Our basement is currently unfinished. Given that the renovation is going to be fairly expensive, we thought it was best to have a designer help us with the best use of space. This company was recommended to us by our contractor of choice (who we want to finish the basement). Based on our conversations - there was no inference of a referral fee.
Our main contact was Catherine, and she basically works in three steps.
Meeting 1 - get some ideas of what we wanted, and then spend 2-3 hours getting measurements, noting ductwork, electrical lines and plumbing.
Meeting 2 - present several ideas. In our case, she came with 7 different floor options for the basement -- a floor plan, along with some 3D renderings of walls, furniture, etc. We told her we wanted to re-use some existing furniture, so she worked those into the plans.
Meeting 3 - this is yet to come for us. But based on our feedback in Meeting 2, she will present two final options with some last detail. She notes in her contract that they're not blueprints by any means. They won't indicate location of outlets - or that level of detail. But there are wall measurements, and that level of detail.
So far, so good.