The Biggest Mistake Interior Designers Make with Fees, Part 1


I’ve been guilty of this before, and it usually happens when I am swamped with work. This is also one of the reasons so many interior designers lose money.

What is it?

Tracking your time.  I know.  This is a royal pain, but it is part of doing business.

What happens when you don’t keep up with time tracking daily?  You don’t have a baseline for how long it takes to do certain activities.  That means it is difficult to estimate time for a project, and therefore estimate budgets.

Also, it leads to scope creep that isn’t paid by your clients. You have to be firm with yourself because this is money in your pocket to pay for your children’s activities, vacations or employee paychecks.  It’s also extremely important to have your employees track their time frequently, too.

A few times, I had to tell my employees that if they didn’t get their time entered, they wouldn’t get their paychecks.  When it affects their paycheck, it’s amazing how they get it done.

It’s like a diet – once you record what you eat, you can see patterns in your eating behavior and how many calories you’re really eating.

This is also extremely important for time management, because you can’t manage your time if you can’t estimate how long it takes to do something. Interesting?

I know how long it takes for me to write a blog post, ezine article, write a class transcript and a typical white paper.  I schedule these activities early in the morning or on Sunday, because those are my best times for creation.

This is especially important if you are managing several projects.  Scheduling revenue generating activities first is your number one priority.

Even if you do value based or fixed fee projects, it is vital to track time.  For you as a business owner, it is also important to track your marketing and administrative time. Why?  It helps you manage the work and identify where you need to make improvements.

There are a number of ways you can track your time.  I use a combination of my Google calendar, and Studio IT for design projects (Studio Webware is even better because you can update your time from your mobile phone).  For DSU time, I make a To Do list with Estimated and Actual time per day on an Excel spreadsheet.  It really works for me. What works for you?

Gail Doby


  1. Vita on July 17, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    I like to track my time daily right after the appointment. I keep a Blog/journal for each project and client. I note what happened: ie. project management, a face to face with the client, design time, materials search etc. I will make a notation to the actual time I spent and what was discussed, accomplished etc. I find also that some things take longer and that I like to see the actual hours. If I feel that an adjustment needs to be made at billing because the task exceeded what I thought it should, I will do that.With a design/build or remodeling project this can be a lifesaver when you need to refer back to a decision or detail.

  2. Annette on July 19, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Good article. Straight and to the point.
    Thank you.

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