Every designer works with clients in a different way. Some firms have a solid process, and some people are just winging it. The business side of design is undoubtedly the hardest part of being a creative entrepreneur! I’ve sat down with both experienced designers and people who are just getting started, and nobody has it all figured out! Every new experience results in a new system or a internal tweak, and even if clients can’t see all of that, they benefit from the organization.
The reality is we don’t just “shop with other people’s money” for fun. If that was the case, more people would start and actually stay in the field. Yes, designers have an eye for beauty, but there’s about 4,000 other things going on we have to manage. Tradespeople, sales tax, billing, ordering, tracking shipments, managing discounts, contracts, correcting mistakes, the list goes on and on. Taking on the logistics and stress of it all is part of what we are paid for! The Business of Design community led by Kimberly Seldon has been HUGELY helpful in getting my processes nailed down. If you are in this business, go listen to her podcast ASAP! I’m not being paid to say this, I just wish I would have known about her sooner! We don’t act as a subcontractor like her firm does, but it’s still incredibly helpful.
When I took on my first project I had no contract, no “steps”, and no way to explain what a client could expect because I myself had no idea. It was chaos. Do I need a retainer from them? When will it all be finished? How do I work? Do they have a right to our trade discount? Do they order stuff? Now I have an “Office Guide Book” that addresses every little thing that comes up in the business. Most importantly it helps the client have an enjoyable, organized experience, but secondly, it helps protect me from my own immature decisions.
For example, I used to regularly shave off reasonable hours I genuinely spent on a project because I was scared they were “too much”. Now I have a system to combat that – a spreadsheet for the month where every hour is recorded and briefly explained. Each client gets a sheet attached to their monthly invoice so they can see exactly what they are paying for. I never want a client to feel confused! Some solutions are a full-on system like that, but others are simple. For example, I used to get texts from clients all throughout the day and into the night, and it was impossible to keep track of in regards to their project plan and billing for communication. Now the agreement we both sign states that we don’t communicate by text, and I stick to it. An organized design process establishes expectations and boundaries on both sides of the equation (a.k.a. way less stress all around!).
I figured I would show the steps of what working with us looks like, both for anyone who is interested in hiring us, and anyone who is looking to implement a system in their own business!
1. CONSULTATION WITH ME, BRIANA
This is a one-time consultation for up to 2 hours that has no further commitment. If we meet and we aren’t the firm for you, there are no hard feelings! We mutually decide if we are a good fit. Our consultation and hourly prices are listed on our Services tab.
*Note that you can schedule a consultation with no intention of a full-service project. If you just need a couple of hours of design advice, that’s a great budget option for the DIY-er! Just let us know before scheduling.
2. SIGNING OF AGREEMENT, RETAINER COLLECTION, AND PROJECT START.
If you want to hire us at the end of the consult (woo hoo!), I’ll walk you through the working agreement line-by-line. We’ll go over topics like payment schedule, how we share our trade discount, and when it all gets installed. Once we’ve both signed the agreement and we’ve received a retainer for hourly work (determined by project), your project has officially started!
3. MEASUREMENTS, PHOTOS, AND FINAL CRITERIA MEETING
I really want to make sure I am creating your dream home, so not only will I (and tradespeople if need be) come back to measure and take photos, I’ll also be asking you questions about how you entertain, where you like to eat, your pets, what music you like, etc. That way you get the most personal home possible.
4. CREATING FLOOR PLANS AND ELEVATIONS, AND SOURCING FURNISHINGS
This is entirely on me and the people I work with. We create a solid plan for where furnishings, art, and lighting should be placed, then work to source each and every item. This takes weeks and might seem like we’ve left you high and dry, but is well worth the wait!
5. PRESENTATION & COLLECTION OF DEPOSIT
The plan is presented to you all at one time, complete with the price for every item and service required to make it happen. At this point, you’ve only paid for the hours it took to create this plan. You’ll feel the available fabric & tile samples in your hand, look at the floor plan and imagine walking through the room, and then we’ll approve or tweak together as needed. Once you sign off on the plan, we will collect a deposit for everything.
I place orders, and as your items arrive, they are stored in a local receiving warehouse and inspected for damage.
7. CONSTRUCTION & RENOVATION STARTS
Any related construction is held off until our plan is in place. Waiting the extra time to make sure it’s done correctly and beautifully will save you a TON of regret. You do not want to be ripping out your kitchen cabinets when you are only “sort of” sure what is going back in. You’ll end up grilling in your backyard for a loooong time and missing the mark on your original vision. We work alongside your builder and/or architect to make sure the vision is clear.
8. INSTALLATION PERIOD CONTINUES & RECEIPT OF ORDERS
While you are waiting, there is still work being done behind the scenes. We are tracking orders, working with vendors to correct mistakes, schlepping fabric to the seamstress – lots of non-glamorous things going on!
9. INSTALLATION DAY & STYLING PERIOD
Everything is installed in your space at once while you are out of the home so you aren’t worrying about movers or electricians, or peeling stickers and sweeping up packing styrofoam. At this stage, we also bring in accessories and artwork to get the space finished.
10. CLIENT REVEAL
You get to see and enjoy your finished, turn-key space for the first time! This is everyone’s favorite part, for obvious reasons.
11. ACKNOWLEDGING AND RESOLVING DEFICIENCIES
Whether it’s a chip in a mirror or a piece that managed to go missing, we will walk you through any imperfections that need to be corrected by our team.
12. PRESENTATION OF FINAL INVOICES AND CLIENT BINDER
We will send the final invoices due and leave you with a binder that details your project from start to finish so you can look back or share with friends who ask about your new home!
If you are interested in hiring me to create your dream space – please reach out! Head to our Contact Page, fill out the quick form, and I’ll be in touch with you.