I’ve heard that there are a lot of designers out there who are scared to commit to design fees. It’s because they think if they quote an amount of money, they would never be able to charge for anything else no matter what the client does.
That’s not true.
A design fee is a set amount of money. You tell the client you will give them specific deliverables for that fee. It’s not open-ended like an hourly billing.
When you have a design fee, you know exactly what you’re going to do, how much it’s going to cost, and there is a timeframe attached to it.
The client knows exactly what they’re going to get, and you know what you’re going to do, which is a lovely situation. It doesn’t set you up to keep feeding the client with information about furniture, fabrics, or fixtures over and over again until they finally make a decision or buy something.
Instead, your Letter of Agreement states you will provide three curated selections for what the client needs. Whether the client buys it or not doesn’t matter. Of course, you want to make the client happy, and you intend that they buy something.
If you are paid properly for your design work, it doesn’t matter if the client buys.
When being paid properly happens, you remove the angst out of it. You’re not focused on pleasing the client or worrying about what you “have” to sell.
In the end, there are always going to be people who won’t be pleased no matter what. When you have a design fee with clearly laid out deliverables, you won’t get into trouble. Your Letter of Agreement won’t state that if a client changes their mind, that you will just start over.
This is really about boundaries, which are really important in your personal life and design business.
If the client is changing the direction of the scope in the middle of the job where you’ve already completed your programming and have everything built out, it’s perfectly reasonable to tell the client you’re happy to do it…
but now, it’s a whole different job.
Watch the video above where I share how to close out the job, get paid for the work you’ve done, and write a new Letter of Agreement for the client’s new idea. When you have this strategy in place, it’s easier to stick to your boundaries.
If this happens to you, you will want to handle the situation kindly, calmly, and elegantly. There’s no need for anger or upset because it’s just a clear-cut business practice.
That’s the way we do it here at Interior Design Business Academy. We want clients to be happy and refer work to us, but not at the expense of ourselves. That’s not how you develop good clients.
If you make yourself small, shrink to fit in with what the client wants, or give up on your boundaries, and they refer you to another client, you’re going to get in a loop of getting into this situation over and over again.
When you’re clear about what you’re doing, what you’re paid for, and know what the timeframe is, you have control over the job, and you can charge more if you need to.
By following this strategy, it makes it easier for everybody. When you go to sell the job, the client knows what they’re going to get and what it costs. And if you’re part of IDBA, then you also have a budget that you based your fee on. You have all these clear-cut strategies to start with so that when you go to do the job, it’s easy to complete everything in the set timeframe.
When you can operate from this place of clear boundaries, then there’s no fear about it.
So what about the fear…
There’s real fear, such as when you get too close to a cliff. Your body reacts to it because it’s trying to protect you. But there is another kind of fear that runs in our heads that keeps us in the mode of doing what we’ve always done. It doesn’t want us to change because it’s afraid that something will go wrong, but that’s actually not true. It keeps you from getting to where you’re trying to go.
Being afraid of calling out a fee is like being afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet, and probably won’t happen at all.
You build up a big story in your head, and then you can’t do it because you’re running on fear instead of faith that you have it right.
At IDBA, we work a lot on mindset, and fear is a big topic. We all know that if you make decisions based on fear, then it’s not a good one. You’re running on “flight, fight, freeze” mode, and that’s not where you want to make business decisions from.
When you can take a breath and look at the situation, you realize that the story running in your head is not the truth. You can start realizing what you really want to do and move out of those fears that hold you back.
If you would like to talk about what’s next with your design business and what your next move might be, let’s have a conversation. Schedule a fun, no-obligation, clarity call with one of our coaches below.
Until next time, design something beautiful and get paid what you’re worth.