In the last decade or so, it seems like a lot of respect has been lost for professional expertise. And so many designers are struggling to prove why they charge what they do, both to their clients, and themselves. It’s such a big topic, that I’m breaking it up into two posts. One half this week, and the other half next week. Because while there have always been those few condescending people, with the introduction of DIY in almost every industry, the disrespect for professionals is seemingly everywhere. Professionals are now constantly having to prove their worth. Why should I pay you when I can do it myself? Why should you be paid it all? Everything is either free or just pennies these days. So that’s what I think you should work for. If you don’t, you’re a lying cheat.
And although I know it may seem like it’s only happening to designers, almost every public facing profession suffers from it too. Financial advisors? Who needs them, just press a buy button and your financial future has been saved. It’s so easy a baby can do it! (Don’t worry about the reasons why you need to buy that investment, just press the button!) Need to create a complicated legal form to make sure your business is covered in the case of a loss? No reason to pay a lawyer thousands to do that. Just go online, plug in your business name to a standardized form, pay $20, and you’re done! What a genius you are for saving yourself so much! (Don’t worry about possibly costing yourself tens of thousands in the future). DIY can be a good thing, but it can also be an AWFUL thing. As you know, the consequences of not hiring a professional can be detrimental. Even life changing. So let’s talk about how to handle those people who just don’t respect your worth. Because often times, people who are so dead set on paying you as little as possible and questioning everything you do, have no clue what you do.
The Customer Who Genuinely Doesn’t Understand What You Do
Some people honestly don’t know what an interior designer does. They’re not being mean, they just truly don’t know. Maybe they’ve never known any one to use a designer, and all they know of the design industry is from HGTV. They’ll say things like, “Custom curtains should be about $300 or $400, right?” Well, sorry, but no. They’ll be much more expensive than that, in the the thousands. “Huh?! How? I’ve never heard of anyone paying that for curtains.” This kind of customer shows signs of either getting their expectations from unrealistic sources (like HGTV) or assuming that custom can’t possibly be that much more expensive than mass retail products. They don’t understand the vast differences between either what’s seen on HGTV is and what reality is, or the vast differences between buying retail and buying custom made from a designer.
So take a little time to share exactly what you do with this person. Go over the design process with them, hand them a print out so they can actually see how many steps are involved in the process. Share how your presence allows them to have rare and beautiful pieces and and an overall design that is completely unique to them. Whereas if they go the retail route, they’ll have a look that’s no longer exclusive to them and their taste, but for the use of everyone. And how difficult it can be to create a cohesive, beautiful, and finished look from so many different pieces. Share some of the times your professional expertise saved the day for other clients in the past. With just enough information (but don’t overload them), this client will begin to understand your role, and decide whether your professional expertise is worth it to them or not.
The Customer Who Doesn’t Understand What You Do, but Acts Like They Do
The difference between this kind of client, and the client above, is this person acts like they know what you do. And in a demeaning way. But they’re actually clueless. “Why can’t I just do this myself? Why can’t I go out and just buy the items you’re recommending and save myself from having to pay you to do it? All I’m paying you to do is go online and shop, right?” Ok, this is one of those times where the comment makes you want to wallop them, but it also shows that they really don’t know what you do. Try to refrain from walloping them and let them know what your actual job is.
“Finding products is a part of why people hire me, of course. But there are so many other aspects to this service that you’re also getting. My job is also to use my years of experience in the industry to create a design that is completely exclusive to the needs and wants of you and your family, and delivers a look that is hard to achieve by non professionals. Hiring me also saves you time, money, and any stress should any setbacks occur along the way. When you shop on your own, you’re risking losing the ability to customize pieces, having to take on the logistics and planning portion of the project, and if something should go wrong, you’ll have to handle that on your own by calling a general customer service number. Rather than not worrying about it as I have relationships with the vendors who will help us get the problem resolved as quickly as possible.”
So before you show them the door, give them one last chance. Let them know just how incredibly valuable you are, and that it’s not as easy as it looks. They may choose to go ahead and do it themselves, or not. But if they do decide to go ahead and work with you, they’ll have a much better grasp on exactly what they’re paying you to do. And are much more likely to respect it.
Don’t Let Others Question Your Worth
This week, if you have any clients or prospects who don’t value your expertise, take a moment to wonder why. Do they honestly not understand your role? Or do they think understand it, but have no real idea? Educate them. Maybe they just need to better understand all that you do. The role of a designer is EXTREMELY important. One that very, very few non-professionals could take on at all, much less do it as beautifully as you. So don’t let others questioning your worth, make you question your own. And don’t forget to come back next week, where we’ll go over the other types of customers who question your worth, and what to do about it. Hint, it’s a lot more sassy!
If you’d like even more help with handling tough client situations, go here to find out how!