“Change How Your Charge”…and other wisdom
Interior design professionals from around the world wrote in to address the problem of the Atlanta designer who, after 22 years, is getting “shopped.”
Some said they could feel her pain, others had ideas on how to overcome it.
A random sampling of the comments:
Interesting topic. It must be global, as I’m noticing the same ‘trend’ in Ireland. Have already given some thought and although the solution to this problem is still ‘work in progress’, trust the best work of your portfolio and general sketch/idea without giving away too much detail is one of the ways protecting your IP.
Best Regards / Mit freundlichen Gruessen / Pagarbiai EMA KERSULIENE, BA Int.Architect, IA Creative Director e m a r i Ltd.: residential & commercial interiors, Ireland
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Dear AD in Atlanta,
I feel your pain! I am also an experienced designer with many high end residential projects under my belt but have also seen times changing. This has concerned me so much that I have selected this very topic for my thesis. I have been researching the effects the economic downturn and the advances of technology have made on our residential design business.
Here are a few things I have learned when surveying ASID designers in the DC area using the ASID list serve. -84% of the designers answered that clients shop for their products. -80% of the designers answered that clients compare prices on items on the internet thinking the quality is the same when it frequently is not. -68% said clients make their own purchases even if it is not part of the overall design scheme. -When clients are not buying from the designer, 71% are buying from the internet. 72% of the designers surveyed lose sales because their clients can find the items cheaper on the internet.
These are some of the negative impacts the internet has had on our industry.
According to Gail Doby of Design Success University, in the 2012 Interior Design Fee & Salary Survey eBook, 88.6% of the designers surveyed felt that prospective clients don’t really understand what the value of a designer is.
As designers, we have depended on a role as a vendor for revenue far too long. As consumers continue to make use of all the available resources on the internet, our revenue selling product only continues to decrease. Revenues will need to increase in the the form of design fees in order to offset the loss in product.
So, long story short, give them a few appetizers (general ideas), gather your ingredients (define the scope of the project), and before dinner is served, sign an agreement and get your design fee!
Hope this helps
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In many cases these shoppers NEVER have the intention of buying. So one win you can get is to ensure that you ‘wow’ the person to the degree that they tell their friends how great you were. Do that whilst minimising time given and minmising freebie ideas given.
Verity du Sautoy
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Love this- I look forward to hearing your thoughts and others ideas. My suggestions would be to first, change how you do business. Meaning, don’t give people ideas on the first meeting before you get a signed contract and money up front. Ever.
Second, change the way you charge so that they can’t shop your price – charge for the scope of the project rather than hourly or with a mark-up. Anything so that they can’t compare apples to apples. And then let them know that they can’t do a comparison because you don’t work the same way that other people work. And that your years of experience allow you to be more efficient and thus cost effective vs. others who are less experienced and charge by the hour- how many hours will it take them to do what needs to be done?
Third, don’t give proposals or quote numbers until you have an agreement that when you give it to them, if they like what they see, they will hire you. That there won’t be a thank you, we need to think it over or talk to three other people before we decide now that we know how much you charge.
I guess what I’m really saying is that you only get shopped if you allow them to shop you. It all comes down to how you operate, and if you do business differently enough from your competitors then there is nothing to shop or compare.
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I’m glad she asked this question because it is the same question I’ve been wondering about. We’ve had two prospects in the last three months who came to us cold from Google search who wanted to see my ideas for their space (not just a portfolio of past work) before they decided if they wanted to use me. I can see right through this and wouldn’t do it, which consequently really made them irritated. So, now I’m extremely hesitant about wasting my time with cold calls that come into my office. Referrals have a 100% closing rate.
That’s where I’m choosing to spend my time. I’m also carefully prequalifying the prospects prior to wasting time meeting with them. “How did you hear of us?” “Have you had a chance to view our portfolio on our website?” “What is your budget for this project?” “Have you worked with a designer before?” – This is the question that really answers it for me. If they have not, I need to explain how we bill and see if that scares them.
If it does, then they’re not for us. Good, I can keep working and not waste time finding this out two hours later. The one thing that’s still bothering me is that these so called prospects seem to think that designers are so hungry for work that we’ll compete for their project like “Designers’ Challenge”. It’s insulting and I’ve been wondering if it was something we’ve been doing wrong in our brand message. On the other side, our office is extremely busy now, so maybe it’s just a matter of there will always be those types of prospects out there and you just have to weed them out.
Love what you do for the industry, Fred. Thanks!
Loree O. Everette
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I read your your email today, with the question from the Atlanta designer regarding prospects “borrowing” designers ideas. From my years of experience in both residential and commercial design, I believe that your suggestion that she hand out “appetizers” vs. “entrees” is the right solution. I find myself saying much more frequently today… “That is part of the package that I would bring, if I am hired to design your project”.
However, I think that there is a bigger issue underlying this disappointing trend among prospects today, not just for this designer, but for most of us. I am not sure that we, as designers, are communicating our value well enough. We provide more than just access to product and creativity.
Several years ago, I remember learning in a sales course that “clients buy to either gain an edge or avoid a loss”. If a prospect doesn’t see the difference between a DIY project and one completed by a designer or hasn’t heard stories of disastrous outcomes, then my thought is that it is our role is to educate them.
In regards to this, however, I would really like to hear suggestions on how to do this in a positive manner. It would also be helpful, after so many prospects have been exposed to a lifetime of HGTV, to recognize what signs to look for when this would be a poor use of our time.
Thanks for any help that you can provide with this. If you do print any part of my feedback in your response, I would just request that you do not use my name.
New York, NY
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Just read your article on being “shopped” by your clients. It’s happening to me too, and I don’t know how to handle it. I gave an estimate for Hunter Douglas window treatments to a client, and now she’s made an appointment with someone from Costco, and asked if I’d come and be at the appointment with her! Bless her heart, she doesn’t get it, and I failed to educate her in the beginning, but I don’t know how to do that tactfully and not sound money-grubbing. I’d LOVE any advice anyone might have.
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