trade tales | Nov 12, 2021 |
9 designers on whether they bill for travel time

Expanding your firm’s reach and taking on out-of-town clients can be a great business move, but should you be billing for the extra time to get to the site? We asked nine designers—Malka Helft, Rebecca Johnston, Amy Leferink, Jennifer Markowitz, Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski, Killy Scheer, Maneli Wilson, Stephen Young and Georgia Zikas—if they bill for travel time and costs.

Stephen Young
Stephen YoungCourtesy of Stephen Young

Group effort
“I don’t charge for travel time, but I collect reimbursable costs for airfare, transportation and lodging as necessary. Depending on project schedules, I am able to group out-of-town projects with other meetings, so I split costs between projects where possible.” —Stephen Young, Stephen Young Design, Chicago and Fairfield, Connecticut

Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski
Tiffany Leigh PiotrowskiCourtesy of Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski

Time is money
“We absolutely charge for travel time. We often carpool as a team and spend the time reviewing the project, making related calls and brainstorming. Even when we don’t, this is time that could be spent doing other billable tasks for clients, and therefore is valuable. The costs also help us to cover expenses like gas. Many of our projects are out of town, and it would be a huge hit from a time and cost perspective if we didn’t bill for this. Our travel fee is slightly reduced from our regular rate.” —Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski, Tiffany Leigh Design, Toronto

Georgia Zikas
Georgia ZikasCourtesy of Georgia Zikas

A small fee
“Yes, we charge a travel fee. We are centrally located in Connecticut, and we work routinely around the Northeast as well as some distant states that require air travel. We probably should charge even more, but the travel fee is commensurate with the scope of the project and helps us to recoup lost time that we could otherwise be working on another client’s project at full rate. The travel fee is small enough that it doesn’t stop the client from hiring us.” —Georgia Zikas, Georgia Zikas Design, West Hartford, Connecticut

Maneli Wilson
Maneli WilsonCourtesy of Maneli Wilson

Welcome break
“I do not charge out-of-town clients for travel time. My feeling is that if a client chooses to work with me over a designer who is more geographically desirable, I should grant them the courtesy of not charging for my travel time. For the most part, this time consists of rare minutes of peace and is welcomed! Further, it can be used to cross off to-dos for other clients, so I wouldn’t feel justified charging for it anyway.” —Maneli Wilson, Maneli Wilson Interiors, New York

Killy Scheer
Killy ScheerCourtesy of Killy Scheer

Case by case
“We charge for travel time, but determine a fair rate depending on the project. For projects more than 100 miles away, but still within driving distance, we charge a day rate based on 10 hours of work, which typically is a benefit to the client, as those long days tend to be 12 to 15 hours, but we’re only charging for 10. If we are flying to a job site, we bill our clients for airfare, hotels and meals up to $50 per person per day. Once we’ve arrived, we charge our typical hourly rates for work.” —Killy Scheer, Scheer & Co., Austin, Texas

Malka Helft
Malka HelftCourtesy of Malka Helft

Built-in
“I do charge for travel, but I don’t do it outright. Instead, I usually build travel time into my overall flat project fee. This helps reduce any unexpected costs for the client throughout the duration of the project.” —Malka Helft, Think Chic Interiors, White Plains, New York

Amy Leferink
Amy LeferinkCourtesy of Amy Leferink

Well-Traveled
“If a project is within driving distance, we charge the standard federal mileage rate for travel, plus any additional travel expenses, such as hotel stays. We also charge a per diem rate of $60 per person per day to cover food costs. For out-of-state projects that require air travel, we charge the same fees for hotel and food, in addition to flight expenses, parking, taxis and rental cars. We charge hourly for our time spent working on the project, but at our normal rate.” —Amy Leferink, Interior Impressions, St. Paul, Minnesota

Rebecca Johnston
Rebecca JohnstonCourtesy of Rebecca Johnston

Budget matters
“We typically charge for travel only when the project is outside of a reasonable driving distance. For out-of-state projects, we charge a reduced daily rate. That said, we don’t take on out-of-town projects unless they have larger budgets to begin with.” —Rebecca Johnston, R Johnston Interiors, Santa Clarita, California

Jennifer Markowitz
Jennifer MarkowitzCourtesy of Jennifer Markowitz

Only way to do it
“Our firm charges half our hourly fee for travel farther than 30 minutes from our location. Remember: Time is money!” —Jennifer Markowitz, JNR Designs, New York

Homepage photo: A project by Scheer & Co. | Courtesy of Killy Scheer

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