Episode #0030 – Business Pricing Strategies and Fee Systems with Cori Halpern

Featured in this week’s episode of The Productive Designer host Crystal Collinson with fellow interior designer Cori Halpern. Cori has over 25 years of experience and is also a fellow Canadian based in Toronto.  Cori & her team specialize in completely custom-designed full-service residential interior design and renovation. Cori has developed a flat fee system and a business pricing strategy for her projects that works for both her and her Clients.

In this episode, we learn how Cori’s fee system has changed and evolved since the pandemic started. She will also discuss where she got the idea for a two-part flat fee system. The first part is for the design services up to the presentation, this is where all the sourcing and selections are  made. The second part is to manage the project, procuring all the furnishings & consulting on the project during the construction phase  

This system provides flexibility in the project, allowing her to pay her initial expenses for the designing phase of the project. Like most Designers, Cori aims to track her hours accurately, in order to gain data on how long projects actually take. This information is crucial for accurately pricing any future projects. Based on this information, Cori has learned that most Designers are underpricing their projects. 

So, join Crystal and Cori Halpern as they talk about how they set up their flat fee system. And how Cori is constantly learning how to improve her payment plan and pricing strategy for her business. Do something today that your future self will thank you for, review, and adjust your pricing system to get your full worth. 

How to reach Cori:

Website – corihalperninteriors.com  I LinkedIn- cori-halpern

Instagram- @corihalpern I Facebook – Cori Halpern

lady smiling in dark gray blouse with art painting at her back business pricing strategies

Recommended podcasts:

Business of Design, A well Designed Business, Mobituaries, The Book Review

- Click here for the RAW, unedited transcript -

0:02

Welcome everyone to another episode of the Productive Designer and a special guest today. Corey Halpern, and she is an interior designer based in Toronto so close to me, and she specializes in completely custom designed a bespoke full service residential interior design and renovation. Welcome Cori,

0:19

Thank you. It’s great to be here.

0:21

I’m very excited to have you. I know I’ve told you this before but you have the same name as my sister so it’s always funny when I start typing your name I you know, it’s funny to see because I never knew any other quarries growing up.

0:31

So we are a very small club, very rare to hear. Yes, we’re very rare it’s always nice to find another fellow Korean for sure as you know

0:41

she or you just Cori or Korean or any of those

0:46

little known Phuntsok, I’m actually correct. Oh, you are correct. I am correct, but I, I’ve never been ever since Korea Yep.

0:55

My sister is Corina, but she’s Oh, Kareena. So, yeah, she’s

0:59

just going to so

1:01

fun fun. So I have asked Cori she’s graciously agreed to be here today to discuss the system. so I think this is going to be a popular show because this is a popular subject. whenever groups of us get together because you know our industry has no standard, there’s 8 million different ways of charging for your services. So, you and I and a bunch of fellow designers had a discussion about this couple month ago and I said Cori, you’ve got to come on because I really think that people need to hear, you’ve got your system so well, nailed down and so I think you’ve done it for a long time and I don’t know, was it something that sort of developed over time for you I’m

1:38

imagining you did. Yeah, I mean, I mean I tried everything. Yeah, like everybody I used to go by the hour. Yeah. and like everybody, I, you know, did the work first, and then build the client. And then even though I’d done the work I felt guilty about that number, that I was seeing for I would shave hours off. And it just, I was constantly in that constant loop of. If I’m not actually working that means I’m not making money. And like if I’m not billing for that hour that means I’m not making money so it means taking a vacation incredibly stressful because that would be like okay that’s oh my gosh that’s like two weeks in two weeks and I’m not working and it was, that was just so stressful for me right so this did develop over many years of trying, many different things.

