I remember talking with my best friend once about her artistic daughter and the possibility of her interning with me at some point. My best friend wanted her creative-minded child to see that being an artist or a creative didn't have to mean starving and that a business could be forged. I like the word forge - it implies sweaty and hard work and that's what it does take. I think that I've shown the glimmers of how this transpires in my world. Many just see (whether by choice or by their inability to see the hard work that goes in) all the pretty. People often think that designers just sit in their office and make sample/mood boards that they then blog and instagram. Occasionally, I can stop and persuade people to look beyond that curtain and understand the thought process that goes into these selections.
Now let's get something straight - I am VERY much against the concept that is offered by many including my hostile mail man - the dreaded E-DESIGN. To be clear, I'm very much bothered by this service being offered for a variety of reasons - of course I will elaborate.
1) E-Design. If you are shopping online for someone or specifying online for someone this is not design. This is PERSONAL SHOPPING FOR INTERIORS. Interior design and decorating is very different than shopping. VERY. If you don't know the difference, perhaps you should do a little research - job shadow, go to school, work for someone who does it. You will quickly learn it's not about you and your taste/choices and about how someone lives. It's about creating a feeling. It's tricky to create this for someone whom you've never met or walked through their space. It's not that it can't be done but you need to be well versed in the former before you can serve it up on a computer and hit send.
2) What qualifies you to offer this service? What is your experience? Why should people pay you money for these services? If you have trouble answering these questions or your answer is "I've done my own house, people say I have a good eye..." Sigh. That's not enough of a reason.
3) If you are a trained designer and you are offering E-Design why are you discounting your design service exactly? Because you are working remotely? Not good - you've just pissed off your potential client base or you've sold yourself out and have to match your E-Design prices for your live clients. Either way, you will risk egg on your face. Discounting your services to get more work is NOT the way to build a design business. It's a great way to compromise your design principles and provide inferior service. Not something to build a career on.
4) I've seen people charge a pittance for these services and that just waters down people's expectations. Way to Ikea-ize your fees. People already think a dining chair shouldn't cost more than $200 and that a $300 dining chair is somehow fancy... economy of scale people. Think big picture. (No offence to Ikea - love shopping there but it's really skewed people's perceptions on what things should cost and even more importantly what they are willing to pay for something... less Disposable Design more INVESTMENTS)
5) You can still offer a remote design service at your regular price and it doesn't have to mean your client incurring travel expenses and the like to have you on site - but it also leaves the door open to this very possibility so... charge what you would charge your regular clients to perform a service but at a distance. Think out of the box. Get creative. There are lots of ways to make it happen in such away that you deliver a superior service and product and become an invaluable resource to your client.
6) These Design in a Box services. I think Windsor Smith does a great job of doing this but please understand that this service came about around the same time as the recession hit. Design Firms needed a way to keep cash flow going when people stopped their big $$$$ projects. Offering a flat fee design service on a room by room basis allowed design firms to stay afloat and kept clients in the pocket of working with a designer but on a scaled back more fiscally-minded basis. I've looked into her fees and she's charging four figures per room sometimes a bit more and more importantly, she specifies her own products. She isn't shopping in stores for people.... the money is going to funnel back to her firm if clients go ahead with any of the items. If not, they are able to go out and find things on their own that are similar to them but aren't what was specified - this is a VERY important detail which leads to...
7) E-Design that allows the client to go and shop it on their own leaves WAY TOO MUCH ROOM for interpretation. If you tell them where to buy it all - you've already undersold yourself and you're not even getting a commission from the stores. Hell there are more blogs out there with click thrus that get paid more than you are if you are engaging in this without compensation on the back end. But more importantly, once you hand this off to the client to interpret your NAME is at risk. If they say Meredith Heron designed this room for me and then went and found odds and sods that sort of look like what I specified for them in the design plan my name is still on it. Good GOD that is a risky proposition especially if you are trying to build a business.
8) When I charged $35/hr, $50/hr, $75/hr I had more referrals than I could keep up with. I wasn't charging enough. If you have more work than you know what to do with it - you aren't charging enough. If you keep doing E-design and are competing with bloggers who are offering the same service (many without any experience but their own home which doesn't count) you are going to get referral work to do more of the same. If you want to do whole houses, design kitchens and bathrooms (please have some sort of schooling or apprenticeship) then offering E-design will get in the way of that aspect of your business. I used to offer colour consultations. I kept getting referrals to do more colour consultations. People would happily pay my hourly fee for a few hours. It was a huge waste of my time. It rarely lead to more work. They saw me as a colour consultant.
9) Visual mood boards are pretty one dimensional even if you use a fancy 2-D board or some such thing. They lack soul. They are simply about putting stuff in a room. That is NOT design. Designers need to be able to develop a relationship with their client. Understand how they live in their home. What is functionally necessary for the space? How is the lighting in the room - and I mean exposure and outside elements that will factor in? Do you even know to ask about this? Do you know how to ask about it so that you get the responses you need to base your suggestions on even? I've seen people specify the craziest of things that are SO NOT FUNCTIONAL in a space. I've seen scale and proportion MURDERED because of what someone spec'd in an E-Design board. Sure it looked fine on the board but when there is a football field between two sofas and the cocktail table can only fit four drinks on it - you've specified wrong wrong wrong.
10) If you don't value your services and appreciate your own worth, no one will do it for you. That's the honest truth. What is your time worth? If it takes you 10 hours to put an E-Design Board together including FLOOR PLANS (slaps forehead) and renderings (chokes on spit) and then source all the products for the space (providing a detailed list of where the person can give other people their money for - ::FAINTS::) AND THEN DOES THREE FREAKING OPTIONS FOR THE ROOM (rouses only to pass out again) and you charge $150.00 well then I just may have to get on a plane and show up at your door and slap you silly. I mean ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??!!!!!!!!!
So in short - E-Design really really really infuriates the hell out of me.
It should you too. Which leads me to this....