Design Resources

Hey, Interior Designers: It’s Not a Mark-Up, It’s a Client Discount.

In this multi-part blog series, we’re taking an inside look at some super cool online courses created specifically for designers – to help you grow your business, become more profitable, and market yourself better. Make sure to check out the other posts in this series! 

In this post, we’re taking a closer look at the course Pricing for Profitability developed by Veronica Solomon.

Hey, Interior Designers: It’s Not a Mark-Up, It’s a Client Discount.

Image: Veronica Solomon Design

A lot of interior designers have a standard markup on every product they specify. It’s a common approach throughout the industry. But, the idea of paying a “markup” on each piece of furniture doesn’t always make sense to the client.

Clients often don’t understand why you should make money off of products, or why your industry discounts aren’t passed directly on to them. They may not be aware of all the work that goes into specifying, ordering, arranging delivery, and installation. (Not to mention the financial risk involved with the designer acting as a retailer.

They also don’t see how many broke interior designers are struggling to just keep their business afloat.

The way Veronica Solomon explains her standard profit margin to her clients has made all the difference for her business:

“I look at the difference between the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and what my net cost is, and I split that difference with my client.

“I explain to my clients that I am offering them a discounted rate that I can get because I’m a professional designer and I have relationships with product manufacturers.”

“It’s not a markup, it’s a discount.”

Her clients accept her approach because she educates them from the beginning. Veronica explains the work that goes into sourcing a product, and the risk that she takes on when purchasing products.

“Making money off of the product themselves is where I make most of my profits.”

Self-Taught Savvy

Veronica Solomon - Interior design Pricing for profitability

Image: Veronica Solomon Design

Veronica runs a successful design practice based in Katy, Texas. But almost 25 years ago, when she came to the U.S. from Jamaica, she didn’t know anything about interior design.

Before long, though, she got hooked on HGTV. She returned to school to study design and begin a second career but dropped out shortly after when her husband passed away. While raising her two children, Veronica replaced a formal education with self– education, undertaking a years-long adventure in learning both the design and business worlds.

It’s been quite a road. And although it wasn’t easy, Veronica made her way.

“Education became a big deal for me. I had the desire to go back to school, but I had two kids to raise and it didn’t make sense to spend money in that area. So I educated myself, bought textbooks, and watched webinars and videos.”

She followed people who became her mentors – both in design and in business. Among them, designers Tobi Fairley and Kimberley Seldon, businesswoman Sandi Krakowski, and financial guru Dave Ramsey.

After moving her home from Florida to Texas and then being laid off from her job, Veronica decided it was time to take the leap and launch her interior design business. She named it Casa Vilora, after her own middle name.

Building a Design Community, Online

Veronica Solomon - Interior design Pricing for profitability

Image: Veronica Solomon Design

Veronica discovered Facebook Groups and the online communities they provide. She began contributing her own advice, and was motivated to figure things out so she could help someone else. One specific group began to rely on her daily input, and several people suggested she start her own group on Facebook.

At first, she laughed. “No, that’s not for me.” But she soon reconsidered and decided to take the leap to start her own group. She called it “What They Don’t Teach You in Design School,” and planned for it to be a small, intimate group of 50 inexperienced designers who were really struggling and needed help.

The group quickly grew into an active, highly-engaged group of over 2,800 members and growing.

Around the same time, Veronica was really enjoying helping fellow designers, and so she also launched a website to provide one-on-one mentoring services.

Her hard work and dedication to educating herself was paying off.

“I put it all together myself. Now I’m so confident in what I’m doing in my business.”

Veronica has turned her confidence into an online course that helps other designers learn how to start an interior design business, sustain it, and make it profitable.

Pricing for Profitability Course

Veronica Solomon - Interior design Pricing for profitability

Image: Veronica Solomon Design

“Everywhere you go, you’ll find designers that have a great body of work and are very busy, but they’re really not making money.”

Veronica saw designers around her working hard every day, with little profit to show for it. She had fallen into the same trap many times:

“I was not holding firm to the standards I had set in my own business. For example, with pricing my products I would think to myself, ‘I’m just going to markup this one 30%, or this other one, I’ll mark it up 50%.’ It would depend on the client, or the mood I was in, or how much money I felt like I needed to make for that project or how broke I was.”

What she needed to do instead was to stay firm with her standard fees. No negotiations. Once she started to follow that rule, she began to see profits from her business.

She turned her experience into her online course, “Pricing for Profitability”. The course teaches designers about:

  • The mindset needed to become profitable
  • Markup vs. margin
  • Why profit margins are important, and a formula for setting them
  • The importance of building relationships with vendors
  • How to track your profitability

Veronica remembers a point a few years ago, when she was so desperate that she would take any work from anyone. But her approach to profitability has empowered her to only take on the projects and clients that are the right fit for her and her business.

“I discovered that I can walk away from a project. I don’t have to say yes to it. If a client can’t accept the way that I work (and charge), then we can’t really work together.”

Getting Clear

Once she got clear about her own policies and processes, and focused on educating new and potential clients about why she does things this way, Veronica found that almost every client is happy to follow her “rules”.

“I’m firm and fair, and I’m transparent. I explain my process, and clients get it. I explain my role and what I do for them behind the scenes. I even introduce them to the bad things that could happen with their project and situations that have happened in the past, and how I take care of it so they won’t have to.”

When you present yourself as a professional with a clear process, clients feel confident that you will spend their money well and you have a system in place to make sure that they’re taken care of.

The course includes a template budget. Designers can plug in their numbers and it does the calculations. It includes line items that identify exactly what each item costs; estimates for freight, installation, and cleaning fees; a contingency budget; and your fees and margins.

To offer more in-depth information about budgets and fee proposals, Veronica recently launched a complementary course, “Preparing and Presenting Your Fee Proposal” that walks designers through the fee proposal that she uses, and how she breaks down her fees to show clients exactly where their money goes.

Veronica Solomon’s courses can be purchased at any time online – there is no set registration date. Learn more about Veronica’s

Pricing for Profitability course and her other courses on her website, Veronica Solomon.

Gather for Interior Designers

Gather helps streamline your business and create growth opportunities. Use its elegant and easy-to-use interface to organize your design projects and collect, manage, and track product specifications.