Setting A Budget With Your Clients

“How do I know how much a client is willing or able to spend on their project before I start a job?” This is a question I have heard at some point in every seminar I have ever taught. The focus of a seminar can be on any subject in the design industry but at some point it always returns to this age-old question.

I address how to work through establishing a budget for your client in my course “Estimating & Budgets”, however, I though I would share these thoughts with you as you decide if taking the seminar is a good investment.

Most clients who hire an Interior Designer or an Interior Decorator do so with the hope that they will see their home turn into a beautiful picture as seen on design sites such as Houzz. They are excited but apprehensive about how much they will need to spend to get the look they want. Some have watched HGTV and have been told that they can turn their tired windows into a beautiful accent to their room on a budget that is unrealistic.

Knowing how to set a realistic budget is essential in every project. However to be able to do that you must have the tools to move fluidly from one idea to another in order to accurately estimate where the client best fits with the money they are willing to spend. With window treatments the success of my business has always been based on setting a budget with my clients before I start the project.

My initial interview with most clients always starts with the question of what a project will cost. Determining costs on is difficult until you have actually agreed on a plan and picked the materials to be used. Even making price comparisons from one project to another is difficult due to the vast cost differences from one product to another and the sizes of one window or door opening to the next. One client may have their heart set on a silk that could run upwards of $100.00 a yard while another may want to use a polyester and silk blend that may run $50.00 a yard.

Labor can also vary greatly on a job based on what embellishments the client might want. A simple pinch pleat drapery regardless of what style pleat you may specify will run fairly close in labor cost while the same drapery with double banding on the edge and hem could double the price of the labor.

When doing your initial interview with a client having the right tools with you to set a budget is essential. The tools you will need are as follows and will fit into your briefcase.

1. Tape Measure (at least a 20’ steel measuring tape)
2. A yellow legal pad and pencil
3. A small calculator
4. A laptop computer or tablet with labor costs

Let me explain #4 on your tools list. Years ago I did not have a laptop computer to carry with me. Instead I create a paper chart with labor costs. On the chart I would have the basic treatments that were common to the industry. That would include pinch pleat, gathered and flat or tent style drapery; valance styles such as pleated, gathered, flat cornice style and swags & cascades. With these basic styles I assigned a cost per width or per foot. My cost would include an allowance for basic rods and installation. Armed with this simple chart I could help every client establish a budget and giving me a guideline for designing to that budget.

Today a designer could use an EXCEL sheet in a saved document, a WORD document or drapery computer program. With all of these tools we can start the process of setting a project budget by moving easily through basic treatment and estimating yardage based on a range of fabric costs. In my class “Estimating & Budgets” you will learn how to quickly create estimates in an accurate format allowing you to qualifying clients.

If you are looking for a program that will help you in presenting quality estimates, I recommend a computer program like Fernstar’s “Drape and Blind Software”. With this program you can save all of the work in an electronic file that is organized and easy to access. With ease you can present your client with a reasonable budget they will feel comfortable with. This can all be done within an established time frame of an initial interview.

Regardless of what product you are working with, window coverings, furniture, accessories, flooring or wall covering, creating a budget estimate with whatever tools you have available to you is easy and gives your client a picture of you as a professional who is both knowledgeable and trusted.

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