Many designers have asked me how to move their businesses upmarket. They want to know how to get rid of all those little tiny jobs that just gobble your time. The jobs that involve people with no budgets. Or, the jobs that aren’t going anywhere, and that actually cost you money instead of helping you feed your family.
The good news is that there is a way to change this. The best interior design business advice I can give you around this is to get intentional about making that change to bigger jobs and stick to it. You also need to be willing to make some shifts in what you’re currently doing to make it happen.
Shifting from Smaller to Bigger Projects
The first piece about being intentional is getting clear on what you want. Focusing only on wanting better clients is really fuzzy. What does that really mean? You want to get clear about exactly what better clients mean to you. It could be the kind of people you want to work with. It could be the type of job you want to go after. Or, it could be a specific dollar amount.
In my case, when I was doing this for my studio, it was just the dollar amount. I decided that it wasn’t making sense for me to do these little teeny things anymore. I had to stop doing them so I could open up myself to bigger things coming in.
That’s when I instituted a minimum. When my clients wanted me to take on the type of projects that involved upholstering a vanity chair seat or putting a blind in the kitchen window, I told them that I now have a $500 design fee minimum. I’d be happy to come out and do your kitchen window; however, that’s an expensive chunk of time for a kitchen window. So, if you’ve got a couple of other things that we could do while I’m there, it would make it far more cost-effective.
What happened was really interesting, because almost all the people stepped up. A few of them, maybe a fourth, said that was all they needed to be done right now, and they’d call me back when they had more. And that was just fine because they literally excused themselves from my design practice. They just stepped themselves out. I didn’t have to tell them no, you can’t be here anymore, which was really good for me because I didn’t want to do that.
My remaining clients responded by mentioning they wanted to talk about some sort of remodeling project anyway. That’s great, but why didn’t they tell me that to start with? Eventually, those little things immediately morphed into bigger things, because I set a boundary around my time and put a dollar value to it. That’s how the shift happened.
Applying Your Minimum Fee to New Clients
Now, part of the changes you have to make will involve the idea that you’re going to be saying no to some things that are too small. Plus, you’ll also be saying no to clients that aren’t right.
The scenario I just mentioned was about clients I already had. The other piece is applying that same minimum to new clients. State in your first appointment that dollar amount is what it’s going to cost to bring you out and have you talk to them. When you start talking about money with prospective clients, you start eliminating the ones on the bottom (who are not your ideal client), and the ones that are going to be your ideal clients will step in. As you’re moving along in your business, you will want to move this minimum up. If you’ve already been doing bigger jobs and you want bigger, bigger jobs, perhaps you set your new minimum to $5,000.
You have to be okay with people who are not willing to pay that as a minimum. What it does is qualify those clients really quickly. The trick to all that is getting okay with saying no to people and not taking every single job that comes along, because that’s how we get started. We scramble and hustle and take every single job, but that’s the change you have to make to grow. You can’t do that anymore; you have to be willing to say no. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable with it because it’s not going to feel very good for a while.
However, I will tell you that at some point, you’re going to be really happy. You’re probably going to send me a note or give me a phone call that says I am so happy, I just turned down a client today that wasn’t willing to pay my $5,000 fee, and I’m really happy about it. It does happen; you do get there, and that is the path to moving up.
Getting Additional Tips & Strategies to Move Your Business Upmarket
So, if you like interior design business advice like this, there’s more of these tips, tools, and strategies for moving upmarket, signing up clients, getting your marketing situated correctly for a designer, and not for a hardware store.
If you are looking for that kind of information, we do a whole lot of that in the Modern Designers Guide. It contains 52 ways to live a luxurious life – one for every week of the year. It’s a wonderful little program, and you can find more information if you click on the link below.
It’s my 2.0 version, so it’s brand new and has all the latest tips and tricks. You’ll discover lots of inspiration, mindset stuff, and a lot of things that can help you in your business. And it’s quite affordable as well. It’s a great way to get started with a little education, a little coaching, and see what it does for your business. If that sounds good, click on the link below to find out more information and join us.
Until then, design something beautiful, and get paid what you’re worth.