How a designer can successfully negotiate fees!
So you’re a brilliant designer . . . but can you successfully negotiate fees?
Polly Williams is the Designers’ Advisor at the award-winning Camberyard, specialising in offering expert industry mentoring and advice to interior design professionals. Here, Polly shares her tips on how to understand what you’re worth as a successful interior designer – and charge for it accordingly.
Recently, I ran a workshop for the KLC entitled ‘So you’re a brilliant designer . . . but do you have the skills to launch your own business?’ One question that came up – one which consistently arises when I mentor my aspiring and established interior designers – focuses on fee negotiation:
‘How do I know how much to charge?’
‘How do I ensure I get paid on time?’ and
‘How do I go about negotiating costs?’
There are many different formulas you can use to decide which fee method works best for you. These include fixed fees and a daily or hourly rate. I like to work with my clients on building these key foundations, because working out your fee proposal is as much about negotiation as it is about how you will charge.
Once you have understood the project scope, the first area we review when discussing a fee proposal pitch is your overheads. What will the project cost you in time and resources? Is the project viable from a financial perspective?
Perhaps you are a sole trader with no overheads, staff or premises, or maybe this is more of a lifestyle role, which enables you to accept projects which are not financially beneficial, but you choose to make financial sacrifices to secure the project. Or perhaps you are a design studio with staff, premises and outgoings that must be covered, and these dictate how you price the project.
What is the project worth to you?
It is no secret that we all have different motivations and aspirations in life. Part of successfully submitting your fee proposal is based on how much you really want this job. As the Designers’ Advisor, I am in the unique and privileged position of knowing how interior designers are pricing projects. This enables me to give my clients an insight based on the industry standard for age, qualifications and experience. So, when factoring in the fee proposal, I work closely with my clients to discover what the project is worth to them. Maybe they are pitching for their dream project, which will open doors further down the line?
We assess the existing marketplace and consider:
-Who are your direct competitors?
-What are they charging?
-What do they offer that you don’t, and vice versa?
The Art of Negotiation
When the time comes to present your proposed fee, I advise my clients to slow the process down. Do not be in a hurry to submit your fee – take the time to get to know your potential client and understand why they want an interior designer, how they want to work with you and what role they want you to take on. Will it involve more handholding than you had first envisaged?
If they do not have a budget, then again stop, breathe, contemplate and slow the process down. Spend the time working on the fee proposal together, so you both feel happy with the figure presented. I suggest that fee proposals are better presented in person to your client, to ensure that you are able to assess their response and make any amendments before submitting the proposal in writing. You might like to consider meeting your client on neutral territory or in your office, so that you can feel confident and in control.
Presenting your fee proposal
When you have settled on your fee, the most important part of the process is communicating your fee proposal. You are a talented designer with amazing ideas and specialist skills, and nobody else can do what you do, the way that you do it. Your service is as unique as you are, and your prices are a reflection of that.
So, what I advise my clients is this: developing your presentation skills is a key part of conveying your fee proposal. If you have followed these steps, you will also feel confident in justifying your fees to a potential client. As discussed above – the art of negotiation is key!
At Camberyard, we believe that negotiating fees that work for you is a vital part of being a business owner. If you need any help in this area, we at Camberyard would love to hear from you. Always remember: negotiating fees may be difficult at first, but it’s an important skill worth learning.
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