I want to talk today about talking money with clients. It’s a big subject for everyone, especially designers. Money is a very loaded subject, and it’s particularly difficult for designers because it’s essential for us to have good money conversations with our clients.
When we have those discussions, we can discover if they’re a good client for us or not. This has a great deal to do with the qualifying sequence we take potential clients through. Once you learn how to do this, you discover how to get a money mindset in place, as well as the technical steps to get you there. Then, everything opens up, and you start getting project after project. Your business grows, and it’s a ton of fun!
Why Talking About Money is Incredibly Important
You want to make sure that you are qualifying your clients by talking about money. Without having any budget in place or a conversation about money, you don’t know enough about the client. The problem arises when you ask about their budget, and they translate that into, “How much money do you have?” or “How much are you going to spend?” This can lead to them getting defensive and back off. And then we start to back off too, which is a typical response.
The other reason why it’s essential to have a conversation about money is that it’s also incredibly important in your programming. If you don’t talk about money and you assess where someone lives, the clothes they wear, and the car they drive, we also guess where we should be financially for the job.
Then, when we go to design it, we realize we’re way off base. We’ve spent hours wringing our hands to make a tight budget work, present it, and cause the client to go into shock because they have no idea of what things cost. Or, it can go in the other direction where it’s so far from the level of where your client wants to be that they think you don’t get them. They end up walking away, and you won’t get another chance.
So, either you lose the job, or you end up doing it over. It’s all about talking about money comfortably and confidently. That becomes a key piece in being successful. The money piece is tricky because our ideal clients don’t come from the same financial status as we do. We will often have a different upbringing than our clients who had more than enough as well as varying levels of quality, style, and comfort.
Those two things about how we provide to our clients can conflict with each other. There will be some internal push back that doesn’t help you. So, the money conversation needs to work properly to help all of us.
Shifting Your Money Mindset
Something to remember is that there are two sides to every job. There’s the technical piece that shows how to get a budget on the fly, how to write a contract, and how much your fees should be. It works, and all the steps are already figured out. But it won’t work if you don’t shift your mindset. If you don’t shift your thinking to what is possible for you, what you’re capable of, and what could be, then no amount of contracts, scripts, or other strategies will do you any good.
If you have trouble talking about money, and I know that about 90% of you do, that’s what we need to work on first. If you have difficulties talking about money with your family, you will also have problems talking about it with your clients. That’s why it’s essential to tackle the family piece first, where you will be a little more comfortable and in a safer environment.
The difficulty in those conversations come from when you were growing up where perhaps money was a volatile subject. It was something you didn’t want to talk about because it caused people to yell or make a big fuss. If those conversations caused you discomfort in any way, then you learned to not talk about it at all.
The reality is that you have to talk about money. When you carry over those ideas about how it could be scary or cause friction from your childhood to now, you don’t grow when it comes to talking about money. So, it’s essential to start having those money conversations at home comfortably, so you can also have them with your clients. Even if you have a fabulous relationship with your family and can have those conversations, you may not be in the habit of doing it because of how you grew up.
It’s time to get the elephant out of the closet to see what’s going on there. By having that conversation, you can start to dig deep and discover what’s underneath there. For many of us who grew up in a household where you didn’t have lots of money, you figured out how cheap you could do design. But that’s not what our business is about.
How Wealth Consciousness Impacts Your Design Business
The idea of making design as least expensive as possible is common among most designers, and it comes from the way we were raised. That’s not to say any of us were badly raised. It’s that we were praised for being frugal and a good manager of money. And when you bring those thoughts into your business, that’s when you get into trouble. It’s a family thing, not business sense, so it just doesn’t work.
Your clients don’t necessarily want you to do things the cheapest way possible. But when you have that mindset, you spend too much time trying to find the least expensive way to work the job. And when you go to present the job, your client is still shocked because you didn’t have the money conversation.
What happens next is they’ll ask if you can do it cheaper. Or, they will insinuate that you are making too much money from the job – even though you’re literally giving yourself away! It all stems from not having money conversations and not being aware of wealth consciousness.
The wealth consciousness piece is essential. You shouldn’t diminish your pricing because you think it’s what something costs instead of giving the client what they want. Often, we’ll research an item, find the perfect fit, but the price tag is more than we expected.
We think it will be too risky to present to the client, so you waste more time looking for something less expensive. You present it, but you’re going to make less money on it even though you spent more time finding it. And chances are, your client still won’t be happy because you never talked about money in the first place.
We get into a vicious circle where our wealth consciousness and our childhood beliefs conflict and end up in our way. So, when you take the mindset of being praised for being frugal, it’s not what this business is about. It also insinuates that we’re managing our clients’ money, which isn’t the case at all. We are only in charge of managing the budget.
That’s why we establish a budget and get it agreed upon before we take the job. Once the agreement is finalized, our job is to complete the job within the budget. That doesn’t mean you can’t present your clients with artisan pieces or special items that come up in your research. It just means that those items go in another column where you’re inviting them to do a little more, which really is just an upsell. It could end up being exactly what they want, and it’s also our job to get them to stretch a little bit.
We teach all the strategies like preparing a budget on the fly as one piece, but you also need the money mindset piece too. It’s where you’ll learn what’s possible, what luxury really is, what you’re stepping into, and how that impacts you and your business.
So, until next time, design something beautiful and get paid what you’re worth.