50 states project | Apr 30, 2021 |
How this Kentucky designer tripled her rate—and got better clients

The 50 States Project is a yearlong series of candid conversations with interior designers across the country about how they’ve built their businesses. This week, Lexington, Kentucky–based Isabel Ladd tells us why she won’t sacrifice beauty for functionality, how she’d rather work on one room at a time than talk about budgets, and why she’s not ashamed of being motivated by money.

Where did an interest in design start for you?
Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to be on TV. I went out to Los Angeles when I was 17 to do acting, but then just found myself completely drawn to the sets. So I took courses in set design, and then I switched to textile design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. I was doing a project on tile design, and tiles led to swimming pools, which led to hotels, which led to Kelly Wearstler’s design of the Viceroy in Miami. And then I was like, “Wait! This is a thing? People design pool tiles—and places?” Interior design married my love of textiles, patterns and colors with my love of set design.

What was your entry into launching your own firm?
I graduated [with a degree] in textile design—I’ve never, ever been to school for interior design. But a few years later, I was going through a divorce and realized that I wanted to be financially independent, have my own business and set my own hours. That’s when I started Isabel Ladd Interiors, in 2016, the day after I met with a divorce attorney.

How did you approach starting a business?
People would always ask, “How do you have such a pretty house and kids?” And I would respond honestly: I’d say, “I do not sacrifice style just because I have kids.” Which is true. I’m not going to have ugly stuff that’s going to not elevate my mood just because I’m scared of things staining or breaking. And for me, that’s not performance fabrics—sometimes I’m like, “Let’s get the really beautiful stuff and apply Scotchgard to it. If something goes bad, it’s fine—it’s just furniture, not rocket science.” It’s not, you know? Everything is fine.

I had created this beautiful environment for myself and for my children—a space that made us love our home in a time that was already very chaotic and stressful. Then, someone from a local magazine reached out about doing a feature on the home. The article was titled “Baby Steps,” and it was all about having a beautiful home, having kids and not sacrificing style. From that one article, I got my first client.

And what did that client want you to do?
She was moving to a new house, she had four kids under the age of 6, and she was like, “Make my house as pretty as yours.”

So, your first job was the whole house.
The whole house, except for the primary bedroom—but also on a budget. I had started my business with $2,000 in the bank, so when I got that first project, I didn’t have money for it. My mom would give me her credit card—I would go shopping at outlets, HomeGoods, Target, wherever—and then I would photocopy every single receipt. When I gave the invoice to my client, it would show every single receipt, and then I would ask them to make a check out to my mother in order to pay her back. It was humble beginnings.

How this Kentucky designer tripled her rate—and got better clients
A white kitchen gets a lighthearted burst from tropical details.Courtesy of Isabel Ladd

I know a lot has changed since then! How do you approach budgets with clients today?
I don’t like when people tell me their budget. When someone starts saying, “So, my budget is ... ,” I do this comical thing where I put my index finger to my ear and go, “La, la, la, can’t hear it!” I say, “Don’t tell me,” because people don’t know what things cost. What I do instead is say, “I’m going to show you what it’s going to take to complete this room. Let’s walk around the house and talk about your priority rooms, and let’s spend the money there to complete one room at a time before we move forward.” That way, they have this feeling of, “I just spent a lot of money on this room, but it looks done, feels fabulous and I’m proud of it.” And then the other rooms look out of place, and we start to move on, room by room.

I use the software Ivy to send my proposals to clients—I found out about it through a Facebook ad and was one of the first designers to use it, and I was an ambassador for them. I create a proposal for each room that has every piece itemized, and there’s a toggle button that says either “accept” or “decline.” I tell my clients, “As you toggle those buttons, you see the price change in real time. And then if you say, ‘Hey, this is more than I can spend right now,’ that’s fine—toggle the button to remove the wallpaper and do everything else.” But if someone tells me, “I want this room done for $10,000,” that’s Champagne dreams on a beer budget. I can’t do that. I want to sell them on my value and on that finished project—I don’t want to sell them on, “Yeah, I’ll take your $10K and come up with something.” Let me tell you what it’s going to cost, let me itemize it, and then you can choose. And nine times out of 10, they do the whole room.

You welcome the one-room-at-a-time approach.
I encourage it! In my first phone interview, I’ll tell people, “I don’t want to go around your whole house if your priority is not the upstairs guest room. I want to focus our time, energy, and money into completing the rooms [that matter most].” Because if I do a sofa in the living room, and a dining table in the dining room—if we start piecemealing it—it’s all going to look bad. I don’t want my name associated with that! I want someone to come in and be like, “Woah, Isabel Ladd was here.” And then if they turn around to the other room, maybe they say, “Ah, she just hasn’t gotten to this one yet.”

