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It would be great if every hour spent on a design job was billable to the client, but occasionally you get caught in a situation where the amount of time spent is not proportionate to the cost of the product specified.

Sometimes we can get lost, or our assistants get lost, out there wandering in the land of creativity and virtual research.

Sometimes we don’t trust our innate ability to make a good decision quickly, and wind up second-guessing ourselves by looking at every possible choice and wasting enormous amounts of our time.

This often results in long work days, staying up till midnight doing paperwork, and also will eventually create personal burnout, when the joy of design is just gone.

Here is a good example: you asked your design assistant to help you research that last little piece to complete a job. You send her off to find a wall sconce to complete your presentation. The next day she presents the “perfect” sconce and proudly tells you she spent eight hours looking through every catalogue in the lighting vendors library. The first problem that you have is that you cannot bill eight hours (even at your assistant’s hourly rate), especially billing that time against a $250 light fixture.

The cost of the time would be more than the cost of the product, and no client will pay for that, so you end up paying for that out of your pocket.

The solution is not to do everything yourself, but have a job structure that would alert you to assign a “time budget” for research needed. You would then be able to tell your assistant ahead of time that she has 20 minutes to find that sconce.

Another very common example of spending too much time on research is when you go to the design center to pull together the fabrics for a job and you spend the better part of the day going to four showrooms and come home with six bags of fabric, spread them all over the dining room table to play with for two days. The typical result after you spend a big hunk of your time, is that you use the first fabric combination that you pulled. You know, the one that you found in the first hour of research.

This again is not time that is billable to the client. You are paying the price for not being focused and getting lost in your creative mind. If you had set the intention to complete this phase of research in (a reasonable) two hours you most likely would have completed it. After all, the client is not asking you for a masterpiece, just a good decision that you can build on.

You will never get that precious time back and you cannot possibly expect to bill the client for all of that time. Reality Check: a couple hours would have been plenty of time to make these selections.

Starting out by setting a time budget for your design job will pay off big in controlling time over-runs. When you set an intention for the amount of time that you want to spend on a job you will find, more often than not, you will complete it as planned.

Here is a helpful formula: start by taking your total fee, and divide it by your hourly rate. This will tell you the number of hours you will have to complete all the tasks. Then subtract from your total, your predetermined design meeting times and associated travel time. This information should be on your Letter of Agreement.

Next, make a list of all the tasks you will need to do in order to complete your design, then assign the number of hours (or partial hours) it will take to complete each of the tasks to determine how you will spend your time.

Finally, be sure to track how long it took you to do each task and compare those hours to what you have budgeted. After you have completed the process a few times you will be good at estimating a reasonable amount of time to complete tasks. You also will begin recognizing when you are wandering, and getting lost in your creative mind, or not trusting your ability to recognize a good decision.

Be sure to Sign up for FREE CALL HERE where I will be sharing more strategies like this one, to help you set a design fee and realize a good profit on a design job. I will be on the phone live Monday, April 14, 2014, 1:00 pm PDT. You won’t want to miss this one!

Three Strategies for Confidently Setting Your Design Fee
Monday, April 14, 2014
1:00pm PDT, 2:00pm MDT, 3:00pm CDT, 4:00pm EDT

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