Interior Design, Interior Design Collective, Uncategorized
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Can you put a price on creativity?

In short, no. No you can’t.

But as creative people, we have to, in order to make a living. An artist charges £500 for a painting perhaps, which sounds a lot doesn’t it? But then when you find out it took them a week to create it and cost them £70 in materials (canvas, brushes, paints….) £430 for 40 hours work doesn’t quite sound as good does it? That’s £10.75 p/hr by the way. For someone that’s maybe got a BA in fine art. And 40 hours is always 60 hours, because any creative person starts work as soon as they get out of bed and doesn’t switch off until the lights are out. Even then, the brain continues to whirr and race with ideas.

I have been known to solve design dilemmas in my dreams. So even when i’m asleep, i’m working. That’s kind of annoying.

But what happens when you work in a service industry and the service you provide isn’t tangible? When the service you provide is a long and lengthy process where you, the customer only get to see the product at the very end at the “final reveal”? It’s difficult to justify the cost of your time to some people, because they don’t see you “working”. They don’t see you thinking, contemplating, sourcing, experimenting, pondering… In short, they don’t see the creative process. And every creative process is unique because we respond and react to each environment and situation differently.

Edwardian Bedroom

“Creativity is a skill and therefore has a value. In the modern world, that equates to a monetary value. Our worth as designers is justified by the value we add to the lives of our clients. Making their homes; the spaces they have worked hard to afford, work better for them.” – YMMD Design

Since launching the Interior Design Collective, we’ve been having some really interesting discussions about fees, rates, how we charge and how we work it all out. And although we all work slightly differently, we all seem to be in line with one another (although us northerners are slightly cheaper than our southern counterparts), hourly rates within the IDC being between £30 and £50 per hour. Some of us only work by the hour, and others offer a slightly reduced day-rate, my own being £235 for eight hours. My prices have always been on my website by the way, so it’s not like i’m letting any cats out of the bag there.

Ok, so let’s compare these figures to some other services industries out there that work by the hour:

  • Haircut – £30 – £50?
  • Colour – £40 – £60?
  • Sports massage or physio – £35-£55?
  • Dental check up – £48 (and that’s for 20 minutes!)
  • Plumber/electrican – £35

So I think you catch my drift. Cost per hour is in the same ball park. The difference being, you get to see or experience your hour’s worth of work immediately. And you’re going to need more than an hour for me to plan and design a room in your home. It takes time and you might not see the benefits until nearing the end of a project. But this doesn’t mean we’re not working.

In fact the invisible work is always the hardest bit, so yeah, we’re going to be charging for our time, because if we didn’t, you’d be getting all of the best bits for free. And I promise you now, if i’ve charged you for 8 hours, i’ve done 12. Because that’s what happens. You get a whole lot of thinking, insomnia, second guessing and “sleep designing” for free.

Before

After – Victorian Living Room

I remember doing a two hour consult last summer with a lady who had just had plans drawn up for a two storey extension and complete house reconfiguration. Their £50k budget was already super tight, but I was booked just for two hours, to go through the plans with them. They weren’t 100% convinced the architect had given them the optimum layout and they needed to be confident they’d nailed it before plonking down their life’s savings. Sensible.

At the end of the two hour’s, she said

“That’s the best £80 i’ve spent.” 

I was immensely pleased to hear that.

A year later, I was back there walking around a building site with the very layout we’d drawn up the previous year. So whilst £80 might sound like a lot of money to sit down and talk to someone about a floor plan, that two hours completely changed their home for the better. In terms of value, i’d say that was pretty good going no?

Eclectic Living Room

So can you put a value on creativity? What’s your take on this? I’m certain i’ve got some creative bods that read my ramblings? And any people that have used an interior designer in the past, did you see and appreciate the value? I’d love to know your thoughts on this one…

 

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16 Comments

  1. So brilliant Karen, I have MANY times (in fact every time) sat down with a client after the architect has signed off his plans and been able to change them for the better. I particularly laughed at the billing 8 hours and doing 12 – Always always the case! Love what you’ve said here. Your take on it really clarifies and adds ‘value’ to a much misunderstood industry.

