Designer Interviews

How Much Do Interior Designers Make? [Plus How to Earn More]

As an interior designer, you might be curious how your salary stacks up against the data on averages.

Employed interior designers earn $50-60k on average, but business owners can set their salaries at double that—or even more. 

Of course, a lot of elements go into establishing an interior designer’s salary. And in this guide, we’re covering all of them. 

Keep reading for the latest data on interior designer salaries and how to increase your salary, whether you’re self-employed or not.

What’s in this guide:

  • Average interior design salaries
  • What about high earners?
  • Interior design education and certification
  • How to increase your salary as a solo interior designer
  • How to increase your salary as the owner of a small firm
  • How to increase your salary as an employed interior designer

Looking for design and project management tools to streamline your workflow? Check out DesignFiles.

Average interior design salaries 

Interior designers can earn a wide-ranging amount. Check out this data for the averages. 

United States

Here are some stats on interior designer salaries in the United States, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (using data collected in May of 2021):

  • Median annual salary for all types of interior designers: $60,340
  • Median annual salary for interior designers involved in architectural, engineering, or related services: $63,210
  • Median annual salary for interior designers involved in wholesale trade: $61,820
  • Median annual salary for interior designers offering specialized design services: $58,840
  • Median annual salary for interior designers working at furniture stores: $48,790

Indeed offers their own useful salary data as well. Here’s the breakdown of salaries by experience, according to Indeed

  • Less than 1 year of experience: $51,972
  • More than 10 years of experience: $80,514

And according to Payscale, interior designers in the US earn:

  • A base salary in the $39,000 to $74,000 range
  • Commissions in the $1,000 to 30,000 range

(Make sure to keep reading for tips on how to boost both your base salary and your commissions.)

Canada

Here are some insights into Canadian interior designers’ salaries, according to Indeed:

  • Average annual salary for interior designers: $57,085 (CAD)
  • Average annual salary for current open positions for interior designers as of September 2022: C$64,540 (CAD)

According to Payscale, Canadian designers rake in these earnings:

  • A base salary in the $39,000 – $68,000 (CAD)range
  • Commissions in the $2,000 – $41,000 (CAD) range

The Government of Canada’s Job Bank resource states that interior designers earn a median wage of $23.08 per hour, and $43.27 on the high end, with Alberta and British Columbia boasting the highest wages.

Interior design education and certification

Whether you received a college degree and certifications in design or you are self-educated, here are a few important things to be aware of. 

Keep in mind that in some states, certifications or licenses are required. In most states, you need to have taken the NCIDQ, except in California, where you’ll need the CCIDC

The NARI isn’t required, but is a popular certification for interior designers who do remodels, so they can show off their expertise to clients and join a network of other remodeling professionals. 

In Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and the District of Columbia, designers need to have a board-issued license to practice. In the state of New York, you can practice interior design but can’t call yourself a “certified interior designer” without the appropriate license.

According to Interior Designers of Canada, designers need to get a college degree from an accredited school to practice design. However, you may want to check the local laws in your province to be sure.

So do degrees and certifications impact salary?

They only impact salary insofar as they inhibit or permit your ability to operate as a professional.

Here are some things to consider:

Self-employed interior designers

Unless your state or district requires it, you don’t need a certification to be successful. You can use your DIY design projects (from your house or your family’s) to create your first portfolio and start getting clients from there. If getting a certification will make you feel more confident in starting your business, then go for it.

Employed designers

Designers seeking traditional employment will usually need a degree and/or certification to be considered for the job. 

Requirements can change state-to-state and province-to-province, so be sure to check with an association of interior designers in your area to find out the requirements:

How to increase your salary as a solo interior designer

To boost your income as a self-employed interior designer, try these smart tips. 

1. Save time on design projects with better systems

The right software can save you hours each week, allowing you more time to market your business and take on more projects. 

Finding a platform that includes both design and project management tools is ideal because the system can then automate so many of the tedious tasks that consume your day. 

For example, with DesignFiles, when you create a design board, the system automatically generates the entire product list for you which you can then easily convert into quotes, invoices, purchase orders and branded client presentations with just a few clicks. You can also handle all client communication and create detailed 3D floor plans all under one roof.

moodboard design software

2. Say no to unideal projects to make way for profitable ones

When you’re self-employed, you’re in charge of paying your own salary, so it can be really hard to turn down projects when you’re afraid something better won’t come along. 

But you have to turn down projects that are not ideal or reveal red flags (ex: when a client is too picky, demanding, or clearly a penny-pincher). These kinds of projects more often than not end up costing you far more in the long run and prevent your business from moving to the next level.

3. Double down on marketing that works

It’s so easy to get shiny object syndrome when marketing your business. Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, email newsletters…the list goes on and on.

But the most successful solo designers pick a couple of marketing channels and stick with them. For example, you could choose to post on Instagram twice a week and also send out helpful content to your email newsletter list. 

