I wonder if other designers have this problem. After all, doing work in a person's home does require spending a certain amount of time with them, and getting to know the "household" is part of a designer's function in determining the scheme of things. Yet I always seem to get too involved, and somehow find myself providing a little extra service here and there at no extra charge . . . and eventually after a few payments have been received and new charges accumulated, I find myself on the short end of the stick. I can give you an example.
Making the Switch
I have been working for this one family for almost a year now on numerous rooms in their home. I have been helping to select furnishings and I have been providing window treatments and miscellaneous accessories throughout the home. All the while I see that these people have a bit more than others, such as a third car in the garage. I do not treat them any differently, I price their work as fairly as I would price work for anyone else. Perhaps that was my mistake right there.
One time I went shopping with the woman and did not charge her an hourly fee because I had work to do for others while out, and the woman took me to lunch. I felt that was the fair thing to do.
Anytime anything needed to be done, she asked me to do it and it was done. At one point she asked if my installer could change some light switches in the dining room to dimmers. I knew her husband was out of town most of the time, so we discussed a price, and it was done. The husband came home, and he loved them.
Approximately two months later the woman asked me to replace some additional switches. At the time, she was working with the builder on some work being done in the basement (which was unrelated to the design work I was doing) and she decided she would like even more switches replaced.
We charged her the same rate as before. Unfortunately, more dimmers were required to finish the last group of switches, and we had to leave that day before finishing. The builder had hired an electrician to do some work in the basement, and my installer did not want to be there during the time of their permit. So we waited a few days for them to finish. In the meantime, the woman's husband came home, intervened and had the electrician finish all of the switches. We had left some dimmers behind ($30 each), and when I billed her for them she was upset.
After everything extra I have been doing to make this job the most beautiful (and it is): hanging pictures for no charge, cleaning the kitchen floor when the refrigerator leaked while they were away, watering her plants while they were away because they looked wilted. I was brought up to care about people, but all I seem to get in return is problems.
The Right Price
Believe me when I tell you that this is not the first time I have gone beyond the call of my duties, and have gotten stepped on. I have no choice but to change the way I do business.
Does anyone out there in "decorator land" hear me? Please write with any suggestions, or like stories. From now on, everything has its price.
Lisa Myers is an interior designer and owner of Lisa Myers Interiors, Blackstone, MA.