February 28 2014
Because We’re Worth It – Understanding The Value of a Designer
Anyone who has attempted to design their own home understands how overwhelming it quickly becomes. It’s incredibly time consuming from conception to implementation. Let me use sourcing for furniture and furnishings as an example – it can take hours to find the perfect piece, even for just one room, depending on how particular you are and what’s available in the mainstream stores. When it comes to paying someone to do this for you, it’s usually assumed we can pull the perfect piece quickly from our inventory. That’s just not true. Even though we have a plethora of trade suppliers to source from, we still have to consider budget, scale and style. This stage of the project is sometimes given little value and designers find themselves defending the hours they spent working on clients’ projects. I think that unless you do this for a living, it’s hard to see the value in paying someone to do the sourcing and shopping, even though it should be a major consideration when planning your design project. The designer you hire should be educating you on this ahead of time. Don’t be shocked or intimidated by this cost. Instead, be excited that you have someone on your team who will make your home an exceptional place to live.
The other dilemma designers are facing is we are being shopped by our clients (meaning: take our ideas and look for cheaper options) since there are so many products available online or in mainstream stores. Designers carefully plan and source for a project and when the client shops for a cheaper version, it often ends up being a weak second best – even when they email and call for approval. We don’t like to hurt our client’s feelings and it’s tough to say what they spent hours shopping for isn’t up to par. When we aren’t able fulfil our vision for a project, it can take a huge hit on a designer’s creative gumption. And, let’s be honest, our bottom line suffers when we don’t make money on product – even a percentage helps. It has forced a lot of us who normally bill hourly to work on a percentage–based fee or a flat fee, which means a percentage of the project budget is given to the designer, plus product mark-ups (even when the client purchases). The good news is this type of billing allows the designer to do what we were hired to do – design and manage the project properly and not worry about getting paid for the hours we worked. It also gives the client peace of mind by knowing exactly what they will pay their designer. No surprises.
Our studio is moving in this direction for larger projects and we’ll see about flat fees for smaller decorating projects as well. As long as we are all on the same page before entering into a working relationship and the designer has the freedom to do their magic, it will be a wonderful collaboration! What do you think?