Value Your Talent: 5 Commands of Design
Last week we discussed the first commandment of being a design professional: Always work with integrity. This week I want to talk about the second commandment: value your talent. Interior design is an art form that should be approached with the respect and understanding of any art form: painting, sculpting…anything.
Interior design is often misunderstood. Many people, because they have no reason to think otherwise, see interior design as a relatively simple process that just needs someone with an eye for matching colors. Come into the space and add a few pillows and some paint and it’s done. And there is a need for that and the people who can do that are artists in their own right. But that is what I generally call interior decorating. You are decorating the space and making it pleasing to the eye. But there is a difference between a decorator and a designer. A professional designer moves beyond the overtly aesthetic items such as pillows and paints and begins working with the structure itself. The designer takes into consideration details such as “how many chefs will be in the kitchen at once” and “how often do you have guests over,” among other things, in order to create a space that was literally built specifically for our client.
At IMI Design, as part of our Smart LuxuryTM program, we incorporate our Lifestyle AnalysisTM. It is a series of questions that have been specifically developed and designed to get to the heart of what a client needs and wants in their space. Having that ability is a special talent that runs even deeper than matching colors. All of this sets the stage for the nitty gritty of this discussion. Because there is such a misconception of what interior designers do, it is easy to get pushed into a corner where clients feel a certain price is appropriate without having the knowledge of what you are truly bringing to the table. As a designer you must know what you are worth and create a fee structure that values that and it should be competitive and appropriate so that it also values the industry as a whole. You are providing a service that will impact the clients’ lives for years to come and that shouldn’t be short sold.
When starting a new client discuss the budget with them. Be candid. This world doesn’t work on “something for nothing.” Their budget must be appropriate for their goals and that includes materials and furnishings and your services. Be specific when reviewing a budget and use qualifiers. Every project has its unique challenges and things may have to be adjusted over the course. But, if you have adhered to the first commandment and worked with integrity throughout the project so far, the client will have trust and faith that whatever is causing this was unavoidable and that it will be handled appropriately.
After the budget has been discussed and the client and the designer are ready to proceed it is vital to begin the project with a formal agreement. It is easy to get caught in the excitement of meeting new clients who are thrilled to be creating such a big part of their life and, as a designer, you are excited about the opportunity to create another beautiful space. But take a breath and do things appropriately. The agreement should outline a specific scope of work that you, the designer, have agreed to for the price the client has agreed to. This is where valuing your talent comes into play. This amount should not short sell what you are about to provide but it should not be inappropriately high either. Along with the scope of work and deliverables, a timeline should be developed. This ensure that everyone knows what to expect and when to expect it and can help head off issues before they even begin.
Sometimes it is just a matter of everyone on the team taking certain pieces of information for granted. As a designer you know all the intricacies of a project but everyone else on the team may see it as something that should be easy and quick. This isn’t intended as an insult, it is just a matter of not knowing. Your job is to educate them on what you bring to the table and the level of work it requires. It is the value of your talent. The value of your profession.