2:32

Yeah and I and I found the same way too and I think it we’re all guilty of, you know, you know you spent 25 hours on that project for that week or two or whatever it is but you there’s this yeah there’s this guilt of kind of can’t really, you know, I can’t really put that I can invoice them for 25 hours like there’s a there’s a weird feeling about it, even though I have to you know constantly remind myself and others, you know, and be like, but this is a luxury service right this is not, this is not an essential service people are hiring you for your service. You know, you go to a lawyer, they I pretty sure don’t feel too guilty about charging you for each hour they work, but there’s just some stigma it I think it’s a mental mindset maybe what it is for us that they just feel. Yeah, or are you like that seems like a lot how could have taken me that long to do that, you know,

3:18

for me, game changer for me, and even this developed in and of itself so I’ve probably been doing flat fee on Dennis, say, for maybe about eight years now. That to me I was doing it right. I that has developed over time but the biggest sort of lightbulb moment that I had was, I didn’t want to. And I know that lots of like lawyers do it accounts do like lots of people do it, but because we’re not perceived at that kind of value. Like I don’t care how fabulous you are we’re still not perceived that that kind of value like you know lawyers can charge $425 an hour for photocopying something and none of us say, none of us question that, but I got sick of the questioning of, you know, oh did it take that long I got sick of chopping off hours, even though I knew I had done the work. And I got sick of Chase, I got sick of chasing the money. I got sick of doing the work first, and then having to chase clients for money and not that my clients were bad people. It wasn’t that I was you know had to call collections, it wasn’t like that but it’s still, I did all this work, and then I was feeling guilty about asking them for money and I didn’t like how that felt. So, once I realized the concept of Flexi where I could charge a fee. And then, then you get sort of, however you decide to break it up as a whole other than that we’ll talk about how to charge a flat fee you take that whole chasing the money off the table, you take that whole thing out of it, you take the whole thing about having to do the work first, you take the whole thing of, if I’m not working, this very hour that means I’m not making any money, all of that feeling goes away. Yeah, so, and I think.

5:08

Did you find I think even for I mean I I myself if I’m you know if you’re hiring somebody to do something at your house or you’re hiring somebody to do some sort of a service for you. There’s always that okay well, how much is it okay well I’m X amount per hour. Okay, well, how many hours, approximately is it going to take like we need to know, approximately what what the, the cost is going to be so and that I can imagine you know I know for myself too. I have not done. Our lean years I can remember last, but you’re trying to estimate well i think it should be, whatever, right, like, you know, so I think as a consumer or the client, they can’t they I mean I get it, they want to know how much it’s going to cost.

5:44

Absolutely. So, I always try to think of if the shoe was on the other foot like I am a consumer about a lot of things. Yeah. So, before, it’s, it’s perfectly acceptable for a client to want to know how much their project is because in most cases like in our case, they’re spending, 10s, if not hundreds of 1000s of dollars. And they’re giving it to you to you whatever they have a right to know, sort of, what the project is going to cost and rather than, you know the surprise. guesstimating because stuff happens and stuff goes wrong. So at first when I was charging flat fee, I would base, a course based on the scope of work, and then I would also take into consideration how long the project was supposed to last like by doing interior design for as long as I’ve been doing it like basically know how long the kitchen renovations going to take you know how long the bathroom I know from experience how long projects are going to take. However, then you know I was running into okay so I charged for a project that was supposed to last six months, and then you get that client who just can’t decide and how to do this and how to do that how to change their mind and I wasn’t intuitive enough to work on my contract got to be like a million miles long because I kept adding on every crazy situation that happened to me I would put it in my truck for the neck. I eventually sort of completely redid my contract a couple of years ago and it sort of does professionally all encompass all all sorts of crazy situations, but this six-month project ended up taking a year and a half. So, doing the math, you know that I stopped making money after month six. Well,

7:36

that’s a hard thing so how, so how, how would you guess maybe there’s a continuation of the story how has you there is a continuation so

7:43

what. So what I did what I used to do is I used to give a flat fee for the whole project. The whole project is going to cost. Yep. And that was where I was getting into trouble because if there was any kind of wiggle, there was no wiggle room. That was my problem is there was no wiggle room. And I did listen to a lot of Kimberley Seldon podcasts, I was a member of her business of design. I had met with her and got her books. And because I knew there had to be a better way to know what it was and she said something that all of a sudden like was like a light bulb. Yeah, she said, you need to break the flat fee into two parts. She said you do one flat fee. From the moment you find the project. Until a presentation, and you know that that period of time is going to be about six to eight weeks. So if you screw that up, you’ve only really screwed up six to eight weeks like you haven’t seen the whole thing

