The question of whether to charge for the initial interior design consultations is one that circles around most industries to some degree. In interior design, it’s a prevalent and ongoing debate. Brand new designers or those with years of experience who are taking the leap from employee to business owner are most often asking this question. My answer to this question is simple. If you’re adding value during this consult you need to be charging.
YOU WILL INSTIL CONFIDENCE THAT YOU ARE AN EXPERT AND THE RIGHT CHOICE BY CHARGING FOR YOUR SERVICE.
We don’t value things that are free!
Think of anything related to business that you’ve received for free. Did you consider there to be a significant value to you? I was recently given access to an online course. It had a $500 value but it was offered to me for free. I downloaded it, saved it and have never looked at it.
If you’re not valuing your service and time enough to provide a bill ask yourself why. Why do you feel that it’s not time worth charging for? You had to prepare your initial consultation package, (time) prepare yourself (time), drive to the homeowner’s property (time), and likely spent 30, 60 or 90 minutes with the client (time). Why would you do that for free? An interior design consultation is a business transaction where you deliver valuable information. The exchange for that information is currency.
HOW TO BECOME CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO CHARGE FOR YOUR INTERIOR DESIGN CONSULTATION:
BEFORE THE CONSULTATION
1/ DETERMINE THE PARAMETERS OF THE PROJECT FIRST – Do you have a process for collecting information about the scope of work before you book the consultation? Whether it’s an online form or a free 20-minute call, you should have a way to determine the type and size of the project. If you don’t you may be wasting your time as well as the client’s if their project isn’t in alignment with your work. If you need some help figuring out what information to collect during the Discovery Call, read this post.
ON YOUR WAY TO THE CONSULTATION
2/ ALWAYS BE PREPARED – show up with your Services & Pricing Guide and take control of the conversation immediately. You are the expert so don’t be led through the home looking at spaces that are not important. While it’s easy to understand how a homeowner is super excited to have your time, you do have to cram a lot in to this consultation.
My process always included a quick hello followed by asking for a place to sit where I’ll introduce my services & pricing guide and any other documentation I brought along. I generally try to dissuade the idea of a tour of the home until we’ve gone over the business details related to their project.
AS YOU GET THE CONSULTATION STARTED
3/ SET A TIME LIMIT BEFORE YOU ARRIVE –The amount of time you spend will be relevant to the size and scope of the project. You determine that and make it clear ahead of time. Keep an eye on the time and don’t go over. You are signalling to your potential client that you have boundaries that need to be respected.
DURING THE CONSULTATION
4/ BE GENEROUS – I’ve made horrible mistakes in initial consults. I’ve held back way too much information regarding THEIR PROPERTY. I thought I was there to sell myself and my services. That’s definitely true but at the same time your client has paid for this time. They are excited and want to know if you share their enthusiasm.
You may need to reel in the conversation so that you don’t spend all day at their home but be generous with your input. This will show value and help to create excitement about working together.
REMEMBER THAT SELLING IS ABOUT CONNECTING!
5/ IT’S OK TO HAVE BOUNDARIES – This consultation is a fact finding mission. It’s ok to set some boundaries on how you’ll use the time. State ahead of time what you’d like to accomplish by politely saying “I’ll be using this hour (or whatever time you set for consultations) to gather information about the project. I’d also like to walk you through what it’s like to work with me” People respect boundaries and like to know how things will go down so lay it out with confidence and clarity.
AFTER THE CONSULTATION
6/ FOLLOW UP – I know it seems obvious but I’m surprised at how many designers tell me they don’t. The most common reason is that the client has said they’ll be in touch. Even when that happens, send an email. You want to thank them for the time and deliver a Project Proposal.
If you’re being considered along with a few other designers this can be the differentiator that sets you apart. If you’re the only designer to reach out, you have a massive advantage in terms of trust.
I hope that helps you feel more confident about all the value you bring to your clients during the consultation.