Was that how you approached budgets from the get-go?
I did. I explain in that first phone call that I decorate for the way I would want to be decorated for: I want to know what the full thing’s going to look like, what it’s going to cost, and then choose if I want this or that. My clients are people who really appreciate my ability to mix and match. I tell them that I’m not going to spend a fortune on the pillow if I would rather spend a fortune on wallpaper. I’ll say, “Maybe we’ll spend a lot of money on this amazing fabric for a chair, but I can find you great lamps from my local sources.” Secretly, one of those great sources is HomeGoods!

I also only give the price of the final-sale, special-order and custom-order things in my proposals. Then I explain that in the fine print at the bottom, it says that accessories are not included in the proposal but will be reflected on the final invoice. All custom orders are final sale, but they can return accessories within a week.

That’s interesting. What made you take that approach?
One, it would scare people if they saw that big number, because the accessories add up. If they saw a $200 lamp, a $50 plate, a $30 picture frame—if I had that all itemized, they’d start to say, “You know, we have a lamp that I can get from my mother-in-law.” Or, “I’ve got picture frames, let me provide those.” So I don’t tell them the cost of the accessories upfront, but I place them in the house. People can’t visualize a picture frame or a trinket dish, but they can see those items in the space, and then they end up keeping it because it all makes sense. And if, at the end of the day, you want to return the lamp or return a dish? Fine. I will resell it.

Two, I find these accessories in my travels over the next few months after placing the orders for all of the pieces on the proposal. Once we know the vision and direction for the house, that’s when I can start curating. Some things come from High Point or a flea market, others come from HomeGoods. But that’s why it doesn’t look like I opened up a catalog and literally bought all of the accessories on page 76.

Do you give clients a range? Like, “On average, a room costs this much.” Or are clients coming to you recognizing that design is going to be expensive?
I’ll ask them if they have worked with an interior designer before to sniff out a red flag—that [situation] can go both ways. But also, if they’re like, “Yes I have worked with a designer before,” then I’ll say, “Oh, so you know how much things cost.” They know that window treatments are expensive because there’s so much beautiful fabric and they’re custom-made. So I’ll say that. Or if they say, “No, I haven’t,” then I’ll say, “OK, I’ll guide you through this. I’m going to itemize everything so that you can pick and choose what you want to move forward with.”

Sometimes on the first phone interview, a client will ask, “Can you give me an idea of how much it’s going to cost?” But I’ll always say, “I really can’t, because it depends on so many factors. Do you already have a sofa, or am I buying that? Do you already have window treatments, or are we getting those? Do you have art? Do you want fine art, or can I find stuff that is less expensive?” ... But I’ll say, “You know, I haven’t done a room for less than $20K in a really long time.” At the same time, I don’t want that to scare them away, because what if they already have $10,000 worth of perfectly good furniture that I can use?

Does that happen sometimes?
It does, but then I’ll reupholster it. Sometimes people have cool stuff—like a cool antique, but it’s completely ugly in that space until I accessorize it. Or maybe they’ve got great art, but everything else is ugly.

Left: A lemon-hued wallpaper provides a cheery backdrop to an antique console and white accessories. Courtesy of Isabel Ladd | Right: Ladd mixes in bright wallpaper and wicker details to add lightness to a traditional dining room. Courtesy of Isabel Ladd

Is it a challenge to find clients who are open to going on this open-ended journey without knowing where the costs will land?
My hourly fee is $225—and I think I’m going up to $250 soon—so that already weeds people out. If you’re not going to want to pay me at $225 an hour, then you’re not going to want to pay for a room that’s $30,000 to $50,000.

Was that always your rate?
No. When I started, I was charging $75 an hour. I was catering to all these people on allowances—they could afford me at $75 an hour, and then it was, “Hey, I found this coupon for Wayfair,” or, “This West Elm ad popped on my Instagram feed—can I use this coupon code?” That was the crowd I was attracting at a lower rate. And that meant my projects were ugly, because I wasn’t really able to have any creativity. When I elevated my rate, it was scary—I had this fear that I’d be too expensive and no one was going to hire me. It made me one of the most expensive designers in Kentucky, by a lot. But the opposite happened.

