The finishing touch for most residential building and remodeling projects is the interior and landscape design. With the housing market continuing to boom, people who know just where to put the side tables, sofas and paintings — or how to landscape the yard for maximum effect — can find plenty of work.
Designers, particularly those who want to work flexible hours and from home, have a wealth of options. Online design firms are flourishing and most enlist freelance and part-time designers to work with their customers. Often, designers only need a portfolio and experience to apply for these positions. Only a few sites require a college degree.
However, being able to use design software is a must. You’ll also need a high-speed internet connection to send designs through most online platforms. Be aware, too, that many of the design platforms pay per design, not per hour. Being able to design quickly and without a lot of revisions is key to making a decent hourly wage.
It is also important to work with the right online platforms. Some let you set your own rates or pay you a reasonable design fee, plus commissions on customer purchases. Other firms pay poorly on every score, making these sites better for those looking for a hobby rather than a career.
Here are a half-dozen platforms where you can find work as an interior or landscape designer, ranked from best to worst.
Creatively helps all types of creatives — fashion and interior designers, filmmakers, artists and others — find work. The relatively young site has drawn a wide array of corporate employers seeking project-based, freelance and full-time employees. There’s no cost to list your services as a creative. The site simply serves as a way to make introductions and for creatives to post portfolios.
Decorilla connects online and in-person interior designers with customers, who pay a flat fee ranging from $700 to more than $1,600 for designs. Designers get half of the flat fee, plus commissions on products that their clients buy.
For that fee, designers create a full design, including color palette, floor plan, furniture placements, 3-D renderings and an itemized shopping list, with store links and prices of the items they recommend. Unlike many other sites, designers are able to recommend purchases from any store. And Decorilla encourages customer purchases by providing steep discounts to customers ordering through 350 different merchants, including Wayfair, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.
Fiverr is a broad-based freelance platform that allows freelancers to create a menu of freelance “packages,” which they design and price themselves. An interior designer, for instance, might offer basic, standard and premium design packages with ascending levels of service and price.
The basic package might help clients rearrange a room, offering advice on furniture and artwork placement. The higher-priced standard package could include a color palette and 3-D design, while the premium package might include all of those elements, plus a shopping list. Pricing and what’s included in each package are completely up to the freelancer offering the package. Freelancers pay a 20% fee to the platform for marketing and payment processing.
What makes Fiverr stand out is that it provides the most flexibility for both designers and clients. Where most of the online interior design companies are geared toward rooms that are devoid of furniture, on Fiverr, you can find a designer — or be a designer — who works with what the client already owns.
Fiverr is also the top choice for landscape designers for much the same reason. The site’s landscape design section lists hundreds of designers, who offer everything from 3-D site plans to engineering plans for decks and hardscape. Prices start as low as $10, but higher-priced designers have hundreds of client reviews, indicating that the site’s clients are not shopping by price alone.
(If you are a landscaper — not a landscape designer — you can find landscaping work at TaskRabbit, JiffyOnDemand and GreenPal.)
Decorist connects interior designers with clients who pay a flat fee for an online room design. The pitch to designers is that you can build your brand without having to find your own clients. The site will bring you the clients and pay you a flat fee, plus “incentive rewards.”
Specifically, designers get half of the fees that clients pay. Generally, clients pay $299 to $599 per room, except for “celebrity” design packages that run $1,299 per room. All packages include two concept boards, a final room design, a detailed floor plan, set-up instructions and a personalized shopping list. Designers say items on the shopping list must come from Decorist-approved vendors.
Given that you’re paid per package, not per hour, you have to be fast to make a reasonable wage here. Glassdoor estimates that the average Decorist designer earns somewhere between $16 and $21 per hour.
Modsy connects work-at-home interior designers with customers needing home makeovers. The site charges customers a flat fee ranging from $159 to more than $1,000 to design a room with furniture from Modsy’s retail partners. If customers want to use their own furniture, the site charges an extra $25 per piece to create a 3-D model of the item to add to the plan.
The site’s designers can be independent contractors or employees, depending on the position. However, the site prefers people who can work at least half time and, ideally, 40 hours a week. Modsy doesn’t have specific education requirements but does expect designers to have experience and a portfolio. Designers will be using Modsy’s proprietary 3-D design software, so they will need training on how to use it. On the bright side, recent designer reviews maintain that the software makes placing furniture in rooms a bit like playing “The Sims.”
Modsy’s independent contractor designers are paid a flat fee for each design and can also earn commissions when their clients buy furniture and accessories that the designer recommended. The flat fee appears to vary depending on the designer’s experience and the package the client buys. (The site also hires designers as employees and estimates hourly pay at about $17.) However, the site promises unlimited plan revisions, which can lead to far lower hourly wages. Glassdoor estimates Modsy’s designers earn between $15 and $19 per hour.
Havenly sucks designers into the job by promising to let them run their own interior design business, with the platform doing the hard work of finding the clients. But the site sets the fees and the terms of the agreement. Fees are low, and the service promises perfection. That’s a bad combination for freelance designers, who complain vociferously about being overworked and underpaid. Glassdoor says that designers here earn as little as $6 an hour.
Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent site that reviews hundreds of money-making opportunities in the gig economy.