8:44

like that is the time that you can control as

8:48

one that I that I can control because I and I and I can base that number on the scope of work. So when I meet the client. During the consultation, which I built for separately like I built for my consultation. That’s a separate bill, and they pay that as a consultation, because I’m doing that work and stuff happens like maybe the project doesn’t end up going anywhere but I’m getting paid for. I’m getting paid for those two hours. Yeah, so, so I do the consultation, and I do get a very clear I spend that time developing what the scope of work is, and then I actually sort of go back to my student view and then I think about it and I think about, okay, how much work is involved for this project to develop the design concept and presented. That’s the only thing I really need to think about at that moment and I’m okay. It’s a whole House Renovation okay so this whole House Renovation is, you know, going to take me at least eight to 10 weeks to get everything together because that my presentation, back to the earlier point of wanting to know how much things cost. I priced out. absolutely every single item that I’m presenting so that the client knows, at the presentation, how much the project is going to cost, like, you know, we’re I do all the drawings I sourced everything. Something needs custom designing and we design it, the texture finishes so that at the presentation the client is getting a full view of what their project is whether it’s the whole house, whether it’s a kitchen, whether there’s no construction we’re decorating a living room like whatever it whatever that project is the client is getting a full picture of what it’s going to look like and so we base our fees on how much work it takes to get to that point. So that’s, that’s phase one phase one is the research design development, up to the presentation. We’re doing. I like to think it’s all the heavy lifting the designing of the project like that’s when the project gets designed right so that, to your point, that’s the part that I can control, I decide okay this is going to be 10 weeks, so I need to be able to pay myself. I need to pay my team for the work that I know how much they’re going to cost for that. I have rents, I have insurance I have all that stuff that I’m perfectly comfortable with.

11:12

So for. Absolutely, yeah.

11:14

So I factor that in, and I tell the client that design fees for phase one are going to be, I don’t know, let’s say let’s say it’s $15,000 Yep, I don’t know, whatever it is, whatever you’re depending on, let’s go. Yeah. And that’s how much they pay me until the presentation, and then that way if you know what stuff happens stuff has happened during COVID, and I’ve had clients where their project has had to be on hold because we’re. It’s a fabulous condo renovation that we’re doing and they’re kind of was not allowing anybody into the building. Yeah. So we’ve been paid. I’m not chasing them for money, they’re not saying Where’s your stuff like, yeah, and paid up until the presentation, they got everything priced out, and that serves two purposes it serves the client because they know exactly what their product is going to cost because they know how much the product is like how much the stuff that we’re putting into the space is going to cost. They also know how much their contractor is going to cost because I get the contractor to give me a number. And then, phase two of our fee structure is based on a percentage of the budget. So, the budget is the budget that budget is the product that we are procuring for them. That line items and the presentation so they know exactly what that number is. plus, the contractor because I’m coordinating the project with the contractor he’s executing my design so that it becomes a part of my budget. So those numbers, form the budget, the budget. So, yeah, so, uh, my, my percentages based on a sliding scale. So, the more you spend, the smaller the percentage

13:01

for phase one, because this is always a question and I know that there’s a lot of discussion on this. Maybe even controversy if you want to say that with regards to the budget so when you are meeting your initial consultation and you’re taking in the you know devising what the scope of work is going to be and understanding what the project is going to be. And you say to Mr. Mrs. Smith. So do you have, do you have a budget in mind. Do you have, how do you approach that subject because I find that that can be a challenging one and I’ve myself have done two different methods of this, you know, again, there’s all over and I’ve heard no Kimberley Seldon likes to say the budget is what the budget is and once you’ve you’ve done their wish list, they can then decide if they want to spend all that money but I find that that can be a bit of end up biting you in the butt in a way because I feel that if you can go too far and then they are like no no no no that’s way over budget or whatever. So, what is your,

13:50

what what are you. So I handle it a couple of different ways. Sometimes clients who maybe have not done the kind of renovation that they’re asking. First of all, I agree with always starting with the wish list, I always start with the wish list.

