Happy Halloween! So today we are going to deal with a scary situation (no we are not confronted with ghosts or zombies) where in some cases clients do not pay or reluctant to pay. Finding new clients is only one part of an interior designer’s job but getting them to pay for services rendered can be an even more challenging task. There can be many reasons for such difficulties as clients may change their minds about installed furniture and finishes after jobs are complete, their personal financial situations may take a turn, or they simply might not want to cut a check.
1. Hammering out the specifics
It is very important at first place to have a detailed contract, specifying the scope of services to be delivered and a fee structure through each stage of the design process, before starting work.
2. Treat standard agreement as “a living document”
Your standard agreement is “a living document” that changes according to lessons learned and that specifies design fees and arrangements for purchased pieces. You have to be very specific, even if it takes twice as long to develop a proposal, because things happen.
3. Charging a retainer for design services
Borrow the model used by landlords everywhere and charge a deposit for services delivered during the first and last months of a project. When the project is completed, the last month’s deposit is automatically applied to the final bill.
4. Setting a preliminary budget
Clients are normally reluctant to set budget because they’re worried you’re going to spend every dime of it; the other, with top-tier people, is that they don’t want to limit your creativity. However, you can emphasize the fact that If you know the number on the front end, it makes the whole project so much smoother.
5. Process for canceling the contract
If things turn sour before a project is complete, there should be something where, if you don’t want to work for them anymore, you have so much time to tell them, and vice versa. That avoids big fights on the job site, and there’s a structure in which to terminate a relationship.
6. Good Cop, Bad Cop!
The ultimate is when you’re able to be the good cop, and you have a bad cop in your firm—someone who is able to chase after the billings for you. It’s definitely a challenge to be the fun, creative designer who goes shopping and to lunch, and then also be the one who calls the client up and says ‘We really can’t do anything more until you pay your bill.’
7. When everything else fails!
No matter what situation and stress the client puts you in, always hold your ground with a smile. This fact is emphasized by almost all designers. Your relationships with your clients are intimate and ongoing. Even when stressed out, one has to remember that there will, hopefully, be a tomorrow. You can have a really direct and frank conversation with your client and hope they’re reasonable.