Whose Idea Was It, Anyway?
I recently discovered my newest competition: the client! And it
has been my biggest challenge ever.
I recently completed a design presentation for a client. I secured
my usual consultation fee, the contract was signed for the first
four hours of consultation, the presentation was given to the client,
and everything seemed to be running smoothly. Then, I received a
phone call from my client stating that she and her husband had some
I set up an appointment, met with the clients and during our discussion
I was informed the woman would be designing the window treatments
Have I given this client too much information? Should I have not
been so detailed on my design ideas and presentation? Please guide
me in the right direction, as this is a large project.
SOLUTION:Today, consumers are
savvy . . . some, very savvy. They do their homework, and they have
access as never before to resources when it comes to creativity,
pricing and materials for their projects. How should a designer
curtail the problems this creates?
First, you were correct in securing a contract for consultation.
At least you have been paid for your first four hours of creativity,
although we all know that more hours have been put into the job
at this point.
Next comes the presentation of an idea to a client. At times, this
may be a matter of discretion. Somewhere in the agreement between
the client and myself I will place a paragraph stating, in a positive
fashion, that the client may not use my ideas and the resulting
design as part of the project. I would present ideas to clients
in a way that they would not be able to take with them, such as
a sample board with numerous fabric samples and photograph ideas,
including sketches. If the clients ask to keep these ideas, I then
let them know I will create a board of ideas once the final contract
is signed. We must insist that we own these ideas and the presentations
Once we have secured a commitment from the client agreeing with
the design ideas, we then can arrange for another agreement that
includes specific ideas about the individual design scheme including
all of the necessary and detailed information as to materials, designs,
ideas, installation, etc.
If I were to proceed through each step of the project and see that
a client might be shopping me, I would proceed with caution as to
what details I tell them about for his or her particular project.
We may, at times, need to adjust our design process. If a client
insists on keeping the presentation boards and will not sign a client
agreement, that would be a red flag for me.
Each client is different, so how we proceed with a particular project
varies, but it is of the utmost importance to have a clearly stated
agreement with the client from the beginning.
An excellent book to read is The Business of Interior Design by
Dennis Grant Murphy, ASID. I recommend the current edition and the
previous edition, if you can find it. A great place to start your
search is on the Internet. I have seen this book on Amazon.com,
eBay, Barnes and Noble and other Web sites.
In conclusion, in today’s technology age with a vast amount
of information at everyone’s fingertips, we must stay ahead
of the savviest of clients.
Editor’s note: This is a continuing series of articles written
by Sharon L. Anderson that will answer some of the many questions
we receive at Draperies & Window Coverings as well as questions
Anderson has encountered in her own business. If you have a question
you would like Anderson to address, please send it to:
c/o Draperies & Window Coverings
1724 E. Grand Ave.
Lindenhurst, IL 60046
Fax: (847) 356-9013
L. Anderson has more than 20 years experience in the residential
and commercial areas of interior design. She is currently a faculty
member at two Southern California colleges. Anderson has been featured
in numerous books and publications.