What Level is Your Design Business?

Fees and Consultations charge

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    Hello Vita and all, I want to say first THANK YOU!! it was an awesome class, with a lot of information to execute and put into our own system

    I have questions regarding fees, I know everyone has different types of business, different services, and clients (retail and designers trade only)
    I have a design studio with a workroom in-house because I used to have a store I still have retail and referrals from them.
    When I decided to close the store I focus only on designers and commercial projects, but still got leads from my clients and referrals.

    My questions are:
    -As a trade-only window treatment specialist Do you charge for consultations, or is there an extra fee to manage the project ?(estimates, ordering, installation supervising, etc)
    -for retail clients, do you charge for consultations by default?
    -Do you refund the fees after purchasing?

    I am asking especially on to the trade clients, because I experience that my designer’s clients, usually want me to visit the project before they qualify their clients, we spend a good amount of hours, driving, bringing the samples, estimating, also designing, helping to select drapery hardware, etc, etc and the end clients don’t buy … and all the effort and tie is just a waste.

    I will love to read your thought and ways to work this in a better and fair game for everyone.

    Happy Sunday,


    Hi Alejandra,
    I have lived and built my business in 3 different states: NJ ( where I started) then MA and now CA. In all three states the majority of window treatments businesses did not charge for consults. However, in all 3 states, sometimes I charged and sometimes I didn’t and usually when I didn’t it was because I was succumbing to the pressure of the other businesses not charging. Now in CA, I generally charge an initial fee of $300 whether it is a designer or a retail client. I am about 50/50 this year of designer vs retail. Sometimes I credit that back to the client depending on the size of the job. I wish I could say I am consistent all the time but I started coaching with Amber de la Garza and since then most of the time I charge the $300 fee.

    There are designers that I work with that only bring me out to a job when it is a definite job so I don’t feel like I am wasting my time, but I still charge them a measure fee. I have to say, when I mention a fee, it definitely weeds out the tire kickers to begin with but it also opens the door to the larger discussion of budget. If $300 if a stretch for them, then they likely can’t afford my services anyway.



    I have started charging a fee and it gives the customer 90 minutes of my time. After that they pay by the hour. Some people don’t question it and a few are shell shocked. I think it creates respect for your time. This pandemic has made me more respectful of my time. It only took me 32 years…slow learner!
    Thank you,


    I’m so happy to hear others are charging design / consult fees! Do you guys credit the fees back? I have started to charge a $250 design fee with retail clients, which I then credit back to the project if they move forward.

    I have had a LOT of pushback from designer clients, so I could use some help with the verbiage you guys use to explain. I think it may be an aversion to using the term “design fee”? Perhaps a “measure fee” would be more palatable?

    I also love the 90 minute then charge by the hour idea Freddie!


    Hi, I charge a consultation/measure fee of $250-$350. If it’s a retail client, it’s a 90 minute consultation but if it is a designer it’s a measure fee. Multiple consultations/measures = multiple fees. The minimum is $250, if the scope is a few rooms or more then it’s $350. They pay this fee up front to hold to hold a time slot in my calander. The fee includes one estimate. Once the estimate is completed, I don’t do anymore work until a non-refundable deposit is collected. If they walk away, then I get paid if not then the deposit goes toward the purchase. Once the scope and estimate are finalized and we are ready to move to order entry they electronically sign the estimate (and my agreement) prior to me ordering anything. Wondering if anyone else has a similar process? My only issue with this process is managing estimate changes/revisions. I think I need a fee for multiple estimates or revisions??? Thoughts?? – Jess


    I currently do not charge a consult fee …. but after reading this post I am going to start! My business is mostly to the trade. I have some designers who are great and take very little of my time, but others bring me out and go way over what would be a normal amount of time. I love the idea of 90 minutes and then charging for your time by the hour. Also, I love the idea of you get one estimate. I have had people who change the estimate constantly and at some point it gets overwhelming.


    Oh, my goodness, i just logged in and saw how active you guys have been here!
    here’s what we do:
    1. if retail customer, charge the fee $250, applicable towards their order should they place one
    2. if designer, we do not charge a fee
    in all cases, we do EVERYTHING possible to give them a budget estimate before driving anywhere.

    yes about the revisions – the struggle is real! but we do not currently charge additional for them.
    our pricing is pretty high though – you guys will see in class 3, when i show you some of our estimates.



    I started charging a fee with the pandemic. It’s amazing how easily it rolls off my tongue now. $125 for retail clients. More if we have multiple rooms with multiple designs.


    I like this topic Alejandra,

    I am to-the-trade only. My process is a bit different. Because my designers are good about pre-qualifying projects, I’m generally not brought in until they know the client is on board. It’s super rare for me to quote projects that don’t happen. Having said that…I charge a $100 to measure locally and $120/hour to out of area (including driving).

    I also charge a minimum of $100/room as an admin fee. This includes time for quoting and tracking. If there are 10 spaces, that’s a minimum of $1000 on the project. Some rooms are more…$150/$200. This fee is buried in the overall price of the room. It’s not itemized. I did recently quote an entire house (long-distance project) where I did itemize the fee. The designer was good with that plan. Long-distance jobs require more admin.

    I also recently started charging for quotes for new designers. ($250 / 2 spaces, $450 for more). I did this because I was getting calls from designers out-of-the-blue asking for quotes. Many of them were out-of-town designers (Chicago designer doing a CT project). I knew they must be calling a bunch of workrooms trying to get help. Some paid and others walked. The tactic worked in my favor.

    I think charging a measure/consult fee is important. I’m shocked at the amount of time the designers and/or homeowners will waste when they aren’t paying for it. I need to think of a way to charge for re-quoting. It’s just so damn time consuming!!

    Thank you for bringing this up.
    Lisa Salvatore

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What Level is Your Design Business?