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Do you love to design so much that you would do it for free? The answer is actually a big yes!

We all love to create and design so much we will happily do it for free, but as soon as you let your clients know, you are in trouble. Some of the ways that this challenge shows up are:

  • Excitedly giving away your design ideas before you have been hired…
  • Doing project management that you are not being paid for…
  • Grossly under-bidding a fee or not charging for many of the hours spent on the job…
  • Not charging a purchasing fee on an expensive fabric because you want them to have it and you think they cannot afford it…
  • Showing up at a client’s home on a Saturday morning at [10:00] AM and missing your kid’s soccer game when the client didn’t call you until Friday afternoon at [4:00] PM.

Once your clients realize that you will work for free they start asking for and expecting more and more.  You begin to feel used and unappreciated.  When you let this go on unchecked, it will kill the joy of creation and you won’t want to design anymore.

This sad story doesn’t need to be you. With a little planning and preparation you can solve this challenge. Here are some tips to get you started on the right path.

Tip #1  Make a firm decision to stop giving yourself away. If you don’t value your time your client will not either. Giving and giving of yourself will not make them appreciate you more.  It will actually devalue you and your services. You must take a stand and create some boundaries in order to move up-market.

Tip #2  Create an appointment with yourself for some quiet reflective time and write down the rules of your business. Be specific about what you will and will not do. Remember that this is a business, and business is played with a different set of standards than those that you utilize when caring for your family.

Tip #3  Make a promise to yourself to say NO to jobs that you will not be paid for and create strategies to keep yourself on track:

If you have trouble keeping your ideas to yourself on the first appointment, charge a fee for the first visit. You can offer to credit the fee on the Letter of Agreement if it turns into a real job.

If you tend to give yourself away if asked, make sure that you have created all your offers in writing ahead of time so that you cannot cave in – you have to follow what is on paper.

You can change the kind of clients and jobs you attract by establishing clear boundaries around your design practice. You just need to get started.  Remember that all big changes start with baby steps.

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