A while into working solo, I began to realize that I had to set up some rules in order to be able to work comfortably and be more in control of my work; not have my work take over every corner of my life and control me.
In this post, I’m going to talk about 5 scared rules that I abide by when it comes to my solo interior design work.
Rule #1: Understanding Why That Client Hired Me
Different clients hire you for different reasons, of course the process is always the same, if you design furniture then it is to design a piece of furniture, if you’re a decorator then it’s to have a space decorated. That’s not the ACTUAL reason behind WHY they hired you; they hired you to solve a specific problem. Let’s say you’re a furniture designer and your client wants you to design a recliner with specific measurements and standards, the problem they want solved is not their need for that recliner, it’s why they need that recliner in the first place, because if they just wanted any recliner they can just go to IKEA for it. Do they want it to match the Living room set? Do they have back problems? Are they looking for a unique custom design?
Pin point the Why and work from there.
You can head over to this post for more help on building the ground work for this rule.
Rule #2: No to ‘Billing Hourly’
If you ever talk to any of my current or past clients, you’ll find out that the only occasions I bill hourly are when I’m “Shopping” with them or when I’m doing Contractor Supervision. That’s it.
Instead I bill per week, per square meter, or per space (spaces like standard kitchens and bathrooms have a fixed price); billing hourly has me focused so much on the “input” to the point where I start obsessing over the little details and wondering “should I bill that?”, not to mention some clients -especially the budget conscious ones- may stop at every bill and ask what happened here or there.
For me, billing hourly is just a headache that I’m not willing to tolerate.
For more pointers on maintaining your solo business, head over to this post.
Rule #3: Never Negotiate Rates
We’ve all run into that one client that wanted our services but couldn’t afford them, so they end up stubbornly negotiating rates and asking for discounts, and they end up either getting what they want or they leave because they didn’t get the prices they wanted.
There is a third way to handle a situation like that, which is instead of negotiating the price, negotiate the service package; you can remove a thing or two from the package that will make it more affordable for them, and at the same time you won’t work for less than you deserve.
There’s a video on our Facebook group Ravenor’s Design Tribe where I talk more about this rule and I also answered some of the member’s questions regarding it.
Rule #4: Contracts are Mandatory
No matter how small a project is, a contract is mandatory. This saves both parties a lot of headaches/hassle.
A Design Contract or a Design Agreement should list all the elements and tasks of a project + a breakdown of all the fees + a few terms and conditions that protect both parties’ rights and obligations. It should also be signed by you and your client with a signed copy sent to the client.
I’ve had one of the members of our group mention a problem he faced, here’s what he told us: “… it was the first stage “concept design” he was supposed to pay it, I sent him the initial concept drawings and he promised he will pay later and he never did. I didn’t draft a contract as he was a famous religious speaker and I took his word for it! I never thought that he would turn out to be like that. I trusted him! Never thought he would do that. You learn from your mistakes.“
Doesn’t matter if it was a “small” task. Doesn’t mater if it was a celebrity. Contracts are Mandatory.
At the bottom of the post, I’m giving away a copy of my own Design Agreement so you can take a loot at it and maybe even use it as a template for your own contracts 🙂
Rule #5: Down payment.
Never start work without one. As a matter of fact, I always make sure I receive my down payment on the day of signing the Agreement.
The down payment works as a binding agent for both parties in a project; if the client is flighty or moody, the will not be tempted to go anywhere since they already payed. Same goes for you, you will be motivated to finish that project and deliver it on time because you’re already paid a sum of your dues (we all get those days where we don’t really feel like working, right?).
The way I structure my fees varies from project to project, but it’s usually 50% in advance.
If you need help with structuring your fees, you can join our FREE 10 Day email course here.
Ever since I set up those rules and stuck to them, I’ve had a smoother than ever time running my design business with clients who trust and respect me; clients who are great to work with and pay a fair rate.
To grab your copy of my Design Agreement along with tons of other helpful FREE downloads + get weekly updates on all the latest posts, group events, and FREE goodies, click on the button below!