trade tales | Oct 9, 2020 |
What do you do when clients question your pricing?

Most clients understand the value a designer brings to a project, but there are always a few who push back on the costs. We asked eight designers—Joseph A. Berkowitz, Anne Carr, Joyce Downing Pickens, Swati Goorha, Molly Kidd, Natalie Kraiem, Aymee Kuhlman and Gillian Segal—what they do when clients question their pricing or ask to see vendor invoices.

Aymee Kuhlman and Molly Kidd
Aymee Kuhlman and Molly KiddCourtesy of Light and Dwell

In their shoes
“Our clients definitely ask questions about our pricing, as they should! We would! We welcome their need to understand and try to anticipate what we would want to know if we were in their shoes. We also look at what past clients wanted to know. Understanding how we price is part of building trust with our clients. We feel like we’ve done our research for industry standards, considered what we offer and the value it represents, and don’t shy away when asked compensation questions. Luxury design is an investment, after all.” —Molly Kidd and Aymee Kuhlman, Light & Dwell, Corvallis, Oregon

Gillian Segal
Gillian SegalCourtesy of Gillian Segal

Know your worth
“As a firm, we are very transparent with our invoices, and our contract clearly states that we charge a fee for our goods purchased, plus a markup fee of 15 percent. If a client wants to see an invoice, we are always happy to provide it, but it typically triggers a bigger conversation about lack of trust. Finding a delicate way of providing an invoice, especially in the day of the internet, when people can essentially source their own prices, is very important. With experience, I have come to value my worth more. When I was just starting out, I had a hard time justifying the markup fee and often gave out discounts more. Now that I am established, I value my time and what my team brings to the table. There are many unbillable hours that go into the project with research, course work and product knowledge that all end up benefiting our clients.” —Gillian Segal, Gillian Segal Design, Vancouver

Joyce Downing Pickens
Joyce Downing PickensCourtesy of Joyce Downing Pickens

When to walk away
“At the end of the day, we are in a customer service business, so as frustrating as these conversations may be, they must be handled with grace and patience. I have noticed that this job requires a lot of educating clients on what we do all day, and for the most part, people just want to know where their money is going. However, there are some people who just don’t value you and never will, and you may have to walk away. Hiring an interior designer is a luxury service and not for everyone. We are not running charities, and our time needs to be compensated.” —Joyce Downing Pickens, JDP Interiors, Los Angeles

Swati Goorha
Swati GoorhaCourtesy of Swati Goorha

Just clause
“We have a clause in our contract that explains that we mark up our products over our net cost. We clarify to our clients that our goal is to share the discount with them, ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent less MSRP. Our cost price is irrelevant. We buy directly from vendors at various discount levels, ranging from wholesale to designer-level pricing, which sometimes requires large opening orders and high yearly volume. Our vendors do not want us to share the wholesale pricing with customers, as it is often against the agreement we have with the vendors. This is also a conversation we have with the client at the time of signing our contract.” —Swati Goorha, Swati Goorha Designs, New Providence, New Jersey

Anne Carr
Anne CarrCourtesy of Anne Carr

A matter of trust
“When clients ask why something costs so much, I try to lead them away from the dollar amount to a conversation about value. I do not show clients vendor invoices. I am transparent about my markup so that I am not ever put in an awkward position. The one time someone asked me for an invoice, I just said I have special trade vendor relationships that are built on trust and many years of working together and I would never violate that.” —Anne Carr, Anne Carr Design, Los Angeles

Joseph A. Berkowitz
Joseph A. BerkowitzCourtesy of Joseph A. Berkowitz

Well spent
“I tell clients they need to trust me for our relationship to work. My prices are always less than what they can get the merchandise for, and the value of my service and expertise will make any money better spent. I do not share paperwork, as the vendors do not want phone calls from clients, and managing the orders and deliveries is part of my staff's job.” —Joseph A. Berkowitz, JAB Design Group, Penn Valley, Pennsylvania

Natalie Kraiem
Natalie KraiemCourtesy of Natalie Kraiem

A lesson in value
“When potential or existing clients question my pricing, I make them understand the value of having a designer on board that will save them from making mistakes and selecting trendy furnishing from retail stores. I usually explain that I can offer an added value to their home and despite paying designer fees or commissions, their house will likely increase in value and they will make lifelong decisions they can grow with. I emphasize that they are purchasing quality items that they can only access through a designer. By using my services, these clients are getting a one-of-a-kind timeless design.” —Natalie Kraiem, Natalie Kraiem Interiors, New York

Homepage photo: A project by Swati Goorha | Courtesy of Swati Goorha

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