Client Confessions: J White Designs

What clients really think of their interior designer

You very rarely hear about design from the design client unless it is in a shelter magazine or a bad review online.  But there are thousands of experiences in between.  Here is a perspective of different projects through the eyes of a client and the value they see in interior design.  This series is to help other designers understand design clients better and for clients to see the value of interior design.

Client: Sharon in Scottsdale, AZ

Designer: Julie White of J White Designs 480-703-6078 Project Budget: $50,001 - $100,000

What made you decide to hire a designer? I know my limitations on having the ability to have the total "vision".

What were your concerns about hiring a designer? Since I don't have that "vision", I change my mind probably more frequently than the designer would want. I was afraid that the designer would be upset about not going with her "expert" opinion and not realize that I have to live in the house.  That being said, it's a fine line since I don't have the "vision". I do need to be told if something will not look good.  Also, I like working on an hourly basis versus working on a per furniture piece basis.  I do like to do my own shopping to get the best value. If it was not hourly, I would have been dropped by a designer a long time ago.

What was the most rewarding part of working with a designer? Besides getting to know Julie you mean....anyway, working with a designer has expanded my shopping expertise and "how to" concerning decorating.

Is there anything you would have done differently? With my current house, I should have been more involved at the beginning of the selections. It would have saved some returning that I had to do. Also, I would have priced different contractors/suppliers. I know designers have their favorite subs; however, if you want to get the best pricing, and more importantly the best delivery times, you have to shop around. I don't want to pay my designer to do that.

What is your advice for those who have never worked with a designer?

It's your house and you need to be assertive on what you want, what you want to spend on furnishings, and ask questions.

Client: LC in Flagstaff, AZ

Designer: Julie White of J White Designs 480-703-6078 Project Budget:$100,001 - $500,000

What made you decide to hire a designer? When my builder shared a booklet that had been prepared by my designer for another homeowner which detailed each room and was extremely organized - that did it for me!  I like to be organized and I also realized at that moment - the scope of work involved and that it was beyond my own capabilities.

What were your concerns about hiring a designer? I wanted to make sure I knew up front what the cost would be and that it wouldn't get out of control.  I also wanted to be sure the designer had a good feel for my style and that she was diversified and talented regardless of style.

What was the most rewarding part of working with a designer? Probably the friendship I made with my designer, and secondly, the things I learned working with her - I have such a respect for what they do as a result!  Feeling confident about choices made during the process.  Getting the discounts on furnishings passed along was very nice too!

Is there anything you would have done differently?  No - I feel like my designer looked out for my best interest and worked well with both the builder and the architect - amazing team throughout the process!

What is your advice for those who have never worked with a designer?  I would strongly suggest they consider a designer, especially when it comes to cabinet design, furniture layout and color selections - many people think they know what's best, but it sure is good to have an experienced professional to bounce ideas off of that can tactfully explain if you are on the wrong track.  Money spent up front on a good designer - saves in the long run on potential costly mistakes!  It was a BIG WIN for us!

Get Involved! If you are a designer or a client that would like to participate in this series.  Email me at info{at}

Sales Tax Basics for Interior Designers

sales tax basics for interior designers capella kincheloe

Sales Tax

The first thing to know about sales tax is that if you're selling product (and sometimes services) to clients you'll have to pay it and the second thing to know is that every jurisdiction has different rules and regulations.  In other words, it is unavoidable and it is complicated.

Tax is required to be paid on goods sold, but some businesses can get exemptions to pass on this tax to the end consumer - the client.  The designer purchases a taxable item with the purpose of resale and at the time the designer charges the client they also must collect sales tax.  The purpose of resale is the exemption.  The sales tax is passed on to the client.

Your Sales Tax Registration

The first thing is to determine your sales tax obligation.  For your business location(s) start with your state - usually the Department of Revenue (google: state + sales tax license/ business license).  You may need to register your business and then apply/fill out a form for a resale license.  Repeat the same process for your county/city after you have the state squared away.  There are thousands of taxing jurisdictions with different regulations in the US, so keep that in mind while reading this article.  I wish I could make it easier on you and tell you exactly what to do and exactly what is taxable or not, but...thousands.

Once you know what jurisdiction(s) you will be paying sales tax to, you will know the rates and can start adding the rates to your invoices.  I have this part set up in Studio Designer so it will calculate automatically.  But you'll still need to know the basics of what is taxable or not.

Collecting & Reporting Sales Tax

One of the main things when determining what is taxable or not is that if line items (delivery, installation, product) are lumped together into a single price, your client may have to pay sales tax on the lump sum.  If the line items remain separate on the invoice, not all items may be taxable.

Example: Sofa $4000 + Delivery $150 + Markup $1000.  If your jurisdiction only taxes product and not markup or delivery, the client will only have to pay sales tax on $4000.  However, maybe your tax jurisdiction charges tax on Markup, but not Design Fees - you may want to change your contract/invoice wording to save clients a little money.