What was that experience like?
I raised my rate to $125 at first, which cut out a lot of people that were energy-suckers. After a long time at $125, I was thinking of raising it again to $200. My life coach said, “Isabel, I’m not going to tell you what to raise your rate to.” I meditated on it for eight hours—I did all of this inner work with excavating fears and deprogramming beliefs. A belief would be, “People won’t hire me if I’m at $225” or “My past clients will think that I’m taking advantage of them by raising my rates.” So I did all of these exercises for an entire day, and then I went into this meditation and I asked God, “What should my new rate be?” And the [answer] that I got through this meditation was $225.

My [immediate reaction] was, “Wait, no, that’s too much! I was thinking more like $200.” Even though $25 isn’t really a difference when you’re in that league, I was like, “No, no, no, that’s too much.” But my life coach was like, “Isabel, it’s $225. Listen to your download. You have every reason to trust yourself—you’ve done the spiritual work.” And then I got two cold calls the next day, and I hesitantly said my rate was $225, with a question mark. And they both said yes, and I got off the phone and thought, “Hot damn, girl, this is it.” So now I think I’m going to do that again—in part because I’ve seen a lot of demand, but also because it’s just one more way to weed out the energy-suckers and level up one more time.

Was there an instantaneous shift in the level of work and the kind of clients you were getting after you raised your rates?
None of the people on allowances called me anymore, and the people that said yes to $225 were the ones that had dual incomes—in general, both heads of the household were in high-position jobs. It’s not just that they had dual incomes, it’s that they know how to delegate because they’re most likely delegating in their own work.

That’s such an interesting distinction to make.
In the beginning, I found myself asking these high-level professionals questions—like, “Can I run this trim by you real quick?” or “Do you prefer a warm glow or a cool glow?” But these people don’t want to answer that. They want to delegate all of those decisions to me. When I was at my lower rate, my clients often didn’t delegate professionally, and they had time to engage me in all of my opinions. That was the benefit of raising my rates: My clients are now professionals who are used to delegating, who say, “Isabel, you take the wheel. What check do I write?”

Did raising your rates also change the way you approached the work?
I felt like such a badass. Before, I felt a little embarrassed to say that I charged $125, because I thought that was too much. But when I started charging $225, there was an energy shift. At first, I was really scared to tell my previous clients. I would never change a rate in the middle of a job, but I do change my rate if one part of the project is done and they call me back in three months or whatever. In those cases, I’ll say, “I would love to take on this project, but I just want to make you aware that I have increased my rate. If you’d like to move forward, fantastic, we'll put something on the calendar. If not, I can give you the number of someone who’s less expensive.”

And the response I got from my previous clients—one was like, “Oh, my gosh, congratulations! I can’t believe I’ve had the majority of my house decorated at such a low price.” She felt like she had gotten a deal, and now all she had to do was pay $225 an hour for this last room, but she got the value of a $225 designer for $125. Another said, “Oh, yeah, it was just a matter of time.” That made me stand taller. After that, I was not shy to say $225. I was like, “It’s $225, and you have two options: Take it or don’t.” But there’s no negotiating. There’s no, “Well, can you do it for this?” No. But I can refer you to someone who does do it for that [amount].

You increase your rates not just because of supply and demand, but also because you become more confident and have more experience. All of those mistakes I was making when I started, I’m making fewer of them now. So you’re paying for the service of me having upgraded myself. Something that used to take me six hours, now I can do it in two.

How this Kentucky designer tripled her rate—and got better clients
Turquoise tones lay the foundation in the master bedroom.Courtesy of Isabel Ladd

What does your workload look like right now? How many projects are you taking on?
I am such a yes person, so I’ve usually got about 12 to 15 jobs at all different levels. For the most part, I’ve stopped saying yes to [things like] a quick powder room. Those days are over, and I’m only doing huge houses—but I struggle with [saying no] because if I take powder rooms, I get some money real quick, and I get to be really bold. Those are really creative. When I have a really big project that I’ve been working on for months and months, I can become really jaded and so over it. So then I’m like, “Sure, I’ll do this quick powder room—I’ll do something extravagant that I’ve been itching to do.” Get in, get out. And then sometimes those evolve into real projects—and sometimes I have time for them, but sometimes I don’t!

As my business has elevated, I am also getting clients who want me to be creative. They’ll hire me because they want me to be creative, whereas in the beginning, I was playing so much stuff safe. I was doing living rooms in soft aqua. Now I don’t do a touch of soft anything!

