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Giving a Design Bid Can Be Unfamiliar Territory for an Experienced Interior Designer

I love sharing the emails I get from designers who are reaching out to improve and grow their business. Some of them are experienced in one area of the design industry, and then get an exciting opportunity to branch out and challenge themselves as a designer.

This email came from an amazing designer (whom I love, love, love) and a fellow Bootcamp member. I was more than happy to give her a little advice and some confidence to take that leap!

Hello Chelsea, How are you? Hope all is well. I got a call to give a proposal for 8 condo buildings. They want walls, floors, entry way and hallway decorated. I haven't seen the property yet but will do so on Sept 2nd. My questions are: Where do I start? What should I ask? How to approach this project? I don't know and not sure how to charge for a project this big. I may not get it, but just in case I want to be prepared and not look foolish. Please any info or advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. I do know this, given the opportunity I know I can do a fabulous job. I just scared about the business side. Thank you, Denise.

My Response:

Hello Denise,

It's so great to hear from you and congratulations on getting a shot at this big project! I know you can nail it. Let's see if I can help. First I have a few questions.

- So are they asking you to design the condo buildings or the individual condo's (I'm going to guess it's the former.)

- Are you simply making design suggestions or are you procuring the materials? This will make a difference on how you charge since you'll be able to make a profit from the accessories and furniture that you purchase.

- Are you meeting with the person that will be hiring the designer or someone else? And are they being remodeled or built?

First off, go back to your binder and look at the house call section in Session #4. You'll want to make sure that you structure the meeting just as you would a residence.

Just like the goals in your housecall system, you'll need to establish your time-frame, budget, and priorities. The only difference is the questions.

Ask them whether you'll be designing and managing the project. Do they want you to bring your painter etc? What is the time-frame that they are working with? Stages? Building by building? Or are they wanting them done all at once?

Most importantly is the budget. You'll need to establish what level of design they're looking for. (Sometimes working with a small budget takes more time on your part so this is important.) They might not give you an exact number, but try to nail them down a bit. High end or mid-range? Simple and inexpensive, or medium priced that looks like high end. You can use the same techniques I taught you in the Bootcamp.

Then since they're meeting with you for the first time, you don't have to give them a price for your design just yet. Don't let them compare you to other designers based solely on price. I would be prepared with a sample proposal of the work scope to be performed by you, but not the figures. They'll be used to this so don't feel pressured to blurt out a number.

Type something out like a business proposal that looks professional and bring it with you. In it you can explain your immense talent and the services that you offer. Write it specifically for this project so they can see what a hard worker you are and how much dedication you will give them.

Make them want what you have to offer. Talk about your attention to detail, your understanding of budget and time-frames. Discuss your access of to the trade resources where you can get designer pricing. And of course talk about your wonderful attitude and care that you take with each and every project that you undertake. Then list out in bullet form the services that you think you'll be providing for them.

When you're done with your meeting, go home and put things together. Do some research on how many pieces of artwork you'll need, the best flooring for the project, where and how many tables and accessories will you need? Get an idea for how much work this will be, and how much income you think you will deserve.

When you're ready to price out your fees think about every detail and the time that it's going to complete the project. When you're finished with your meeting let me know and we can work on the specifics.

Let me know how it goes and remember at this stage you're selling YOU, not your design. Best of Luck and keep me posted!

Happy Designing,


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