• Renate Ruby

Are you charging for the wrong thing?

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Do you do design by the hour? I don't think you should, well, not really.


I see designers doing things I think are....hate to say it.... but wrong.


.......They charge for their time.

.......They write invoices like a shopping list.

.......They don't recognize or charge for the value they add to items.

.......They use terms like "designer discount" or "markup" with their clients.

.......They allow their clients to have the last word on every...single...item.


I'll go over these one by one, and each one will have it's own post.



Here is what I think you SHOULD be charging for.



1 The IDEAS - the design - the inspiration, whatever phrase works for you. This value created for the client is independent of how much time it takes to develop or how much it costs to implement. This is for the intellectual property development only. This is the creative imagining that only a designer can do and that concept has value. This is our superpower. We are not drafters, we are not shoppers we are DESIGNERS and the idea itself has value.


2 The generation of communication tools to represent the IDEA to anyone who needs to understand it in order to make the idea real. This could include the client, the contractor, the architect, the building department or the furniture maker. These tools could be a drawing, a 3D model, a schedule, a mood board - anything that communicates that idea in your head. These are tasks that could be done by the person who generated the idea, or another person guided by the idea creator.


3 Converting IDEA to a real life environment. In order to make an idea real, you need things, like rugs and sofas and lighting and art. These things should be sold as a package with ONE price attached. Without these things, the idea cannot be expressed in the physical world. If the client has paid for an idea, for a design, the only way to actually give the client the full value of the design is to provide all elements needed to express that idea. Those items have value and the designer should be paid for these things as well.


4. This last item is one generally overlooked. Designers deserve to be paid for the value they add to elements of the design. More about this in other posts.



When I say we have a superpower, I mean it. Most people don't think like we do, and we have spent most of our lives developing our skill and our taste. Taste is not something that is subjective. Your taste is better than most people's - and it most certainly is better than your client's. This isn't just a boast, it's truth, and this is why.


According to Paul Graham in his paper entitled "Taste for Makers" (which I recommend as required reading for any person working in a creative field) whatever job you do you naturally want to get better at it. If taste is just personal preference, then there is no way to get better at it. I know my taste is better now than it was 20 years ago, so that must mean that 20 years ago my taste was not just different, but worse than it is now.


It will save arguments if we all pretend that all taste is equal, but it's just not true. We designers devote our lives to studying what makes some design better than others and we do actually know more about design than our clients.


Read the article. Feel good about what you do, and then come back for more.....




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