14:05

Absolutely, yeah,

14:06

I always start with a wish list, but we always discussed budget, it’s really important that the client understands that they might have all the money in the world. But it’s up to us to respect that. And it’s up to us to respect that. Even people who have all the money in the world, they still want to feel that they want to feel that their money isn’t being respected and that they’re not just you know going crazy and have no regard for it so I only thought about the budget, sometimes people just have no idea. They really have no idea what things cost Yeah, I had a client, two lovely, lovely, wonderful ladies. We had renovated her kitchen and her whole main floor. The following year she had us back, and we did her master bedroom, full like furniture window treatments, new carpet. We did the closet, like the whole shooting match master bedroom, we renovated her on suite and we renovated two other upstairs bathrooms and vanities like top tile like the works. Yeah. Anyways, so she, I said, So, got the wish list brother who down consultation and I said to what are you thinking budget. And she’s like, what about $50,000. Okay, you’re laughing. because. And so the thing is, $50,000 $50,000. It is a lot of money for sure a lot of money yeah she had no idea she just had no idea. And so I said okay here’s the thing, and I’m very upfront, but that’s the one thing I’ve learned is the more upfront and honest you can be and communicative with your clients, the better to say to everybody. Absolutely. So I said to my client I said okay we can approach this one of two ways we can do the wish list, and I’m happy to price that out for you. And I can tell you that it’s going to be significantly more than $50,000 like $50,000 would be maybe what the on suite will be. I said, but these are the things you have to consider and sometimes it’s simply education. I say you know you have the contractors to feed you want to do three bathrooms and the furniture for your bedroom and everything for the bedroom. Plus, I never include my fees in the budget so I always say, and then you have my fees on top of that. So I said, I’m going to price out the wish list for you, and then we can sort of see what you want to do, and you can prioritize and see where you want to go and I say, or we can let you know what your $50,000 will get for you. And we can, we can go that route and doing the work on your master on suite is the most important thing. Then let’s see where we can allocate that $50,000 and how we can best use it so I do give clients the options. Sometimes they just don’t know and they’re not educated if they have not done that kind of renovation for sure and Phil their budget is so unrealistic that you really just have to have a frank discussion with them and that’s where the experience comes in and you have to you have to say, you know, I know that, just the contractors labor on this is going to be more than $50,000. Like, I know that’s not that’s not putting a faucet in here. Just fill it so sometimes you end you know what the contractor and ended up being almost for like it ended up being between the contractor. And what she spent on product. It was probably about 180,000. And she went for absolutely everything. But we wondered what she wanted. She wanted what she wanted. And she just didn’t know how much something caught over line by line. And she’s like, No, I want it, that’s fine. We’ll go for all of it and so they they fund the money. Yep, that’s where we chop off the scope of work. Yeah, one

18:02

or the other. 60 is the limit and that’s kind of what they’re banking on that’s what they’ve got that to your point five. Great. All right, let’s, we’ll show you what we can do for that 50. We’ll make it happen but I think it’s a very, it’s a very valid point because it really people really don’t if they have not done a renovation, it just it’s just out of just pure lack of knowledge right they just don’t understand, and and sometimes it’s almost like where you start having to like break down ago you know the electrician, the plumber you’ve got you know the removal you’ve got the in there like oh yeah does that right so it is an education for sure and I think that’s a great way of handling it is, you have to have a discussion. You know, you have to say like, Listen, this is going to cost money but before any of us spin our wheels for no reason at all, let’s just be honest about like let’s have a realistic, you know, view of how that’s going to work,

18:51

and I always have that conversation at the consultation because there’s no point of saying going further because because they’ve paid for my consultation, so if they decide right then and there that this is not now hopefully I’ve been building my business in my brand for enough years, so that at the consultation on X, I’m actually getting qualified clients. Yes. Yeah, but COVID has changed in a lot of things a lot of people want to have stuff done and they don’t realize the cost of things. And so, sometimes people are calling and you know oh my god I have to renovate my kitchen and my whole main floor and it’s the same thing like they just don’t have the budget for the kinds of projects that I’m working on, and that’s fine so I you know I try and help them as best I can. But sometimes, it really is a lesson and, and to their credit like, yeah, renovations aren’t something people do regularly say no, no, no, not sorry i don’t know i mean i won’t have a client, like the last time she bought a self that was like $400. And so, you know, you have to explain to them but you know like things have changed in 30, like 30 years since she bought that sofa. So it was a very good one. Yeah. So yeah, so, you know, everything is about just communicating and educating them and that’s helpful why they do hire a professional so that you have somebody who’s willing to just be frank and honest and transparent with them and sort of lead them through the process

20:18

because it is a process for sure and guide them on the best way to spend whatever it is that their budget is like the best bang for their buck, and we we’ve had situations where my husband does renovations and he has a client right now, that is looking at

