More than price shoppers
As an interior designer or decorator, you may feel like you don't receive the respect that the profession deserves. There are certainly people that think that all we do is fluff pillows and spend other people's money.
But interior design is more complex than most people know. We must navigate the tricky waters of family, home, marriages, and multiple personalities. We have knowledge of a wide-range of skills and specialties. While a tile-layer or window-covering workroom has specialized knowledge in their specific business, interior designers have to know a good deal about those businesses as well as their own.
In just the realm of tile we must make decisions on grout thickness, mortar color, grout color, if the sealer is going to discolor the tile, the slope of a bench, the slickness of the tile, the tile placement, where the valves are going to be placed, and much more - just for TILE.
And we are responsible for maintaining relationships with vendors who will do the best work as well as provide competitive pricing for our clients. Designers spend a long time vetting their vendors and finding the good ones. It takes lots of hits and misses to find a workroom that you can work with, those that will have your back when issues arise, do good work, are reasonable, have good lead times, are generally quality people to work with, who won't try to commandeer your projects.
This is another brilliant reason to choose a specialty. When you take projects that have a many different style/budget scopes you will need to cultivate vendors in these different areas which is not very efficient, productive, or profitable.
Searching for the cheapest prices is also not efficient, productive, or profitable for us or our clients. As long as the designer is showing clients items within their budget*, we can't also be responsible for finding the cheapest price. This should be something that you discuss with your clients at the start of the project to set up their expectations and avoid disappointments.
If your clients expect you to find the cheapest price on items, this takes away from your real talent and skill: your experience, creativity, expertise and all that knowledge I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Adding “finding the cheapest price” to your job description converts you into a shopper.
Always find it cheaper
Now, finding a good price, a reasonable price IS part of your job as is being mindful of the client’s budget. If it is easy for you to find a better price without compromising your design integrity, then you should do that for your clients. But scouring the internet for the cheapest price on an item or trying to find something similar for less money is wasting your time and thus the client’s money in the end.
Sure, the designer could spend a lot of time searching for the cheapest of everything, but that's not really her job and ultimately takes a lot of time that could translate into costing the client more anyway for her time. Many online places undercut the designers in a way we can't compete and we don't necessarily want to support (think local coffee shop vs Starbucks). Ultimately, price shopping online is not always apples to apples. The quality may not be the same, the workmanship may not be the same, the product may not be the same, or it all could be and the company could be a terrible company.
You could say this to a new client: “I am mindful of your budget, if you’d like to see some “stretch” items let me know, otherwise everything will be in your budget that I show you. However, to search out the lowest price for every item I select for your project is not an efficient use of your money. I work hard to find suppliers and vendors that I can stand behind the quality and customer service.”
The bottom line is that you can always find it cheaper, but at what cost? There are more reasons to hire a designer than getting the cheapest price and those should be more important.
(*Other obstacles that interior designers must overcome are clients who provide low budgets instead of an accurate budget number in a misplaced attempt to control costs. Some clients like having a "stretch" option presented to them so they can choose to go over their budget or not. Others provide a clear budget and want to firmly remain at or under that number. The designer must figure out which type of client you are dealing with.)