The Business of Creativity
“Few books exist to guide you through creating a business foundation for your firm that gives you greater space to focus on design.”
– Stanley Abercrombie Interior Design Magazine
A few years ago, Studio Designer CEO Keith Granet decided to write a sequel to his acclaimed book The Business of Design by turning the focus on the very tools you need to build the best platform for your design talents. As a devoted design evangelist, Keith is truly a seasoned expert in the best practices for a successful interior design enterprise.
Taken from Chapter Two: The Negotiator: Communication Value, the tips shared in this post have the potential to do wonders to not only your bottom line but your overall confidence in your business.
As you develop throughout your career, you naturally gain the experience, insight, and respect that comes from successful repeat business and a rising design reputation. When it comes to communicating your true value to clients, Keith suggests that it takes finesse, strategy, and perhaps some theatricality. He believes it is a matter of matching a client’s needs and the value of a designer’s talent to meet these needs. He also addresses the difficulty of having to manage the unfair public perception of design mark-ups and how other businesses like retail and healthcare are not subject such profit scrutiny.
Keith believes that designers need to advocate for their services by educating potential clients that hiring them is necessary with fixed rates based on the real value of their design services, and that an appropriate profit is made after overhead is taken out. While you are negotiating, you are actually educating your clients about fees.
Seven Strategies for Successful Negotiation
The following is are seven strategies for successful negotiation that are explored in greater detail in The Business of Creativity.
- Be Confident.
Confidence in yourself and your value goes a long way in convincing a client to take on your services for the fee you deem are right for your services. If you project a strong sense of confidence about the value of your talent, the less you actually have to negotiate. It is important not to communicate any insecurities to a prospective client as it can affect your ability to negotiate in your favor.
- Operate from a position of strength.
Whether you are new to the field or a seasoned designer, it is vital to be the main driver of the negotiation tactics and never let any desperation slip through. In fact, it may benefit you to suggest peer designers who might also be a good fit. Most of the time, the client will choose you in any case because they admire the confidence you have to recommend others even if you risk losing business. This age-old playing hard to get trick can be amazingly universal…even in business.
- Listen to the client.
It is vital for you to fully express the value of your design talents but it is even more important to be completely receptive to a client’s desires, goals, concerns, and fears and tailor your sales pitch accordingly. If a client feels supported and excited by what you have to offer, the more likely they will pay the fees you want.
- Be fair.
You should be able to address client concerns about things that may not be quite right in a proposal. Be sure to only develop fees that concern your design work and concepts and not expensive engineering or code requirements that would undercut your ability to get a fair fee.
- Articulate your value.
Be proud to display your portfolio and give client’s tours of recently completed projects. It is important, however, to show off past work in the context of a client’s desires so they realize exactly what you can do for them and why your fees are at a certain level. You can demonstrate budgets, timelines, and organizational aspects of your business that will make a client feel confident about choosing you.
- Allay fears.
To build a great design business, you must master the art of cultivating designer-client trust and that the client is the ultimate decision-making in the whole process. You must make your clients feel safe in a given project in that you’re working in their best interests and will not take advantage of this good faith.
- Be Flexible.
While you shouldn’t be flexible with rates and fees, you must have an overall willingness to make adjustments in schedules, products, staffing, etc. that will lead to a signed contract between you and your client. Emphasize to your client that you are striving to deliver the best project within their budget and are not simply out to make money.
This is the second in an occasional series of blog posts drawing from ideas explored in Keith Granet’s books The Business of Design and The Business of Creativity. To get more detailed insight on best practices for your design business, you are encouraged to read both books and they can be found at the following links:
Alternatively, if you have already read either book and want to share your experiences using its advice, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.