Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Life & Times of an Interior Designer

It's been quite a while since I posted anything, and I apologize for that.  I've been really busy and stressed at work which translates into not wanting to anything when I get home except veg out.  I've been reading a lot, which has been nice, but it means I tune out the real world.  I've barely done anything for Junior League in weeks, I haven't seen my friends very much, even my People magazines have gone unread!  I've finally gotten some motivation back and now I have inspiration to blog about!

A little while ago my boss said something about how he never understood how interior designers wouldn't charge for their services.  I told him that I understood it.  For some reason it's really difficult to convince people that there is value in our services.  Let me explain a little bit about the myriad of ways designers charge their clients.

Some designers only charge their clients a mark-up on their purchases.  This can be any percentage, but mostly it seems that if this is the only profit for a designer, they charge their clients the retail price.  The profit is the difference between what the designer pays (wholesale or net) and the retail price. 

Some designers charge only an hourly rate for their work.  They might pass on the exact cost of the goods sold to their clients and not make a profit on them at all.

Some designers charge a set fee for the project.  If it's a small project or a quick project, this may be a good way to go because the price of things aren't likely to change in a short time frame and if the project isn't too big, it's not likely un-planned-for costs will arise.  

Some designers charge a combination of these rates.

At my current job, we charge our clients hourly and we charge them a mark-up on the cost of goods.  Our (my) hourly rate changes depending on what type of job I'm doing.  If it's administrative, we charge the client less than if it's design.  We charge different mark-ups on the goods depending on what it is and what our discount is.  If a sub-contractor goes through us for payment, we mark that up the least.  If we get a crappy discount from retail, we charge retail.  If the item is a fixed part of the home and the client is unlikey to take it when they move, we mark it up less.  For example the carpet, tile, fixed light fixtures, plumbing fixtures,etc.  If the item will go with the client, we mark it up a little more.  For example the furniture, rugs, drapes.  It is honestly quite complicated, but it works for us.

I think the best designers can charge for their services like this.  My boss has been doing this for a long time and has a great reputation.  He charges a lot for his time.  He charges a lot for my time.  If I were to go off on my own, I wouldn't charge as much for my time as he does for me.  I haven't earned it quite yet.

Some people think it's okay to juice a designers mind.  Asking their opinion without paying for it.  Asking for a designer's discount on something to be passed on to them.  Our style, our taste, our thoughts ARE our expertise!  That is our livelihood, how we make a living!  People pay for our opinions, our designs!  I don't ask a stock broker to give me advice without expecting to pay for his services.  I don't expect a graphic designer to design my business cards without paying them for their expertise.  I wish people would realize that it's not okay to do this with designers either.

There have been times in the past when I gave my "services" freely.  When I selected furnishings for my sister or my parents.  But hello!  They're my immediate family!  And I offered.  Once I also selected and ordered furnishings for one of my oldest friends.  I didn't charge for my time or make a profit on the furniture.  But I won't do that again.  The problems that arose from that situation have ruined the friendship.  And it made me realize the importance of charging clients.  If I had made a profit on the furniture they purchased, there would have been a "cushion" with which to fix some of the problems.

Any who, those are my thoughts on how interior designers charge for their services.  I hope this enlightens some readers.

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