How did you attract the clients who were ready for that when your portfolio had the soft aqua work in it?
I get most of my clients through word of mouth, and the word of mouth is, “Isabel is so responsible, she has amazing customer service, she responds right away. She puts forth the full scope for the design. She has this great software with everything itemized where you can accept or decline [everything]. She gets there and she’s charging hourly, but there’s no chit-chat.”

Wait, tell me about no chit-chat.
I am friendly, but I’m not saying, “Hey, how are your kids? Who are their teachers this year?” I’m like, “Hi! OK, so.” Because I’m on the clock! Like I said, I decorate the way I would want to be decorated for—and if I was paying someone $225 an hour, I would never want them to ask me about how my kids are doing in school. Or even, “How are you handling COVID?” No! People appreciate that.

Back to word of mouth. I feel like so much of leveling up for you was about confidence in who you are and what you do.
It was definitely a confidence thing. I just got so over playing it safe, and then all it took was one cool project with psycho-cool colors for me to start working with my life coach and eventually say, “This is who I am—I’m a maximalist, and I’m not apologizing for it.” I also started getting into publications. I was on HouseBeautiful.com, and last month I was in Good Housekeeping in print. My clients started seeing that I’m published, and they’re proud of me—especially in Kentucky, where it’s not like in New York, where a gazillion designers are published.

How this Kentucky designer tripled her rate—and got better clients
A pastel-hued area rug plays off of warm neutrals and an elegant chandelier.Courtesy of Isabel Ladd

Let’s talk about Kentucky for a second. You grew up there, right?
I was born in Brazil, but I moved to Kentucky when I was 3 because my parents are in the horse business—they breed and raise thoroughbreds. It’s a very blue-blood, traditional landscape here, so the designs of these homes are extravagant and beautiful, but it’s all dark woods, dark colors, and pictures of horses with a little light shining on them. It’s maroons and evergreens and brass—it’s so heavy. Anyway, that’s how I landed in Kentucky—I grew up on a beautiful horse farm and went to a beautiful school, but I always wanted to move to the big city. I had always said that I was going to be an actress and that I was never coming back to Kentucky again!

I was in Los Angeles for five years—I don’t even know that I ever even went to sleep because I just had so much FOMO. But then I got married when I was 21, which was insane, after knowing my then-husband for 26 days, which was even more insane. I came back to Kentucky when I got married—and when I got divorced 13 years later, that’s when I started my business, and now I cannot imagine living in any other place.

Lexington really is a thriving hot spot. There are a lot of good designers here, and there is so much to offer, from bourbon trails to biking and open parks and horse farm tours. And there’s a lot of style here. It’s not New York and it’s not L.A., but I want it to be [a design destination] just like Nashville. I’m proud of Lexington, and I want to shout it from the rooftops.

When you moved back did you feel that appreciation for it right away?
No, I really felt that appreciation with the start of my business. I found that I was so valued here, and I love that my aesthetic is so different from Lexington. It’s so fresh. I feel like if I were in a bigger city, I might be one of many with a boho vibe. Instead, it is a saturated market of good style and great designers, but it is not saturated in my style.

You mentioned that the local look is typically heavy and traditional. Where do you draw inspiration from, instead?
I really embrace maximalism—and if you really think about it, that’s Brazil. That’s Brazilian culture, and that’s who I am. Brazil is feathers and sequins, it’s pattern on pattern on pattern, where nothing matches but everything goes together. But then that’s balanced with beautiful antiques made of really interesting woods, but with nothing too perfect or polished. I’m so inspired whenever I go to Brazil, and then when I come back here, I have fresh eyes and inspiration. It’s like, “OK, y’all, I’m doing this crazy stuff. Whoever wants it, you can come on board.” And if you don’t want it, there are so many other interior designers that will do exactly what you want.

Did you find that pretty quickly people were ready for that kind of maximalism?
When I unapologetically said, “This is what I do. This is who I am, and I’m not playing it safe anymore,” that’s when people came from out of the woodwork, and now it’s just easy. As I got better projects, I was like “delete, delete, delete” to all those projects that I did not want to be known for—I took them off my website. Now when I get a new client, I tell them in that first phone conversation to look at my website to make sure that this will be a mutually beneficial relationship. I mean, aesthetically, I’ve got a lot of things on my website—it’s not just explosions of color.

I’m looking now, and there’s a range here.
There’s a range. Because there’ve been times when maybe it’s a play on a lot of neutral textures. I just need it to be mutually beneficial, and that does not just mean financially or energetically, but also aesthetically, because I cannot have a boring project. I could before, but those days are over. I need to have a fun job, and fun for me is getting really creative.

