Get Outside the Black Box

Designers frequently complain to me that clients don’t understand or appreciate their value. They usually have a story or two about “the one that got away” – the client who seemed eager to undertake a project and then mysteriously decides to postpone or reconsider when they see the project proposal, and the designer’s fee. The problem may not be that they don’t value your professional expertise, however. It may be that they don’t understand how you are valuing the project.

For most consumers, designers’ fees and charges are a black box. And that makes them anxious. Home and design websites are chockablock with prospective clients asking the same questions over and over again: What is working with a designer going to cost me? How do I know if what they are charging me is fair? Consumer protection websites and news reporters warn against hidden fees and overcharges on purchases. Is it any wonder that when a client reviews a proposal, contract or letter of agreement, they realize they have no way of evaluating whether it is a good and fair offer? In doubt, they get cold feet.

Do your client and yourself a favor; take the lid off the black box. Before you submit a proposal, spend some time explaining not only how you charge, but why you charge what you do. Help them to understand how you calculate your fees and other project costs, how you purchase, and any other charges that may be involved. Explain that you take all that into consideration when determining how to work within their budget. That way when they do get your proposal, they can vet instead of fret.

Would you like to attract more of the types of clients you want? Join me for my session, “Creating the 21st Century Designer,” at the Interior Design Society Conference in Dallas on Friday, April 1, from 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. For more information and to register, go to

I hope to see you there.



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