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Archive for July, 2010

Day by Day

Posted on: July 21st, 2010 by halewilliams No Comments

Starting Your Career as an Interior Designer: The Business of Interior Design

One time Robert was invited by a client to Maine to work on her summer home.  He flew up on a Thursday and planned to return Sunday afternoon.  He had agreed on a day rate for the time he would be out of the office and his expenses would be paid.  We thought, what could be bad?  Answer: everything.

I won’t go into details but, upon his arrival, he realized, to his horror, he was there for their entertainment.  He had hardly gotten seated in the car when the design questions started.  They didn’t stop the entire weekend.  What had he gotten himself into?  These people sucked free advice from his non-stop all weekend and didn’t even provide lively conversation or good company!  They were plain boring and he was plain bored by the end of the weekend.

Once he returned to the office, we reassessed our travel procedures.  Now, we insist our accommodations be a small hotel or bed and breakfast.  At least that way, we can get away every evening.  We also try, as often as possible, to limit out of town work to one business day during the week.  No weekends.  We know, it’s not always possible but we certainly try.

I once even flew roundtrip from Baltimore to St. Paul in the same day!  An early morning departure and hour time change helped make the day work out very nicely.  A long day, yes, but very profitable and I didn’t have to tap dance on stage for days on end.  The client was pleased to have me visit the new home and it helped with selections as we moved into the full design phase of the project.

As I said last week make sure you aren’t killing yourself traveling very little or no return.  At the same time give your client your full attention when on site.  All the way around a good deal.


You Gotta’ Run

Posted on: July 14th, 2010 by halewilliams No Comments

Starting Your Career as an Interior Designer: The Business of Interior Design

Long distance travel, whether to another city or abroad, brings with it another whole set of challenges like cost of shipping, exchange rates and the like.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  Something else to consider is the office hours it will take to locate sources in the destination city, arrange for meetings and showings, etc.  All prep-work must take place before leaving for the trip.  Despite what you hear, an international trip really isn’t all that glamorous.  A designer should not be blinded by first class airfare.  It is still work and should be treated just like any other part of the job.  I prefer the client not come along on buying trips, but there are occasions when it’s just the ticket, so to speak.  In those instances, if an eager client is on hand to cover all out-of-pocket expenses as well as make on-the-spot decisions regarding purchases, all the better.  I always insist on separate accommodations when traveling with clients as the last thing a designer wants is to be on stage twenty-four hours a day.

When traveling for a client, the tendency is to charge less hourly because of the large number of hours involved, especially when traveling overnight or on multiple overnight trips.  I reduce my rate for extended travel time since it is almost impossible to rationalize normal hourly billing when you are spending time in your hotel after hours.

Remember, when you are presenting your travel estimate, success is predicated on being completely open with the client.  Start by explaining your point of view.  If the designer is a sole-proprietor, there is the question of missed opportunities at the office if away for an extended period.  In addition, who will oversee the operation until the principal returns if he or she has a limited staff?  If you are living right, these concerns might be offset by payment from the client.  If not, it probably wasn’t worth your time in the first place.

Here are the terms I request from clients before making a commitment to travel:

  • Cost of airfare: business or first class if the trip is longer than four hours
  • Separate hotel accommodations
  • Meals and taxi/car rental expenses
  • An hourly fee

You will be able to create your own practices when it comes to travel and I hope you make it profitable and enjoyable.  No matter what, travel should still be fun.  I hope you work with your client to make it so.  Next week I’ll share a small story about learning the ropes when it comes to client travel.