Left: In the next room, traditional silhouettes get a fresh take with modern fabric. Courtesy of Isabel Ladd | Right: An island-inspired moment. Courtesy of Isabel Ladd

What does your team look like?
All this time, it’s just been me. Then I hired my mom last year—at first, my intention for her was to do all of the project management and keep tabs on all the logistics, but bless her heart, she could not turn on the computer. So instead, she became my life assistant and helps take care of my kids.

But here’s the badass part: Last year, I sold well north of seven figures [in product], and that’s without an employee, without an office, without contracts, without renderings, without CAD. I just moved out of my kitchen table about a month ago. So imagine how much more I can sell if I hire a director of operations?

I saw your “We’re hiring” post on Instagram. How did you decide what you wanted that role to be?
Right now, I am 10 percent interior designer, and all of my other jobs are in logistics, customer service and client relations. I’ve made it clear [in the job description] that I’m the only interior designer and that I need someone to handle the business. To be an interior designer sounds like a lot of fun, but I haven’t been doing that much interior designing because I’ve been spending so much time doing this other stuff. I’m really excited to hire someone so that I can spend more time being an interior designer.

You said that you’ve worked without contracts?
Yes.

Are you folding that into this next step, along with an operations person?
Clients ask, “Do I sign a contract?” all the time, and I’m always like, “No, let’s just hug it out!” Hugs and handshakes are how I’ve conducted my business. I get vibes from people—sometimes they’re great vibes, and sometimes it’s like, “No.” But when I do a proposal, there is that fine print that says, “This is a special order, this is final sale. Shipping costs are not included in the proposal but will be included in the final invoice. Accessories not included here [but] will be included in the final invoice, [and] you can return accessories if you want.” And in the state of Kentucky, if you put money towards a document with fine print, that’s legally binding.

So a check is the same as a signature, basically.
Exactly. And as I’m speaking to a person, I have that not only written, but I am telling them. They’re both seeing it and hearing it. But I didn’t want this experience to be a 14-page document. Contracts can be intimidating—they can have verbiage that not everyone understands, and they can have something that happens to like, .01 percent of projects. That’s why I really like my fine print to be four sentences long. Your second-grader could look it over and be like, “Ah! I get it—this is final sale! Ah, shipping is not included here! Oh, we don’t have to keep these accessories, but we do have to keep this!”

OK, so no contract. How else are you breaking the mold?
I don’t do elaborate renderings or elevations. I’ve probably made a floor plan twice, but none of it was to scale, and all of it was done on the back of my notebook. I can go into a room and be like, “This room needs a 9-by-12 rug,” and then I take out my tape measure. Maybe I realize that I can do up to a 10-by-14, and then I write in my notes to source for a rug that’s ideally 8 feet but no more than 9 foot 6. Again, I decorate the way I want to be decorated for—so if I don’t have to spend hours creating the floor plan, which is digging into people’s money, then I’m not going to do it. I’ve had nothing but tremendous success with a tape measure and note-taking.

How does that turn into a formal presentation?
I start the presentation pulling out fabric samples, but I try to not overwhelm them with options. The presentation is: “This is it.” As I’m showing the samples, I also have created a vision board so they can see everything together. Most of those I just do online with Canva. As I’m doing this, I’m walking around the room with a measuring tape, explaining, “This is how big your sofa is going to be. This is how big your rug is going to be.” So when they see the measuring tape up against their wall, they can visualize it and they get it. But people who normally see floor plans or see things from bird’s-eye view, they’re not going to follow along.

I use floor plans when other people create them—when I’m in meetings with architects, I know how to read a plan. I know about door swings, I know about electrical plans. But for my clients, when a designer is holding up a tape measure in front of them, they know exactly where that rug is going to go, then that’s good. That’s all they need.

How this Kentucky designer tripled her rate—and got better clients
A tropical color palette and a smorgasbord of prints make for a punchy children’s bedroom.Courtesy of Isabel Ladd

What is success to you?
Success to me is being the Joanna Gaines of maximalism. I want a Target line and a TV show. I want to invent something like what shiplap was—that’s how I want to influence the world. So, that’s the dream.

What do you think you need to get there?
I want to have a director of operations who knows where every piece is in production. I would like to have a design assistant who knows my style, who I can give the design to. I want to pick the fabrics, the furniture, the wallpaper, then step away and let my assistant pick out all of the lights and complementary fabrics. So I want to be Joanna Gaines but without having a lot of people working for me. I want to still have a really good pulse on my business—I want it to be small enough where I really feel like I still have control, but big enough where I can go on book tours and have a TV show and know that my business is still skyrocketing. It is not just surviving, but thriving.

