Charging a consultation fee has become a common practice in the interior design industry. However; from time to time I have encountered potential clients that will inquire why I charge a fee when Suzy Q down the street does not.
This is a fair question. In the past, I’ve made countless assumptions that people understand what I do and didn’t explain things in a way that made sense to consumers. One of my current goals is to educate folks as much as possible about interior design and show the value that we bring when working with us.
This post will provide guidance on what to expect and what not to expect during the design consultation. It will also provide an understanding of why it’s such an important part of the interior design process.
So back to the original question; why do we charge a fee for the design consultation? In the first few months of my journey, I actually offered free design consultations. With this, I quickly discovered that people didn’t value my services when there wasn’t an investment attached to it. I would encounter no shows or people really being unprepared for the appointment.
Once a fee was involved, I noticed a commitment to the process; an inherent value was placed on the consultation. I saw that people now had a vested interest. Imagine that!
Besides, the hours spent riding around in your car with no reimbursement for your gas or time for no shows was a hard pill to swallow. This is time being taken away from other billable activities and that. was. not. cool.
WHAT TO EXPECT: THE INTERIOR DESIGN CONSULTATION
The interior design consultation is an opportunity to see your home first hand and start the conceptual process. It’s a time to listen to your decor dilemmas, learn more about your vision for the space, how it fits in with your lifestyle, etc.
This means that we will take a tour of your home together; we will discuss what is working for you in each space and what is not. We will hone in on those problem areas you want to address for the scope of work we will embark upon.
Once we have narrowed down the problem areas to address, we then provide our best and grandest ideas. These ideas may include best ways for space layout, the addition of millwork and other architectural elements, furnishings, lighting, art, window coverings, and decor pieces. We may also look at online resources to help you visualize what we have in mind.
The next step in the interior design consultation is discussing the budget. Most times clients do not know what their budget should be. So we will do a budget exercise; this includes completing a worksheet to help clients determine a good range to consider. You can read a previous post I wrote here about the expenses associated with decorating a space along with a sample budget planning tool.
The final step in the design consultation is discussing how we work. We will go over possible challenges like delays, back orders, and damages. We discuss how we can solve them for you. We may touch on our 3 phase process and next steps to get started. We will also answer any questions you have.
Clients are always encouraged to write down possible questions ahead of the consultation to make sure you are prepared. It may also be helpful to take notes during the meeting to ensure you understand what is being presented since this can be an overwhelming time.
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT: THE INTERIOR DESIGN CONSULTATION
While we may suggest our grandest ideas, they are not the actual selections. Good design is about considering the space overall and how each element relates to each other. Its about layering pieces. This often takes some thought and time to develop. This could include pulling fabric and color swatches together or creating a concept board that shows how each piece relates to each other.
In other words; design takes time and an actual design cannot be achieved in a 2 hour consultation. While interior designer/decorators can instinctively stand in a room and feel what it needs, we also can turn that initial concept into something more brilliant if given the time. You deserve our best designs and we need time to make sure those ideas work for you.
There is no physical altering of the space during the design consultation. This means we don’t hang art or re-arrange any furniture. We also do not provide any notes, paint color suggestions, etc.
Lastly, the consultation fee is not applied to the design fee or any future project should you decide to hire us. The paid fees for the consultation is strictly for our time to travel to your home and provide you with expertise. This fee is collected ahead of time (prior to the meeting) to ensure that our focus is on the design work we are there for.
The interior design consultation plays an important part in the design process. It essentially allows you to gain ideas, guidance, resources and expertise to help you make decisions and move towards the next step.