  2. Excellent post. I suppose we are supposed to be able to do this ourselves and it perhaps feels frivolous? I think it’s good value but I think with all the DIY shows and superstores we think we can do it ourselves. I think it’s great value for something so fundamental to our comfort and wellbeing.

  3. Oh, this is brilliant! I absolutely agree! You can’t put a price on creativity! Definitely not! Very often I go to bed, my head still buzzing with ideas… In fact it’s when my best ideas come 😜 But no one will never know that because it’s only in my head. I actually never compared designers fee to other services and I must say in that light designers are kind of cheap 😁 I’m just thinking about starting myself so I actually have to thank you for this article Karen 😘

  4. Completely and utterly needed post!
    I know it’s a different field but when we were outbid on houses this year, the agents would tell us that the price is what it costs, but anything above that is how much you want it. Value is definitely subjective which is why it’s so difficult in a creative field, when sometimes there isn’t always something tangible – it’s someone’s specialism you’re paying for. I think in those instances, it’s worth considering what it would cost NOT to use professionals. In that 50k example, that would have been a huge waste of money if it was wrong, making your 80 quid fee an immensely valuable and worthwhile asset. Keep doing what you’re doing hun, you’re smashing it. (And expect a call from me in the new year when I can actually start decorating) xx

  5. Oh my word I’m literally about to launch my design service and this is just what I needed to read. What I have to offer is valuable and I shouldn’t sell myself short! Very well timed xx

  6. A fabulous post! I like a story about the great artist Matisse, who, when asked how so much could be charged for so few strokes, said the cost was due to his understanding of all the lines to leave out. So much of great design is invisible or unseen.
    As a creative it is so important to value your own time and skill.

    • Karen Knox says

      Thank you! I absolutely love that quote, Linda! Might add that to my website….

  7. Brill article Karen, its exactly the same with Garden Design. I hope lots of people – designers and clients – get to read this. I hear some Garden Designers saying they are struggling to make ends meet, but then become sheepish when it comes to charging what they are worth. And, as is your point, I really don’t mean taking advantage, I mean having the confidence to charge fairly, for something they put their heart and soul into making special for their client. Like you say, that doesn’t even include all the page-turning, head-scratching and brain-racking that goes on behind the scenes!

  8. Well said Karen. No nonsense, straight talking. You’re not a Northerner by any chance? Just kidding. You’re absolutely right that we all work more hours than we charge for. Why do we all feel so guilty about valuing our own time? x

  9. Shenleyonthames says

    I know I’ve said this before but I highly recommend the American podcast A Well Designed Business for you guys. Many of the episodes are on the theme of being businesslike, & having the guts to charge what you’re worth. Example two hour initial consultation $850 , admittedly in Manhattan! Fixed fees vs hourly rates, contacts, support staff, managing money. Also Kimberley Seldon’s podcast the Business of Design. Inspiring.

  10. The best piece of advice I was ever given when I was worried about charging a fair price for a painting that in truth hadn’t taken me very long, was from a friend who had owned two hair salons before she retired. She told the story of a lady who had brought her teenage son in to have his hair cut. Sue cut his hair, just how he wanted it. When at the desk to pay the mother of said happy teenager complained that the haircut shouldn’t be £50 because it “only took 10 mins” to which Sue replied, “you’re paying for the 30 years experience I have to be able to do it in 10 minutes!” So, now when a painting takes me a few hours, I reassure myself of that story and remind myself of the 15 years of mistakes and failed paintings I have done to get to get to this point. Fab blog Karen, we shouldn’t have to justify our worth, the results are very clear for all to see! 🙂

  11. Similarly we design + make handmade bespoke textiles. Yet clients constantly compare our prices to mass produced brands. It’s worlds apart in so many ways, they don’t consider all the work that goes on behind the scene, not to mention the incredible skills of our team.

  12. Aishling says

    Love,Love,Love this post!! I am just starting out in a bid to go freelance and the question of how much can I charge to make my dream realistic has had me in knots…this was just what I needed to read. Thank you,thank you, thank you x

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