What is one thing you wish you would have folded into your business sooner?
I wouldn’t cry so much! I feel like in the beginning, every little thing that was going wrong, I would have a panic attack.

Design mistakes or problems in this industry feel like the end of the world when they happen.
They really do. And I think it’s because people spend a lot of money and they’ve prepared so much for installation day, so to see things go wrong—especially if the client is supposed to be home in a few hours—that’s a lot of pressure. I used to wake up on installation days and not eat. I’d want to throw up. I’d be like, “What is going to go wrong on this installation day?” Now I’ve completely shifted my mentality, and the night before an installation, I text my client: “Doesn’t it feel like Christmas Eve? Your house is going to be so different tomorrow. But also, don’t be in your house.” Because shit looks crazy before it looks amazing.

Now, instead of thinking about what might go wrong, I ask myself, “What situations am I going to figure out today? What magic tricks am I going to pull out of nowhere?” Two weeks ago, I had this sectional in a historic house—and let me tell you, historic houses are not supposed to have sectionals, because they don’t fit in tiny doorways. Even though it may have technically fit through doorways, the angles were really hard. I’m so hashtag blessed that the client was on spring break for five days, and happy that I started this installation on day one, because I needed all five days.

What the client does not know is that in those five days, I called in a contractor to remove not just the door, but the whole door casing, which gave us an extra 4 inches. What the client does not know is that I repainted, on my own dime, three or four walls because they got so damaged. Not just painted, but repaired. What the client does not know is that it took maybe eight hours to get that sectional up there, even though I billed them for one hour. Even though I was dying inside through all of it, that stuff happens, and there are always solutions—you have to accept it, expect it and go with the flow.

That’s an adventure!
That was also a lesson in markup. I had only marked up that sectional 30 percent because I didn’t want to scare the client with the price of it, and that was a lesson for me. I am never going to mark up something 30 percent again—I’m going to mark it up more, because when things like this happen, I don’t want to [just] break even. My clients are so lucky to have me, because I didn’t take no from the first delivery driver, or from the contractor that said they couldn’t do it. I just don’t want [my clients] to know what it took.

How do you explain the markup to your clients?
I have such a good spiel for this, and I tell interior designers that are starting their own business as well. The clients will ask, “So, do you give us your pricing on furniture?” to which I respond, “You’re paying me hourly for my time, because of my experience, because of my customer service, because of everything that I have learned throughout this business to get me to where I am now with you. You’re paying me for my professionalism and my expertise. You [also] pay for the goods, and I do make money on goods, because I am a reseller.”

If you were to Google any of this stuff—and I literally say that [to clients]—that price is called IMAP, and I explain that it’s the lowest price I can sell something on the internet for, even though I’m not selling on the internet. Some vendors pride themselves on being more exclusive, and their pricing is going to reflect their attention to detail and craftsmanship. They would never want me to sell something so cheap, because that would cheapen their brand. I talk about this for a long time so that the client is like, “OK, OK, I get it. I’m not going to ask you about this again.” You have to realize that these internet wholesalers, like Fabrics.com or Wallpapers.com, are making more money than I am because they buy things in volume. I’m selling you something at the same price you would pay at a big-box store, but it’s little old me, not a big-box vendor. So that sometimes humbles everything a little bit more.

Then, depending on the client, I might say, “I have everything itemized for you. You have two options: accept or decline.” I’m not going to reveal all of my back end to you in the same [way you wouldn’t see that] if you go to a clothing store. You can either buy the dress or not. You’re not going to ask the shopkeeper, “What did you pay for this dress? Can I get it at this price [instead]?” When I gave examples like that, they really do understand. And I want them to understand that I am not cheating them. I am not double-dipping, either. There is a price for my work and time, but I’m also a store. I really drill it into them.

I want to make more money—not that it’s [just] about the money. But in a way, I hate when people say, “Oh, I just do it ’cause I love it. I don’t do it for the money.” Why be in business? But what can you do with that money? You can hire people. Maybe you provide for their whole life, or maybe you provide for their extras so that they can buy pretty things for themselves. What else can you do with money? You can support upholsterers and workrooms. You can advertise at schools and small businesses. With money, you can create product development lines to sell at Target so that someone else can afford beautiful designs. So yes, I do do it for the money.

Homepage image: Isabel Ladd | Courtesy of Isabel Ladd

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