Designers, if you've been around for any period of time, you've probably heard that you shouldn't discount your services. When you discount your services you create the perception that what you're offering is worth less and it's hard to go back to normal pricing. This is because of value perception.
Therefore, it can be harmful to the design industry when a designer undercharges because it decreases value perception.
The interior design service industry has suffered from a value decrease in the past 15+ years, while the interior design DIY industry has boomed. And this is precisely what interior designers are struggling with now, how to demonstrate value in their services when clients have been exposed to things like Home Goods and HGTV.
Our hurdle in interior design services is two-fold, not only do you have to get clients to hire you, you also have to get them to understand why things cost as much as they do, and this all comes down to one thing: their value perception.
A Perception of Value not Reality
The perceived value is not the price, otherwise brands wouldn't be spending millions every year on branding and advertising. Perceived value is why a $10 bottle of wine tastes better if you pay $50 for it. Perceived value is why you pay thousands more for a new car off the lot rather than buying the same car used. It is why people buy any Apple product for much more than their other brand counterparts.
So how can you improve how clients perceive the value of your interior design services? You talk about what the clients are going to get for their money, not talk about the price tag. You can shift the focus of a custom sofa for $8000 and talk about the quality, the artisans that have been doing this for generations, the feel of the fabric, the hand construction vs mass-produced machine construction, supporting local businesses, how the sofa will last a lifetime, its timelessness, etc! It's not just sofa, it is the centerpiece of their lives, where they're going to spend most of their family time. That kept for at least 10 years, the sofa will only be about $2 per day for it.
I once had a client that needed a large rug in a custom size, but wouldn't consider anything more than about $1000. However he was very into art and I reframed the purchase of a custom rug into a different type of artist using wool as their medium. (Ultimately, it didn't work and we went with FLOR tiles.)
But the point of all the above is that you get away from the price tag and reframe the value.
You talk about what they are getting for their money. Talk about your experience. Give examples of problem-solving. You sell an experience during the design process. Sell an experience of the finished product. You need to know what your client desires and sell to that.
Read the post How to Communicate Your Value for great resources on how to find out what makes you special and different and how to use that to your advantage. By highlighting these differences for clients, you are reframing your value and setting yourself apart from other designers.
Scarcity and Specialty
The rarer something is the more valuable it is. Isn't this why people pay for diamonds, limited editions anything, truffles, and why art prices rise posthumously?
I fully believe that you need to specialize to make the most money in this business. When you choose a specialty, you are making yourself more rare and this increases your value. Your specialty is a narrow focus and will only appeal to a narrow group of clients, but by doing that you are speaking their language, you are giving them what they desire and increasing your value to them.
We are used to paying specialists more (think doctors or car mechanics) and I'm sure you can imagine that a client would be more willing to pay the higher fees of a pool house designer or a designer that works exclusively with single dads if that is what they were looking for rather than a general designer. You are willing to pay more if you know you are getting exactly what you want/need.
- Be clear with your clients that you're not going to sacrifice quality for price. Sure, you may be able to get away with $50 sconces from Target, but you will not choose a sofa that will need to be thrown away in a year, because it's bad for the environment and ultimately bad for the wallet.
- Don't sell yourself as a shopper, you are not just buying pretty things for cheap, that is not your value. An interior designer's value is in creating unique solutions for client's home incorporating their lifestyle, their needs, their wants with the home's individual conditions.
- If your schedule is full, don't be afraid to let a client know and ask if they want to be put on a waitlist. I give exact language on how to do this here. Scarcity in your time can increase perceived value for potential clients.
- People like to feel like they are getting a deal, that is why I believe that you should always be clear about what you are paying for items and pass a portion of your discount on to clients. This works hand in hand with selling your services and the result and not being just a shopper (see #2 above).
- Make you clients feel like you are on their side, that you are their champion, and that you want the best possible outcome, just like they do.