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One of the most important strategies that you can use to create profitable design jobs is to clearly separate your time to design the space from the time it takes you to purchase the product needed to complete the space.

In the “old days” designers made a great deal of their profit on selling furniture and drapery products. The sources for these items were closely held secrets and the designer’s income depended upon keeping that information closely held.

The world has changed…

The internet has made virtually every product available to anyone who wants to do the research. We know that if anyone who looks long and hard enough will find the product we have specified for less than we can buy it wholesale.

When you rely on purchasing product to be paid for your design time you run the risk of not getting the sale and doing a huge amount of work for nothing. To start with, this is a a poor and risky a business strategy. When a client who you thought was going to buy from you goes elsewhere you can end up feeling resentful. This stored-up resentment stays with you, and often squeaks out when you are interviewing with a new client, which will diminish the value of the job opportunity, and tends to attract more clients who will take advantage of you.

Our value as designers is in our creativity, knowledge, experience and the service that we bring to our jobs and clients. So put the focus on the concept and design. This is where we need to be paid handsomely for our time and talents.

So, a quick review… The first step to getting paid what you are worth is to clearly separate the design process from your purchasing services. You must have complete clarity in your mind about creative design services (your genius) vs. the purchasing process (which is simply an administrative task), in order to clearly explain this to your prospective client.

Here is what it looks like…

Design Phase:

This area is where you need to be paid for every bit your time for creating a concept and researching the job. “All your work” means all the time spent in measures, drawings, space plans, research, shopping trips, pricing, budget sheets, presentations and travel time. When your design fee covers all services delivered, it no longer matters if you do the purchasing…

You are getting paid entirely (and in full) for the work you provide and you are giving good value to your client. If your client wants to do the purchasing, no worries. Everyone still gets what they need.

Purchasing Phase:

The purchasing phase starts when you have every piece of your design laid-out, priced, presented, and approved by the client. This phase is actually just an administrative task that doesn’t take a trained designer to accomplish. This part consists of creating correct purchase orders, getting the acknowledgments back, setting up best possible shipping and receiving, replacing back orders, correcting damaged merchandise, scheduling installations, and the list goes on and on.

Frankly, this is the part of my design business I wish I didn’t have to do. So when the client wants to do it, it is fine with me.

And finally, some words of caution: don’t get caught up in the idea that you personally should be able to match or beat any product price found on the internet for your clients. Your design business is not the path to good design through discounts. Trust me, you don’t want to be a WalMart brand, it will not lead you to a profitable business and great clients that you love working with.

For more information about how to make your design jobs profitable, and how to keep your clients happy and have a blast doing it…


5 Things That You Can’t Afford to Miss When Writing a Letter of Agreement


May 22, 2014 

1:00pm PST, 2:00pm MST, 3:00pm CST, 4:00pm EST

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