I love the statement, “it’s just business, don’t take it personally”, which brings a valid point of discussion. Why is Interior design not considered a business? It is a service and in return designers should be paid for their time, correct? Recently, I did some research on a very sensitive topic that I would like to bring to the table; design pricing.
My personal Journey:
Over the past few months, I am learning quickly to take on the role of a kitchen designer. Lately, every aspect of the kitchen has been embedded into my life, from designs to cooking. I have successfully graduated from designing two kitchens in one week to one day. I can comfortably put together a presentation package; which includes designs, pricing and print out views. Practice does make perfect! I know how to design a functional kitchen even in my dreams.
Working for a cabinet showroom, the services we provide are initial measurements, designs, revisions, order placement and working as a team with the contractor to get the project complete. Since we work as a team to find the best solution and fix every issue at hand, our price range is on the higher end compared to your everyday ‘joe schomo’. We are competing with those regular box stores and hence we lose jobs for the time and effort we put into it.
Shoppers verses buyers:
By working in a showroom with experienced designers, I take advantage of differentiating between the shoppers and the buyers. Let me further explain this concept; shoppers are those that look at multiple places for a product/service for the best price, while a buyer is one that knows what he/she wants and is serious about investing money for the product/service. Both of these groups of people are essential for the designer but when time is at stake, the buyers are what is needed.
An average initial kitchen design consumes anywhere from one to four hours excluding the first meeting with the clients. Depending on the client’s timeline and choices, several revisions including one on one appointment’s are necessary. Once the design is finalized, it takes approximately four to five weeks for the cabinets to arrive. Add another few weeks for the contractor to install the cabinets and then the job is complete. The fastest time a kitchen remodel can be completed is two to three months. Through this journey, the designer does not get paid until the entire job is complete. How does one survive?
This is where the tricky situation comes into play. How can a designer be sure that their ‘buyer’ client will not continue to shop around for other prices? The best solution for this is to lock down an initial fee, also known as the designer retainer fee. This fee ranges from $500-1000 that will be invested towards the cabinetry, if the clients decide to buy. It is collected before the design process begins, but what happens if they decide not to buy? Some designers say that they keep the money for the time invested in the client. Does that seem fair? I don’t know. There is no right answer and it continues to be a struggle between the client and the designer.
How does one put a price on the time invested in a potential sale? From my research, I have noticed that it is best to charge an upfront fee for the design or for a set number of hours. Anything beyond that will require a commitment from the client, either through another fee or a contract. How can I be sure that I will not lose clients because of the initial fee, despite the box stores not charging for the same services? I do not have the answer to that but I do know that I am offering my expertise as a truthful and honest designer.
The future designer:
I do know that I will make my mistakes and while I am still young, I can afford to make it! It’s all about the experience and once I decide to find the strength to dive into the deep end of the pool, I will no longer fear the worst.