Are the fees you charge your clients in line with the value of service you’re providing? 

Are your clients fully aware of your scope of work, and do they have an appreciation for the actual hours involved?

If you’re feeling nervous about presenting your initial design quotations, or if you’re thinking about stepping up your schedule of fees, we encourage you to work through this three-step challenge to determine where you’d like your earnings to be, and how you can demonstrate the value of your service to your clients.

Step 1: Break it down and add it up

Begin by breaking down the full scope of services you’re providing. You may have your own terminology for each phase, but all design projects can be basically be broken down into a ‘C.O.R.E’ order:

C: Collaborate and Collect

In the Design Survey stage, you’ll be collaborating with your client to determine their practical requirements for design, their aesthetic and style preferences, their budget and time expectations. You’ll also be collecting data: you’ll be measuring up the existing space, determining site parameters, locating existing services and assessing structural limitations. How long do you allow for this process?

O: Organise and Optimise

If you’re efficient, you’ll collate the information you’ve gathered above within a few hours of your meeting. You’ll set out a clear and concise design brief, make sure you have all the information you need about the site, and send your client a summary to ensure you’re all on the same page. What is your procedure for this stage of the project? How long do you allow yourself to organise and optimise your brief?

R: Research and Review

Finding finishes, fixtures and fittings that meet your client brief can be a time-consuming exercise. Yes, it’s a part of your Concept Design/Design Development stage, but when you’re lost in a Google-vortex, are you keeping track of time?

E: Execute and Deliver

You’ve gathered your information, organised your findings and researched the best products for the project. Let the fun begin! How much time do you set aside for Design Development and Documentation? Is this the ‘heaviest’ component of your project, or is it relatively light work when you’ve laid out ‘C, O and R’ above?

Now’s the time to be brave: add up your hours, being brutally honest, and move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Deduct and divide

If you’ve set a pre-determined fee for your design service, divide it by the hours set out in Step 1 and determine your hourly charge out rate. Remember you’ll need to deduct your overheads from this figure (phones, office supplies, rent, insurance, electricity etc. – work out your monthly expenses and divide it by the number of hours you’ll be working).

Step 3: Reflect and Review

Are you happy with where you’re at? Is there room for growth in your fee schedule? 

Selling value over price

If you’ve followed through on the exercise above, you may be feeling a little shocked at the actual hours spent on any one project. If you underestimated the time spent, is it possible your clients may have, too?

Setting out the C.O.R.E services above is a great way to help your clients understand the ‘real’ extent of the service you’re offering. When they get this, you’ll be better positioned to sell value over price. You’ll reinforce your professionalism, and let your clients know there’s more to design than picking pretty colours and keeping up with trends.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the above, and our community would welcome any hints you have to add.

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