Professional Liability

How Interior Designers Can Best Negotiate With Clients

5/10/2019 | Dennis Trusty

Designers are passionate about their craft and love to help their clients with bringing their dreams to life. But at the end of the day designers are running a business and have to access that side of their operation. From envisioning the best way to redo a kitchen to taking on a big commercial-sized project, interior designers can have hefty workloads on their hands, so worrying about negotiating money with clients should be the least of their worries.

While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the creative aspect of what you as a designer do on a daily basis, it’s important to be able to lead your firm like a business. Read on to see some of the best ways to negotiate with clients.

Cover Your Business

Your design firm is your business and your passion. You worked hard to get it off the ground or worked hard to be brought on to work at a company that values your potential and your vision. There are some serious ways in which jobs go sour due to lack of trust, which can open up legal problems.

With this in mind, before you go over ways to work with clients, invest in interior insurance, which can help you in the event you have to pay for legal representation. Think about it, your business is all about the details. If you miss one thing, or alter one small part of your client’s plans, it could be enough for them to bring a claim against you.

Don’t Talk Rates Upfront

During a kickoff consultation meeting, one thing a potential client has on their mind that’s not related to a new window or kitchen island is the overall price of the project. But when you’re first meeting with a client it shouldn’t be to necessarily make a transaction happen, rather it should be about making a connection and going over their ideas and goals, and how you can possibly make that happen.

While it’s okay to bring up budget in a roundabout way, don’t put specifics on the table just yet. This will help to build on a working relationship as well as trust and rapport. And one thing that is needed to build a foundation is trust. The client may be shopping around with other potential designers, and the one thing they’ll remember is how well they felt they could trust you with their ideas.

See If The Client is a Good Fit

Your client should be a good fit for you as much as you are for them. If you specialize in a certain style and they’re wanting–and sticking to–something that’s not in your portfolio, it may not be the best match. It’s okay to turn down a client, but be sure to go over your portfolio and your vision for what they had in mind, and see if you can persuade them that you truly are the best fit for what they want. This is where imagination takes over and you could end up opening the client up to more room for creativity.

Make Cost a Follow Up Topic

After you’ve met to talk ideas and get introduced, the follow up meeting should include cost, especially since you now have some specifics to lay out (i.e. furniture, labor, materials). At this point, it’s probably a good bet that you’re a good fit together, but always be honest and transparent about what they can expect financially. There may be some wiggle room, but always be straightforward.

Be Face-to-Face About Cost

It’s easy to get connected via email or text and start talking ideas and generalities. But when it comes time to get into the nitty gritty of the financial specifics it can be impersonal to discuss in any way that’s not in person. When you put your cost in an email or text message, this opens things up to open-ended conversation and lots of waiting around. Being face-to-face puts you both in a room to handle this on the spot instead of electronically.

Stay True to Your Fees

Design fees might bring sticker shock to first-time clients. You as the designer have to take this with a grain of salt and be able to not only stay firm on your pricing, but be able to explain why you charge what you do. Put it in the perspective of time and effort; this is your lifeblood after all and you’ll be pouring hours, days, weeks, even months into this project. Stay true to your fees and believe in your worth.