The other day, my design assistant, Tricia, received an email from one of my readers:
“We found a designer who charges $100 per hour. If Maria can match that rate, we will go with her.”
My rates are a lot higher than that, with different price points for consulting work and decorating work. I don’t post them online because they’re subject to change, but if you want to know what they are, email Tricia here. Suffice to say, they don’t compete with $100/hour. And, please know, this is not a solicitation for those, I am very busy (and grateful to be), this post is about something else, read on . .
Hiring a designer is not the same as going to the store for oranges: you can’t just hold up two and pick one based on the best price. Oranges, on the other hand, are a commodity. Here’s the definition:
Commodity: A product that is generic and has the same basic value as all similar items.
I don’t know a single designer who’d define themselves on those terms, so I hope none of us are marketing our services (or looking to hire a designer) based on price. Professionals who sell a service vary widely in price depending on their experience and the value they provide.
The value that I provide in just 1 or 2 hours (depending on the client’s dilemma) is insane. I have saved my clients literally hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars in bad colour decisions.
Within minutes, I can tell someone exactly what colour their house should be, inside or out. All the possible colours instantly go through my head as I consider them and eliminate them in a flash.
Why? Because I have 20,000 hours of consulting in my head.
When I was new, it certainly wasn’t that way.
Hourly consulting is just one very small piece of my business model. I do it because I love talking to my readers AND it keeps me on the pulse of what’s happening with colour. For example, in 2012 when a client asked me to show her a colour that was more mint green than the yellow greens I was showing her, I came home and wrote a post about it.
More mint green???
Not since the 80s, right? But it had started appearing in fashion, and since we’ve been decorating with avocado green since about 2002, there’s no surprise that the consumer would start to crave a different green.
Recently, a client hired me because she had been working with another designer whose advice didn’t seem quite right. She had started painting, but wasn’t feeling like she was on the right track, so she called me to help.
When I arrived in her home, she showed me a clipping from a magazine she had kept for 10 years—the colours in it where similar to these (above). She loved yellows and apricot shades.
On the advice of the last designer, she’d already painted her bedroom yellow with a charcoal accent wall (below). She had also purchased a pair of charcoal curtains to coordinate with the accent wall.
My client’s existing bedding was blue and orange, so I think you know where I’m going with this. She’d just wasted about $130 on paint and curtain panels that didn’t coordinate with the bedding. I’m not even including the labor cost to paint the walls.
Also existing in the space: a chair that was almost identical to the one in her inspiration picture, a cognac sofa, an espresso bookshelf and small cabinet, apricot-coloured chairs, and a fireplace surround from the Tuscan Brown trend.
Upon seeing my client’s fir floors, the previous designer told her to replace them with espresso hardwood. Then she told her to buy espresso curtains to repeat the colour of her two pieces of espresso furniture. And the fireplace surround? The designer told her to paint it charcoal.
Do you see any charcoal in my client’s existing colour scheme, or in the inspiration images?
And I’ve never even heard of anyone choosing curtains to relate to wood finishes. Your drapery should relate to your soft furnishings and fabrics. The place to look for inspiration is most definitely not your case goods.
During my consultation with her, I did not even mention the fir flooring until she brought it up because I immediately saw that it was already perfect for the colours she wanted. The other designer’s suggestion of espresso hardwood would’ve immediately dated the space and taken my client away from the look she wanted.
I chose two area rugs she could order to see which one worked better. Both related to the colours in her furniture. Then I suggested different curtains that related to the colour in the area rug, and showed her a tutorial online where she could chalk paint her fireplace in the same white that related to her existing woodwork.
So, let’s add it all up:
Consultation with the first designer: $150 (much cheaper than me)
Cost of implementing the first designer’s suggestions, including new flooring and bad colour choices that instantly dated the space and would’ve made resale difficult: $9130
Furniture and accessories that she would’ve needed to buy to make all those bad colour decisions make sense: $6000
That’s a grand total of over $15,000! For a room she wouldn’t have loved. And we haven’t even talked about the kitchen renovation and what that advice looked like!!
For contrast: the one consultation with me, plus the new purchases to pull together her living room and chalk paint to update her fireplace tile, came to less than $5500.
For less than half the price, my client now has exactly the look she’s been envisioning and dreaming about since she tore a page from a magazine 10 years and said to herself, One day.
Happiness really can be less expensive than you think.
Now just to be clear, is every designer who charges a lot less going to be wrong and make bad suggestions? Of course not. If you know a designer who’s fabulous and also a bargain, snap him/her up ASAP.
But to ask your designer if she’ll put her rates on sale like oranges, well, you deserve to know exactly what you’re going to get for the money you spend. Because I might have a sale on my e-books occasionally, but my rates don’t go on sale (unless you’re my neighbour).
Years ago, I wrote about a renovation that a friend wanted to plan with a well-known interior designer in Vancouver. This designer’s first consultation fee was $750 and her husband balked at the price, so they ended up going a different way. In the end, she said their renovation cost almost twice as much as it should have (over $1 million), and she still didn’t have the look she knew she could’ve had if she’d hired the original designer.
In my Specify Colour with Confidence™ course in San Francisco last fall, Terreeia took a few short clips of me talking about this very same thing. My course is about so much more than just “How to Distinguish the 9 Neutral Undertones in the World” or “How to Combine Clean and Dirty Colours.” I am constantly talking about how to pull a room together. Because you cannot be a colour consultant without knowing how to do that.
[youtube_sc url=”https://youtu.be/INd5yr2F2NM” rel=”0″]
For mobile users go here to watch the video.
If you watch this video, first, to be clear, when I’m talking about dramatic colours, what I mean is varying shades of charcoal. And the designer whose trying to make money by simply charging for colours she posted on her blog. I’m guessing that strategy is not a big money maker, but the beauty of the online world today is you can try anything you want. If it doesn’t work, you pull it and try something else.
On Day 3 of my Specify Colour with Confidence™ course, I walk you through my entire business model, as well as show you how to choose colours for your clients online. Whether you ever conduct consultations with your clients the way I do is beside the point, because you’re certainly sourcing most of the items you need online today more than ever!
Now that we can have a store inside our laptop, instead of all the traditional overhead of a real bricks-and-mortar location, there are so many different ways designers can make money. But you need to be in a course, networking with other like-minded individuals and listening to a conversation about the very thing you’d like to do.
There isn’t another course out there that will teach you more about specifying colour (for everything including paint for walls) and decorating than this three-day course!
Dallas, we will be at the Hackberry Creek Country Club. We are also at a Country Club in Charlotte (right before High Point Market), that’s where the natural light seems to be and to teach this course, we follow the light!
Register here for my courses if you want to transform the way you see colour!