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Design;  interior, industrial, architectural, graphic, fashion, etc. all have unique differences but have more in common than not.

iStock_000003809094XSmallWe sell time, we sell ideas and some of our clients work really hard not to pay for time or ideas.  So we bundle it against products, furniture, software, wardrobes, printing, etc. All in the hopes of gaining a return on our time to earn a wage that pays our college loans and makes us respectable bread winners for our families.

The truth is there isn’t really any way to have this make sense to our clients because many think/say:

1. There are a lot of designers and you should feel fortunate to have a project.

2. It will only take you “a minute” to sketch that up. “Whats the big deal?”

3. Why don’t you hand over your resources so “we can buy direct?” Its the least you can do, we are your favorite clients.

4. I could do it myself; how hard is it to figure out furniture plans and pick colors, honestly.

5. You have fun all day long, what a life!

Now, we all know the above just isn’t true, but we do have to train our best clients to value our time.  And then when they do, please be careful and don’t take advantage of them. It gives the rest of us a bad name.

1. Don’t pad hours. If it took you 2 hours and you are short on money that week and post 3 hours; that’s naughty.

2. If you and your client agree to a fee; but your process (by your choice not theirs) takes longer. Consider adapting your process. Make the work fit the time. Don’t penalize your client based on your preferences in how to process, select or present. And don’t frustrate yourself.

3. As painful as it is, most clients love to see the trace paper sketches and all the ideas that you threw away. Somehow they see value in that versus the neatly drafted, copied, collated and filed design idea.

4. Manage changes; if your client asked for X and then after seeing X, wants XX, then you have the ability to negotiate for more fees. But don’t anticipate XX, make them ask for it.

5.   Depending on the client a little communication goes a long way. If your deadline is challenged or something happened (discontinued fabric, long lead times for french doors), DON’T WAIT too long before you clue the client in on whats going on.  They will be more likely to understand how changes outside of them impact how you spend time as well.

6. If you sell time and product; be up-front with your client and let them know how you and your company makes revenue to pay salaries and keep the studio afloat. NO, I am not suggesting you whine and complain, just educate them and include them into your process of success.

It would be wonderful if design businesses were all about the creative process, the mind tingling, heart stopping process of aesthetics and grace. But a designer who stays employed or keeps their studio open more than 10 years, has the best opportunity for creativity. Be smart and manage your clients with care and appreciation.