Another thing to keep in mind sometimes line items that are related to a specific product are taxable, but when they're not related to that product they're not.  Look at the example above again.  Design Fees (delivery/installation) may be taxable because it is directly tied to the sofa, so the tax liability would be on $5000.  However, if you had Design Fees that were incurred from the design planning phase they may not be taxable.

It is important to know these rules because you can save your clients money, just by the way that you invoice them.

With multiple business locations, your tax may be different for each location.  When your projects are located in-state you are required to collect sales tax in your state.  If you have projects outside of your state, some states and cities require that you pay sales tax to them if you are doing a project in their jurisdiction, the waters get muddy here, so ask a professional if you think this may apply to you.

Here are some more examples:

Sofa net is $1000, your markup is $1000, shipping is $1000, you could say that this sofa is $3000 on the client invoice and then it would all be taxed. $3000 sofa + 8% tax (4% to state 4% to city) is $240 in taxes, so you would charge your client $3240 for that sofa and make sure you give the state their 4% = $120 and the city their 4% = $120.

Now, you may have all the same numbers: Sofa net is $1000, your markup is $1000, shipping is $1000, but if you put these on separate line items (not in a lump sum), then markup and/or shipping may not be taxed.  $1000 sofa + 8% tax ($80) + $1000 shipping + $1000 markup, so the invoice total would be $3080 and you'd give the state their 4% = $40 and the city their 4% = $40.

Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice, nor does the use of this website constitute a professional-client relationship. All content is provided “as is” with no guarantee regarding accuracy, suitability, or timeliness. Your reliance on any content accessed on this website is strictly at your own risk.

Designing Business Systems

Designing business systems capella kincheloe interior design
Designing business systems capella kincheloe interior design

It is no secret that I love organization, so when I started organizing my business it came fairly naturally to me.  Coupled with my desire to make things as easy and automatic as possible, creating business systems was actually fun.  I realize that this is not the case with most anyone else. I enthusiastically recommend creating business systems and processes to every interior design business owner.  And not because I think it is fun.  Systems can help your business run smoother, more efficiently, and with minimal brain power.  You may even have some unofficial systems running already without knowing it.

What is a business system?

A business system is simply a set way that your business executes a specific task.  It can range from simple systems like how your business phone is answered (e.g. Thanks for calling XYZ Designs or XYZ Designs, Katy speaking)  to much more complicated systems like how a client in onboarded.

The good news is that once you put in the time and effort to create and document the system you can then rely on it and have less administrative work making time for creativity and design!

Creating business systems is also invaluable when you have employees because you essentially are creating a operations manual. Employees are trained faster and they can feel more confident that they are following your systems.

Creating a business system

There are three phases to creating business systems: Aware - Document - Action.  You first have to be Aware of the things in your business that could be systematized and streamlined, that is where steps 1 and 2 come in below.  After you are aware of what you can create you need to Document the system to complete the task or solve the struggle in your business (step 3, 4, 5).  Finally, you have to actually take action on the systems.  It is a waste of time to create systems that you'll never use or refer to.  Don't waste time.  Start with a system or two and let it become habit before moving onto another system.

  1. Begin by keeping a list of the tasks that you do repeatedly.  From smaller things like returning phone calls to larger items like the first interview with a prospective client.
  2. Write down the current biggest struggles/problems/issues in your business.  Why are they happening?  Could a business system help eliminate the problem?
  3. Now start tackling the list you created from step one and two.  Write down all the steps that it takes to complete that task or take care of a recurring problem.  Are there any steps that you could cut out or consolidate?  Is this the most efficient way to complete the task?
  4. Document the task and put it in a binder, label the binder "business systems" or "operations manual"
  5. Keep tackling your list and adding to your binder as more tasks and solvable issues come up.
  6. Most important!  Follow you the system you created.  Stick to it.  Don't deviate.  Don't waver.  This is how you run your business.  It's cool if your system needs updating, revise that system and follow the new steps.  But don't let your systems languish in a binder unused and forgotten.

Business system ideas

The options for business systems are really endless.  Below are a few ideas to get you started.  My advice is just to start with a couple and then keep adding.  You can also go back and revise the system if something isn't working.

  • Onboarding clients - what will you do on the first contact and after?
  • Coffee/ lunch order preferences - who likes what?
  • Returning phone calls and emails - who and when you'll return communications
  • Client communications - how all emails, texts, calls from clients are documented
  • Logging time billing - how and when time billing is logged
  • Creating client binders - who, how, and when a client binder is created
  • Qualifying clients - how are clients qualified?
  • Project measurements and drawings - who, when, and how measurements are taken and drawings completed
  • Item expediting - how often is an item followed up on and who is responsible
  • Fabric receiving - how fabric orders are received and tagged
  • Payments due - when and how invoices, proposals, and time billing payments are due and overdue