4. Operationalize your referrals

Successful solo designers usually get anywhere from 50 to 90% of their new clients from referrals. 

Instead of waiting around for referrals, get proactive. 

For example, you might…

  • Send postcards to former clients, family, and friends with a special promo (that they can use or pass to a friend)
  • Build your referral network by reaching out to local business owners 
  • Give gifts or referral commissions to partners to encourage them to keep referring you

5. Boost profits with affiliate links, commissions, and high-margin trade products

Raising your rates isn’t the only way to increase your income. Make sure to use every resource at your disposal in order to boost the profits of your projects. Whether you choose to be in charge of ordering products on behalf of your client or you let the client shop the items themselves, there are ways to earn on every single product sale.

Here are the 3 main ways:

  1. If you don’t have an active resale certificate (or some other form of proof of your trade standing) and you prefer to let the client shop the items themselves, joining affiliate networks is a great option for you to earn upwards of 10% commissions on every item your client buys. Check out our guide on earning more affiliate commissions.
  2. If you do have an active resale certificate or some other form of proof of your trade standing, but you still prefer to let the client shop the items themselves, then SideDoor is your best bet for commissions. SideDoor is a designer marketplace where you can source 200+ trade-only vendors, create shoppable collections for your client, and earn an average of 30% on each sale. And as a bonus, SideDoor manages the ordering and delivery of the items for you free of charge. 
  3. Buying with a trade account allows you to purchase pieces at a trade discount. Discounts vary by vendor but on average you can get anywhere from 20% to 50%. You can then choose to mark-up the product to the full retail value and earn the difference when you bill your client or you can choose to split your designer discount with your client. Check out all of our favorite resources for sourcing high margin trade products.

How to increase your salary as the owner of a small firm

As the owner of a small firm, your job is to scale, and make sure you’re profitable on all of the work that assistant designers do. 

1. Hire experts when outsourcing something new for the first time

If you’ve never outsourced something before (whether it’s marketing, design work, or something else), make sure to work with an expert. This way, you can learn how they approach things. Later, you can be more comfortable hiring and training a newbie.

2. Track and increase project profitability

Your goal should be to achieve 40 – 60% profitability on each and every project. To discover your project profitability rate, calculate all of the time that your team spends on a project and what that costs you. Then calculate your earnings, including design fees, project management hourly rates, product commissions, etc. 

Project Profitability = (Earnings from Project ÷ Cost of Project) X 100

If your rate for each recent project isn’t at least 40%, then you need to try new strategies to increase commissions (see point #5 above), raise your rates, or both. 

You should also track and monitor this rate for each project going forward, and take action as needed to improve this rate. 

3. Assess your project management process biannually

Are you managing projects as efficiently as possible? 

Make sure to do a review of project management process, on everything from client intake to design work to client feedback to managing product orders. Look for areas where your team spends the most time, or parts in the process where clients get confused. This might be ripe for change. 

4. Forecast your income and expenses

Many small design firms hire bookkeepers and accountants, but they may not have anyone on staff for CFO-related work. Rather than just track things for tax liability, a CFO will help you forecast your income and profits so that you can proactively manage your cash flow and address any dips before they occur.

5. Balance growth initiatives with profitability ones

A growing business will always need to balance profitability at all costs versus slashing expenses. 

Think of these as phases of growth versus contraction. As a small business owner, it can be tough to work on these simultaneously, so try working on them in chunks of 3 to 6 months. For example, you might spend 6 months in growth mode (advertising and hiring) and then 3 months in profitability mode (curbing unnecessary expenses).

How to increase your salary as an employed interior designer

As a traditionally employed interior designer, your path to a higher income will look very different. While you can’t set your own salary, you’re certainly not powerless. Here are some things you can do. 

1. Continue your professional development

Make sure to keep investing time in your professional development so you stay current with trends, systems, and processes. As for the costs, try to get approval from your company to pay for additional courses, workshops, and certifications. 

2. Bring new clients to the firm 

Do what you can to bring in new clients. You might create a social media presence as an interior designer and refer followers to your firm or you might do your part to network and drive referrals.

3. Prioritize the client experience and become invaluable

The way you work with clients will become your real bread and butter. When you’re the one that clients rave about, you become an indispensable asset who can’t be replaced.

4. Keep your eye on new positions and salaries (even if you don’t apply)

Make sure you stay aware of the above-average salaries offered by other companies. Even if you’re not looking for a new job, you can use this data to your advantage. Indeed and LinkedIn can be excellent sources of interior designer salary information. 

5. Advocate for a higher salary, profit sharing, and or a higher commission split

When you’ve got all of the above working well for you, then you can and should advocate for a higher salary for yourself. 

You might also ask the firm for a higher commission split for the products you recommend or for some sort of profit sharing.

When you take action, you can break through averages and reach the top 10% of earners, no matter what type of interior design you offer. 

Looking for design and project management tools that will make you more efficient and profitable?  Try DesignFiles for free for one project.

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