You already know that one of the most important pieces of information that we need to collect in the programming portion of a design job, is a 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 merchandise and the products involved, as well as a big difference in the amount of time you will spend designing one or the other.
The problem is, it often seems next to impossible to get clients to give us a budget to work with, because:
1) You did not clearly ask them for it.
2) You 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 the clients do have a number in mind but they aren’t telling you. They seem to be afraid that if they tell you how much they are thinking, you will spend it all. The clients seem to think that the total could be less if they don’t tell you and then they won’t miss out on potential savings.
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.
5) The client says that they don’t have a budget. When they see something they like, they just buy it. This is not the truth either.
6) The client has reasonable and educated number in mind and openly shares them 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 or truly doesn’t have a clue what it will cost?
You must help them create it on the spot. Don’t despair, there are some clever ways to get the information that you need.
Read on in my blog for great tips to get real answers about establishing the budget on a design job.
First ask permission…
“Would you like me to help you develop a realistic budget? It will only take a few minutes.”
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.
You could say “I would be really embarrassed if I showed you a $30,000 area rug when you were actually looking for a $4500 area rug.”
Pick an item that you know will have to be purchased for their space. 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 your client agrees. Use retail prices because that is what she knows best. You say that she needs a sofa and it could cost $4500. 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 can 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 might need.
Add all the numbers up that you have collected and you have a budget.
I give the client the sheet that I was writing on so that she sees how the numbers add up and so she can 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 design and decorating ideas.
You did something no one else did for her (you talked clearly about money) 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 just a wish.
Establishing an agreed-upon budget right from the start is an essential part of being able to quickly make good money on your interior design jobs.
I teach all the details of this important budget process, step by step with all the templates and worksheets in Designing for Dollars “Get Paid Twice as Much.”
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