If you're feeling overworked and underpaid this time of year, don't blame your clients. Chances are you're undervaluing your services or committing one of the other common "money miscues" that too many interior design professionals commit too often.

It may well be that you don't get the fees that you set because you don't ...

1. Adequately qualify prospects.

You need to know exactly who has the need, budget, commitment and authority to hire you. If you don't ask the right questions up front, you're asking for trouble later on. Next time you're face to face with a prospect, ask yourself: "Can he/she afford to pay the kind of money I need to earn to reach my financial goals?"

2. Put "budget" in perspective.

Trying to convince prospects to randomly come up with a budget does everyone a disservice. Few have a clue about their design budget, Savvy designers discuss their top-of-the-line services and products first, as a way to educate prospects about the possibilities. Then, they let them decide what they can and can't afford.

3. Communicate your value.

As a design professional, you upgrade and update living and work spaces, and save people time, money and stress. Do you say that? If you regularly face price resistance, that's a sure sign that people don't understand and appreciate all you do, all you've done and all you can do. Your fault, not theirs.

4. Understand that price objections are buying signals.

If you do get price objections, appreciate rather than avoid them. A prospect wouldn't take the time to question your fees if she's disinterested. You have a 30 percent better chance of closing a deal when at least some price objections are raised.

5. Differentiate yourself from those who charge less.

Sell yourself first. Tell prospects what only you do, and they'll buy only from you. Make sure they make an apples-to-apples comparison of all the services offered by you, and your "cheaper" competitors. And develop and distribute a killer bio that speaks to your special-ness and specialties, establishes your expertise and positions you as a uniquely-qualified leader in your field.

6. Probe for pain.

Prospects likely face interior design problems far more pressing than the fee you charge to correct them. Your mission is to help them identify those challenges and suggest ways to overcome them. Once you find and offer to "fix" the pain, your services (and fee) will be viewed as a necessity, rather than a frill.

7. Discuss "price" when you should.

Which is at the end, once you've discussed all of their design "pain." Quote your fee before then, and chances are your prospect will stop listening — and start considering less expensive alternatives.

8. Ask the right closing questions.

"How committed are you to deal with those issues?" "What would it cost you if we don't move ahead?" Those two questions make it considerably easier for design professionals to seal more deals. Problem is, they often forget to ask them. Close on "commitment" and "cost," and your closing ratio with improve dramatically.

If fee failure has been a problem in your design business, remember that a problem is merely the difference between what you have and what you need. In this case, you simply need to educate reluctant prospects about your value and their pain.