trade tales | Feb 7, 2020 |
Do you outline client responsibilities in your contract?

When it comes to the designer-client relationship, what obligations does the client have? We asked five designers—Samantha Fisher, Linda Hayslett, Jenny Dina Kirschner,​​​​​​​ Jodi Morton and Hallie Henley Sims—how they define client responsibilities.

Jenny Dina Kirschner
Jenny Dina KirschnerCourtesy of Jenny Dina Kirschner

Be Up-front
“Client responsibilities are equally as important as designer responsibilities to a productive working relationship and successful project outcome. Whether it’s allowing the finished project to be professionally photographed or accepting orders in a timely manner, there can be a lot of ambiguity surrounding various issues when working with clients, and it’s vital to clarify and gain consent on such matters in writing upfront. (In case it’s not obvious, my better half is a lawyer!) I not only detail all client responsibilities in a section of my contractual agreement, but I also mention the more important responsibilities that have been questioned by clients in the past in the email that I send along with my agreement.” —Jenny Dina Kirschner, JDK Interiors, New York

Samantha Fisher
Samantha FisherCourtesy of Samantha Fisher

Take it easy
“The only thing I ask from clients, as far as a responsibility, is written approval of proposals, retainer for orders and photography rights. As far as other responsibilities, such as meeting on a consistent basis, decision-making timelines and communications, it’s ‘Go with the flow.’ They all have responsibilities of their own and very busy lives, and I want to respect that. Also, I want the process to be as enjoyable, fun and stress-free as possible.” —Samantha Fisher, Samantha Fisher Interior Design, Dallas

Linda Hayslett
Linda HayslettCourtesy of Linda Hayslett

Starting point
“It’s important that clients understand what my value is as a designer, so I do outline this in my contract. The contract also helps by having clients know beforehand the ways in which the project can go positively or negatively. I’m up-front, once I send out my contract, by reiterating some of the points outlined. Unfortunately, sometimes people have a false idea of how designers work because of reality TV and think that things happen quicker than they normally do. But my job as a designer is to help them see outside the box and get the best results. I feel that since I start off by telling clients what to expect, they respect the process more and are much happier with the end result.” —Linda Hayslett, LH.Designs, Los Angeles

Jodi Morton
Jodi MortonCourtesy of Jodi Morton

Talk it out
“We don’t outline client responsibilities in our contract; however, we discuss expectations and respective responsibilities at our intake meeting. Obviously, communication is key in every relationship, and the one between designer and client is no different. Everything from problems, budget, time frame, fee structure and chain of command are discussed in person. The timeliness and effectiveness of any project is dependent on both of our abilities to make decisions and on our shared vision. In the end, I feel the responsibility ultimately lies with me to be a good project manager, and to set the tone for a positive relationship.” —Jodi Morton, 2to5 Design, Evanston, IL

Hallie Henley Sims
Hallie Henley SimsCourtesy of Hallie Henley Sims

Open lines
“I strive to provide my clients with a luxury service, so in that regard, I try to make the process of working with our firm turnkey for my clients and to take a number of responsibilities off the table for them. With that said, I do have several points listed in my contract to clarify expectations as we move forward. For example, in my contract, clients know that they can reach me via email, phone call, text (or maybe even smoke signals), and my time will be billed accordingly as such, but I prefer communication via email so I have a written record of our correspondence that can be saved and referred back to. I also verbally explain to my clients that I am a designer, not a general contractor, and the only subcontractor I typically facilitate is my wallpaper installer. My contract is worded such that, if I did take on a contractor-type role, I would bill my time and mark up accordingly.” —Hallie Henley Sims, Hallie Henley Design, Houston

Homepage photo: Courtesy of Hallie Henley Sims

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