For interior designers it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Consumers are spending again, and spending more, on design and renovation projects. They also are more demanding, more “hands on,” and more apt to question your advice every step of the way. It is more important than ever that you take steps to protect yourself against pushy or flip-flopping clients.
Clients want to negotiate. They also think they are entitled to discounts and freebies. So you have to be prepared to take charge of the situation from the get-go. When a prospective client first contacts you, be up front about your position on consultations, proposals, product research, etc. If you charge for a first consultation, tell them so. If you don’t do any work without a signed agreement, say so. You are offering a professional service. You don’t need to feel sheepish about letting your clients know how you work and how you expect to get paid.
You need to decide in advance where you are willing to compromise and where you are not. Allow for some flexibility, but set boundaries. Be firm but polite. Again, be prepared to defend your fees and other charges in a very straightforward, businesslike manner. Clients need to be disabused of the notion that designers’ rates are arbitrary.
And most important, put it all in writing – preferably a contract document, but a well-crafted letter of agreement can work, too. Review the terms, budget, schedules, etc. with the client to be certain they understand everything before they sign. Don’t perform any work before you have a signed written agreement.
Want to learn more about working with today’s clients? 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 http://www.interiordesignsociety.org/conference. I hope to see you there.