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Who is “Affordable” and What is “Reasonable”?

Who is “Affordable” and What is “Reasonable”?

Sometimes I scroll through my local Facebook groups and see requests for a “reasonable” or “affordable” interior designer.

I have found comments like this to be very interesting because I know what they can REALLY mean. But I think what’s happening is that there is a disconnect between the design “fee” and the service you get in exchange for that investment.

I wanted to take a moment to address this because I think as an entire industry, we can do better at explaining what we do and why it’s so valuable.

I don’t really think people (potential clients) are posting this in these Facebook groups to get something for nothing (well, maybe sometimes they are), but more so because they don’t know what to expect or how the design process works to even have the slightest idea of how to evaluate what actually is “reasonable”!

Let me provide you with an example…

Imagine this person who posted in the Facebook Group got a quote from an interior designer who did a consult with them and, in their proposal, just threw a huge figure at them, didn’t explain their process, value or set expectations.

The client fell on the floor, got up, turned to Facebook and is now looking for “reasonable”. They are simply looking for a low number that fits into their budget so they can get “help” with their project.

The interesting thing is, given the situation, that “high” figure may have been totally “reasonable” but the way it was delivered was ineffective in expressing that.

I’ve seen it first hand, someone will respond something like, “You should call ‘Sally Smith’. She helped me select my window treatments and she was very inexpensive.”

Now listen, I don’t necessarily want to be known as the “inexpensive” designer in this thread because this is probably not my ideal client for my business model.

I would much rather get the referral that says, “She’s not cheap, but she’s damn good and the process was amazing”, but ultimately, that’s for you to decide which category you wish to fall into.

The point is that if you want to be “affordable”, market that way and offer services or packages that help attract that type of ideal client.

But don’t do the “light” version of luxury full-service design just so you can have the lowest design fee. You will find that you won’t really be excellent at anything—you’ll just be cheap and resentful for the work you’re doing and not getting paid for.

I think it’s our job as the designer to be crystal clear on what we offer and who that kind of service is for.

The client should be educated and not offended by our fees! There is no shame in being amazing at pulling together spaces on a “budget.”

In fact, with the large amount of online and retail stores, offering a package or a service to a DIY’er could be very lucrative for many designers!

You need to decide who you are and what you want to be known for and let the referrals that show up speak volumes based on your design work, your business process, and the experience of working with you.

I’d much rather someone refer you in a thread because you “specialize in low-budget projects” than just being known for being the least expensive. Lead with the amazing benefits of working for you and make yourself more than just “reasonable” or “affordable.”

I don’t believe all clients fit in the “full-service luxury design” box that many of us try to shove them into.

I actually think that’s where the “expensive” comments stem from.

If someone is truly looking for that luxury service and understands what they’re asking for, they expect the fees they will be asked to pay. If they are not asking for true full-service design and we quote them at that level, it absolutely WILL seem “unreasonable”.

Get really clear on what you want to offer and express your value far beyond the exchange of money or product. Make yourself known for the unique service you provide and communicate this to your clients accordingly.

It’s our job as designers to educate the clients on our value.

I believe that if our industry makes a better effort to do this as a whole, we will start to see a shift in the client mindset that is more focused on the service itself rather than the price of our service.

Who are you attracting? What do people say about you when they refer you? Are you the “affordable” designer? Do you want to be? Figure it out and then make it happen.

Show up and be excellent, friends.


(3) Comments
  • Amanda
    (19 February 2020)

    Love this, Sara! Client expectations are everything, and being clear about what we offer is the first step. Great post.

    • Sara Brennan
      (19 February 2020)

      Thank you Amanda!! I’m so glad you agree!!! 🙂

  • Denise
    (19 February 2020)

    This was great insight for me as a rising business owner. I now know what I need to do to be clear on what I charge and why, and to OWN my skills, experience and education to not waiver from that.

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What Level is Your Design Business?