Can you design a space without knowing the budget? Sounds like a waste of time to me.
One of the most important pieces of information that you need to collect in the beginning or programming portion of a design job is an accurate budget.
In order to come up with an appropriate design you need to know if you are designing a Volkswagen or a Mercedes…there is a big difference in the quality and price of products and finishes used in a high-end job versus a tight budget job. There is also a huge difference in the amount of time you will spend designing details in a high-end job versus a low investment “make it look good fast ” job.
The problem you often find is that it seems next to impossible to get the client to give you a budget to work with because,
1) You did not clearly ask them for a budget number.
2) You did ask about the budget but they honestly don’t have a clue what it will cost.
3) You asked about the budget and you sense that they do have a number in mind but won’t tell you….the client seems to be afraid that if they tell you how much they are thinking, you will spend it all. Somehow they think that the total could be less if they don’t tell you and then they won’t miss out on potential savings. (very strange logic)
4) When you asked abut the budget they told you a number…but it is totally unrealistic with the goals that they have put forth. In fact it is silly.
5) The client says that they don’t have a budget. They want you to know that they have plenty of money… when they see something they like, they will just buy it! This usually is not quite the truth either.
6) The client actually has reasonable and educated number in mind and openly shares it with you. This seems to be rare, but it can happen. In this case you can happily get started designing immediately.
So, what do you do 5 times out of 6, when the client won’t give you a budget is or truly doesn’t have a clue what it will cost
Don’t despair there are some clever ways to get the information that you need.
You can help them create a budget right on the spot. And it only takes a few minutes.
First, be sure to ask permission…
“Would you like me to help you develop a realistic budget? It will only take a few minutes and then you will know what to expect.”
“Sure, that would be great.”
Tip #1 You need to speak frankly about the importance of knowing a budget before spending your time and the client’s money on designing something that might not be appropriate. Remember the client who can afford anything they want? You could say…“I would be really embarrassed if I showed you an $30,000 area rug when you were actually looking for a $4500.00 area rug.”
I guarantee you will get a reaction on that one!
Tip #2 Pick out an item that you know will have to be purchased for the space that they want to work on. For instance, it could be the sofa if you are talking about a living room or it could be the refrigerator if you are working on a kitchen.
Call out a price that you think might be reasonable and see if you client agrees. Use retail prices because that is what she knows best and find out what she is comfortable with. You say that she needs a sofa and it could cost $6500. 00. She says she saw a nice one on sale for $3995.
OK, that is fine. You will write down, sofa $3995 in your notes.
Now choose another item she will need and call out a price to find out what she will agree to. You are looking for her agreement; you want her to say, “yes” to you as often as possible.
It is easy to sense the direction that the budget will take by her responses. Keep going and one by one get a price agreement on all the things that she probably will need.
Tip#3 Add all the numbers up that you have collected and you have a budget.
Share the sheet that you collected the numbers on with the client so that she sees and understands how it all adds up. Then suggest that she share it with her spouse.
There are several powerful things happening here:
You have connected with her by giving her a valuable gift (the budget) and you did not give away any design and decorating ideas.
You did something no other designer did for her and you established yourself as a professional and an expert in your field.
This “gift” helps you as well because it tells you if this is a real job or something that you need to pass on.
Establishing an agreed upon budget right from the start is an essential part of being able to design quickly and efficiently so you make good money on your interior design jobs.
I teach all the details of this important budget process, step by step with all the worksheets in Designing for Dollars, the home study version of my Design Biz Boot camp 2011.
Watch for the announcement of the SALE of the last few copies of Design Biz Boot Camp coming to your inbox soon.