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Profitable Small Fees

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about fees and how they work. So, I’d like to do an example of a small fee job and how all the pieces come together.

We have a client, Mary, who calls you and says she needs you to find a buffet for her dining room. She also wants to replace a couple of chairs in her living room. You do a budget on the fly with her for the buffet and find out that she’s comfortable with paying about $2,500. And, if the chairs were $1,200-$1,300 a piece, she’d be okay with that. Now you know that you’ve got about $5,000 to work with.

What I want you to know is that this job is not going to be you searching and throwing furniture images from the internet at her while saying, “Hey, do you like this?” for each item until she finally buys something. That is not the job. If you do that, then you are a salesperson or a personal shopper.

That’s not what a designer does.

You, the designer, say, “Mary, I’d be happy to do that. I can use my minimum fee of five hours, which is about $750. I can find three good choices for your dining room buffet, and I’ll also find three good choices for your living room chairs. Then, you can choose which ones you want.”

When you package it this way, you are far better off, because now you are a designer, not a salesperson. Plus, you’re not double-dipping in the client’s eyes. Whether she buys or not doesn’t actually matter. When you have that attitude, it changes everything.

How to Present the Job to Your Client

You’re going to do three good selections for her. Notice that you have enough time to do this. In a 5-hour block, you’ve got an hour to do the programming. You probably have to go back to her home and take a look at it, get your measurements, get the sizing right, and choose the colors. You have two hours for research, which should be enough. You also have an hour to do the pricing, pack it up, and make it look pretty. Then, you have an hour to present it back to her. That’s the job in a box – that’s how it needs to be presented.

Those five hours represent 15% of $5,000. So, it’s within the ratio that we know is appropriate for our time in relation to the product that we’re finding. You present the three pieces to her of each item, all at once, NOT one at a time on the internet. If you do that, she’s going to send her research back to you. Instead, you’re going to do a presentation of, “Here’s what would be best for your dining room. I think this one is best. Here are two others. Here’s your living room. I think this one works best. Here are the other two options.”

She may not be happy with those selections or can’t make a decision, which is more likely, because you’ve done your programming, and you know you nailed it. So, if she wants you to do more, you can say, “Fine, I’d be glad to. I need to charge you another $750, and I’ll go back and do another batch of three of everything.” She might go for that, but she might not.

Most likely, she’ll decide that it might be better to make a decision based on what you’ve already presented to her. Or, you could get to a place where even though you had a budget on the fly and she agreed on the price, she’d say, “Well, do you think you could find that for cheaper? Could you make this less expensive?” Well, you could, but you still need to charge another $750 block of time to do that, and you’ll be happy to see if you can squeeze the price down. She’ll figure out pretty quickly that she’s going to pay you more than if she went the other direction.

Realize the real issue here is with Mary, the client, making a decision. She may be stuck on that. She may have trouble making decisions. The problem isn’t that you’re not bringing her enough good choices. You’re trained, you know what you’re doing, and you make good choices for your clients. This is how the job should work. You get paid for your time. And then when she makes a choice on the product, you have a profit that’s in that product as well. That is a separate deal entirely.

I hope going over this scenario is helpful for you.

Design something beautiful, and get paid what you’re worth.

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