Designers often ask me why they should charge a fee instead of charging hourly for their work. They have charged hourly for years and it has worked. Sort of…
First of all, you do not record or track your time consistently or accurately so you really don’t know how much of your valuable time you have spent. Time and money lost.
Then it gets worse, you don’t invoice the little bit of time that you did keep track of. You add up the time and look at the bill and say, “Oh, he is not going to pay me that much”… and so you ‘no charge’ some of those precious hours. Somehow this lack of personal value and self worth gets into the game every month at invoicing time.
Second, your income is limited by the number of hours you have available to sell. Realistically, if you are working alone, 20 hours is about the maximum you can sell due to the 20 to 30 hours of “homework” you have to do to complete a good design job. Design fees do not have this limitation.
Third, when you become proficient and fast at some tasks, such as choosing paint colors, or selecting the fabrics for a room, you are charging fewer hours. This means that you are charging less money than another designer who is not nearly as good or experienced as you, who takes longer. That is just crazy!
I could go on and on but I want to share some comments about fees that came from a designer recently attending my 5 Money Secrets of Successful Designers presentation for Robert Allen/Beacon Hill at ADAC.
Reason #4 – Clients love fixed fees for specific services. As I explain it to them, they will know up front what the design services will cost, and I know up front how much I will make so everyone stays happy.
Reason #5 – On hourly rates clients often panic at the first invoice and either stop the project altogether, or try to do parts of it themselves to keep your fees down. This is a bad situation all the way around since the desired outcome of a project for a designer is not only to be paid a fair rate, but also to have outstanding photos of the space implemented as designed.
Reason #6 – You can send your invoices for fees promptly as agreed in the contract without having the chore of enumerating what you did for each hour to justify the time. I hate that task, and as a result invoicing is delayed. With hourly billing, everything takes longer than your client can believe, so it is a source of unhappy discussion and a breach in the trust between you and your client.
Reason #7 – If one part of the job takes longer than I expected, I will happily take the time needed to do it right without having to bill the time or explain why it took the time it did. It all evens out in the end.
Thanks Susan for your experienced viewpoint. As you can see the fair and professional way to charge for a design job is with a fee for specific services.