would love to hear anyone else’s perspective! x

Thanks for the insight. Re: #1, I wasn’t asking how much to charge so much as what increments you take payment in. From what I’ve read, I should be getting paid in increments in advance but I’m just not sure if there is a best way to segment that. Re: photographers, that makes sense though I feel like I need that for remote clients so I have photos I can use in my portfolio. Maybe I just need to search UpWork or Fiverr before I send a proposal to get an idea of rates in that area.

Yes, I’m honestly trying to avoid resale at this point but I’m also not getting approved for any trade programs so I guess it doesn’t affect me so much at this point.

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Hi hi! Daniella and I have chatted a ton on this so I think we’re pretty similar on the general approach.

For my purchasing phase with clients, I just have an itemized list and will order on my business credit card on their behalf and then send them an invoice which only shows “Order - Brand Name” and the total and then at the bottom there is a line items that shows “Artemuse Design 15% Fee” and they know thats my purchasing fee.

I try not to spend more than $10-15K max and then invoice right away. Thankfully all my clients have been really good about paying right away or I will follow up within 10 days and they pay then. I never let it go beyond 2 weeks.

The resell concept is something I want to learn more about. I dont have a resell certificate because I originally thought it didjnt apply but then someone told me I shouldnt absolutely get one so I think I need to understand it better. Making that a goal for 2024 actually lol

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Thank you both @danielaaraya and @dianafarberov for your insight, this is super helpful. I feel as though I have more questions. LOL! But, in the scenario where you are ordering on behalf of a client, is there is difference between getting a trade discount vs. reselling, or do you have to have a resell ticket to get a “trade discount”? Meaning that currently, you are just ordering on behalf of the client for convenience purposes, but no fundamental difference in cost, production lead time, etc if they were to order the product on their own. Right now, I am guiding clients on how to approach design, and offer suggestions with their paint, decor, and furniture, but I have not been in a position where I would order for them. @kateseymour - my apologies as I didn’t necessarily intend to hijack your thread, but you asked some insightful questions that I also struggled with, particularly with the backend business side. Without having a formal mentor, there are not a ton of very in-depth business operational outlines out there.


:smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: here are some more characters because it said I needed 20

since i dont have a resell certificate i dont even bother with any reselling verbiage or anything. im just buying on behalf of my client and because i am buying for them (aka coordinating the purchasing, managing delivery/install/returns) i extend my trade discount (averaging 15-30% depending on the brand) but then charge my designer markup/fee on top of that at 15%.

I give all my clients the option to purchase on their own as well. its about 50/50 in terms of who wants to have my purchase vs do it on their own.

btw i have done mentorship sessions with Spoak members before! esp when theyre getting their feet off the ground with their business. if youre interested, send me an email and i can give you a sense of pricing for the mentorship and how it works!

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This is the perfect place to ask any and all questions :grinning: I approach it similarly to Diana. If a client wants to benefit from my trade discounts, I handle the purchasing for them and add on a markup cost to over the coordination, deliveries, etc. It can be a lot of work to manage the ordering and installation, which is why I add the markup cost on top!