Got to Laugh
After reading Lisa Myers' editorial I had to laugh because I saw myself in her every word.
I always go that extra mile for the clients, sometimes I enjoy every mile, but there are times I do not. Once, a client asked me to put clean sheets on her bed before I installed the bed skirt and spread. I also like dogs and I love children as long as they keep food off the window treatments I am installing!
Do I have an answer for this? No! Is there a price for this? No! However, I do enjoy what I do and sometimes I get a big laugh from it all. After 18 years in this business, I laugh a lot!
Decorating With Carol
Win in the Long Run
I could not believe my eyes when I read Lisa Myers' editorial, I am so grateful! I have had the same thing happen to me, and very recently. I was bidding a home project and had verbal approval from my clients, with whom I had spent a great deal of time already. Another designer came in at the last minute and underbid me. I was devastated, and the client now was angry with me thinking my price was too high. I had put a lot of effort into this job already and in return received nothing except someone thinking I was unfair. I did go the extra mile for them, doing all the extras at no charge. Unfortunately, these extras do not pay our bills. I feel like I can no longer do business the way I'd like to.
Thank you for the article. I identified with it and sympathize with Myers. We do know we will win in the long run if we are honest and ethical.
Brilliant Blind Co.
Myers' article really struck a chord with me. I feel as though I've been struggling with this same thing for years. I'm not a designer, but I enjoy selling windows and doors on a personal level.
I don't quite know what happens to us when we do care about people, really love working with and for them and then the slightest detail becomes a real point of contention. A long time ago, I was told if you give the customer extra service, they come to expect it. Well, isn't that something that separates us from our competition? Have we spoiled our customers by offering excellent service and not nickel and diming them?
One method I've heard of is to leave a "courtesy bill" with the customer at the first service call in which the customer expects warranty work. The service person leaves the bill with what normally would be charged for the work, then scratches through the price and writes "No Charge." This might let the customer know that future calls would be followed by a bill.
Chesapeake Home Center
For me the answer is in setting healthy boundaries, having realistic expectations and having a clear understanding with the client about how I charge, what I can do for them and what I expect from them in return. My business is about relationship building and I am a firm believer that it is my responsibility to teach people how I expect them to treat me.
Before I meet with clients, I explain how I charge and ask them if that is agreeable to them. I follow up the initial phone conversation with a written explanation. I charge an hourly design fee. I charge for everything just as a doctor, lawyer or accountant would do. The minimum charge is for 15 minutes of time.
Charging for my time has been the most difficult hurdle for me to overcome. I first had to convince myself that the service I am providing has a value. My clients have never questioned any design fee bill I have ever sent. My fees are very reasonable, with the goal of having the client/designer relationship be a two-way commitment. It seems to be working well.
I also offer a local furniture store a certificate to be given to their clients for a free window treatment consultation. These free consultations do not produce as much business for me as do the design fee clients. It seems that free is for shoppers and people who want your ideas, charging is for serious clients who appreciate me and what I can do for them.
Nancy Phillips LeRoy
Camp Hill, PA
Keep Your Guard Up
I know exactly what Myers has been through. People-not all-do not appreciate what they get for nothing, especially talent and creativity. When presenting my fee by the hour I once was asked if I charged for thinking. You can imagine what value is placed on our work by customers with a mentality that could come up with a question like that. Not only are you not appreciated, but you get no respect.
So think before you open your mouth, smile and think of how you will be compensated. I never let my guard down.
Louise M. Hetrick
Louise M. Hetrick Interiors
Editor's Note: In our March 1998 issue, Draperies & Window Coverings published a Guest Editorial by interior designer Lisa Myers. Myers wrote about her tribulations after becoming too involved, too personal with clients while trying to provide a little extra service. "I was brought up to care about people, but all I seem to get in return is problems," Myers wrote. "I wonder if other designers have this problem . . . Does anyone out there in 'decorator land' hear me?" Myers'comments most definitely were heard and have struck a sympathetic chord among our readers. Following are excerpts from some of the letters we've received.