Today I am meeting a new client whom I have been chatting with for the last few weeks by phone and email. I always get excited to meet new clients. Each one is unique and their perspective on design is often times far different than the reality of what we do, so I enjoy the education I provide to my clients by giving them a thorough understanding and appreciation for the design process.

My new client is relocating to AZ from San Jose, CA for work and is seeking to reside close to her place of business. After her first apartment didn’t work out I helped her to find a new place to live by providing her several options within 10 miles of her company. I highlighted some favorites and she secured a great space. The building is modern and fun, right off of Tempe Town Lake and a few seconds from the highway. Now, I don’t normally add real estate agent to my resume, but when you begin that designer/ client relationship and your end goal is the best for your client, it doesn’t take much effort to go that extra mile.

As a designer I work in a few different pay scales with my clients. I can do the standard hourly rate, but this is becoming less and less the preferred method for design, as clients seek transparency when working with a designer. An hourly fee is an open-ended contract and, although I am truthful, it can take far more hours than you can imagine to do all that is required to design and then implement your space and can be an overwhelming thought to a new client in this economic time. A little over a year ago I adopted a “Value Based Fee System” used by thousands of designers across the country that takes into account the estimated hours to design, plan and implement your design project and present that to my clients as a flat design fee. This takes the guess work out of how much my time will cost and allows them to focus on the bare bones of their project.

The Space-

My client’s apartment is an 864 square foot, 1 bedroom, 1 bath space. Being an apartment, I have limitations in certain areas- I cannot change the flooring, I cannot paint the walls and I have to work with the existing cabinetry and layout. My client will be living in a hotel for the week and then moving into her home when the week is done. She is bringing nothing with her, so I will need to buy everything for her. Here is her layout.

The apartment community has this computer generated floorplan on their website and for the most part, many items placed on the plan- like the bed positioning- will have to remain the same, as there is no other way to place them. The importance here is not where things go, but what those things will be. My client has hired me because she doesn’t know the area and wants a comfortable and tranquil space to come home to after a long day of work. She wants to walk into her new space and have it all done for her versus taking the many weeks it would take for her to do what I can do in way less time.

The Cost-

I estimate that it will take me 4-5 visits to her home to complete this job and combining that with the time it will take for initial consultation, presentation, and implementation of this design I have set my flat fee for this space at 17 hours. At a rate of $125.00 per hour, the fee for this job is $2,125.00. My normal rate is $150.00 per hour. Many times, working with stock products versus custom pieces creates far more work for us as designers because you are running from store to store trying to acquire just the right pieces, at the right price to make the space work. However, in this instance, I have such a clear plan for what I am doing in her home, that I am charging a lesser rate for her small amount of space.

DISCLAIMER: This is the way I work and that doesn’t mean that the way your designer works is wrong because it is different. Every designer had their own method of charging and fees involved with what they do.

Payment Method-

When you work with a designer, always expect that you will pay a portion of your design fee up front. What we do is creative, as well as intellectual service and it begins the second we enter your home… ideas are already brewing. A retainer is always a requirement. For my flat fee, I require half down of the design fee to get started on your job. The balance of the design fee is paid upon completion of your project. The design fee is the work involved to create your space, but does not inculde the actual products that will be within your space. These will depend on your budget and your desires for your home.

In this client’s case, she is seeking to  be within her space comfortably within a week. This means that I must get the most important areas of her home completed prior to her move in. These areas would be her counter where she will be able to eat, even if I do not get a dining table into her space by then, the living room and her bedroom- as she needs a bed and furniture to store her clothing. Because of this, we are looking for stock furnishings that are in stock and can be delivered quickly.

Our Initial Consultation-

Today’s first meeting will be to finally get to see each other face to face, get a feel for her new surroundings, sign our new work contract, pick up my deposit and discuss her budget and look at the two inspiration pieces she is buying today. When she was last down here she found two art pieces in downtown Tempe that she loved and hoped I could work with in my design. I can’t wait to see them.

Now that we have covered all of the basics- stay tuned for my next post tomorrow, after I meet my new friend!

2 Weeks in the Life of a SMALL Interior Design Job (Part 1)

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