Tips & Insights

How To Set Fees and Attract Clients

Keys to solving two tough business challenges

by Gail Doby, Business Transformation Coach

Few topics are as complex as setting fees and attracting clients. They tend to be the most difficult concepts for interior designers to master.

Why is setting fees so difficult? First, let’s start with typical approaches many designers take:

  1. They hear about their colleagues’ fees, and then pick a number that is the same or close
  2. Or, they pick a number out of the air because they have no idea how to set fees
  3. They negotiate their fees if a prospect questions them, and then feel frustrated that some clients are paying them less
  4. Designers keep their fees low for past clients because they don’t want to lose the clients or make them mad
  5. They charge what they think they are worth, which is far below what it costs to operate their business
  6. Or, designers think that lower fees will result in more clients – but are they the right clients?
  7. They are afraid to raise fees each year because it might result in less business, so for years in a row they make less money because expenses always go up

Do any of these sound familiar?

The Key to Setting Fees

Base your fees on what it costs you to operate your business and what you need to keep after you pay your expenses – your net profit. And remember, your net profit should be the money left over AFTER you pay your salary.

If you base your fees on something that you can explain to your clients without feeling worried or guilty, then you’re on the right track. Confidence is key to getting higher fees.

Attracting Clients

To consistently bring in the right clients, you need more than great design photos on your website. Many designers experience feast and famine cycles because they don’t spend as much time marketing when they are busy, and that always leads to lean weeks or months several months beyond the “no or low” marketing period.

Create a 90-Day marketing plan, and keep it as simple as possible, so you can execute it with ease. Outsource or delegate the activities that you don’t have time to do. If you have specific things that work for you, like referrals, then develop a referral program and consistently follow through on it.

The Key to Successful Marketing

Do fewer marketing tasks more frequently, observe what works and what doesn’t – and stick with what works.

A past client said he was concerned that he wasn’t getting enough new leads, so I asked him what he was doing to market. The long list included social media, photographing his work, getting published, etc. I asked him how many projects he had gotten from those tasks. The answer? None.

When I asked what worked in the past, he said that his website, referrals, and past clients doing new projects worked best for him. I suggested that he return to what worked best for him. Instead of waiting to get photos published in a glossy magazine, publish them on your website. Publicity is less important than attracting clients.

One more thing to remember: In setting fees and attracting clients, as well as in so many other business activities, what you do consistently and confidently will make your business healthy and prosperous.

About Gail Doby

Gail Doby, ASID is a business transformation coach and consultant to interior design firms that are ready to earn more profit more easily. For more in-depth advice on how to set your fees, get your free copy of Interior Designers: Avoid Fee Mistakes.