20:33

countertops for

20:34

his kitchen, and they’re going to be 60 grand. Just the countertops, and he’s going. This is crazy like your house. Yes, it’s a $2 million house which is, that’s not imagined by any means anymore. He’s like it just that doesn’t make sense, like if he wants to do that he can do it but, like, I’m going to advise him like, you know, like that’s not, then you’re spending you know if you were to look at that percentage of your kitchen. Then, then your appliances should be at 100,000 and you’re like you know you’re not talking like a 500,000

21:01

kitchen renovation like it’s crazy

21:03

right so you have to you have to educate and conversely, you’re not going to put $60,000 with a countertop on an Ikea kitchen,

21:10

you don’t exactly like exactly that’s right everything else needs to be that level to make it to justify it and, yes, you may plan on staying in the house for ever. But you know, 10 years 15 years I mean, our styles change and I think, you know, you, even if things aren’t really falling apart so to speak. I think people are, you know, your kind of get bored with stuff after 10 years or more you’re like,

21:32

Okay, you know, thanks for me I think the other thing. The other thing is, those $60,000 countertop clients might love them, might have some money, which is awesome. I just would hate to see that money come out of something else that might be really important like I don’t want them to not have furniture in their living room, because they decided to spend that money on the kitchen counters yes they’re, they’re like, I think you have to look at the project as a whole, to see where am I spending a lot of money and sometimes it is up to that you have to sort of take that lead from the client like they might be willing to spend money on something that might not be a priority for me, but it’s very important to them. And so listening is super important. And so, again, it all goes back to what is the budget and what’s the overall budget of the project and things change. So like for me because my face to feed on a sliding scale and I take portions of that from the duration of the project so

22:39

yeah let’s get into that when

22:40

it makes you do that

22:42

because that’s, that’s another question. A lot of people discuss okay so fine You’re going to give

22:46

her a second part of my video they paid me, they’ve paid me phase one they’ve paid me until the presentation presentation goes there. They’re gung ho with the second stage is basically to coordinate the whole project in order, everything is to manage the logistics, it’s to liaise with the contractor to coordinate everything we ask the contractor to facilitate the orders make sure stuff comes in

23:12

okay with all with all the admin it’s like the working part it’s the part difference of project to life. It’s the 80% of the, of the 2080 rule right it’s the 80%. That’s right. Yeah,

23:23

That’s right, yeah. So, it’s where it’s where stuff’s going to go wrong. Like it’s not Oh yeah,

23:30

it’s no no. Oh,

23:32

it’s going to go wrong in the second half. That’s right. So you need to make sure that you’re being paid adequately for it. And so, and because that’s where you have scope creep scope change. I don’t have really scope creep anymore because of this system. So what I do is, there’s a very defined scope of work, I review my contract, again, with the client, and they’re sign that contract to give me the go ahead for phase two. They give me so based on the budget as they approve it they literally go down the item they like yes yes yes, no, no, no. We have a number that has been agreed upon. So, then we take from whatever that number so we’ve got the contractors number. And we’ve got our numbers, we’ve got like our product number. If there’s no contract or, fine, we just have our product. That’s the number. We take the numbers, so far so far and we tell our clients that there’s a moving target. But right now, that number is $100,000. We take 45% of that right then in there on the spot. That’s basically, that’s basically the deposit, and I also take a retainer, and I take a retainer of 20 $500. If it’s a massive project. I’ll probably take more, but I take 20 $500. Number one, and I’ve learned this the hard way. Number one, is it covers any outstanding design fees. If there are any of that comes up, I’ll tell you about that later but anyway. If that covers design fees or at the end of the project if they’ve paid everything and it’s all good. We can just give them back their 20 $500. Yep, or we can, if they’ve paid all the design fees, and they don’t want to. They want us to credit it to their final disbursement invoice. Not a problem we’ll credit it to the front of dispersed and it’s just sort of, you know, it’s that safety net, and it’s not a very big no no no because I found that I don’t really need one because I get the money. Right. That’s the beauty of flat fee is you do get your fees, upfront so there is less risk on life, I have found that in my experience, Yep. Take this 45% and then by always do the 5% hold back for when we have completed the scope of work. I don’t say to the client. When you’re happy with the project because happy is an emotional word that cannot be measured. Concretely, so it’s not about happiness is about when we have fulfilled our contractual duty and consider the scope of work that we have agreed upon. That’s when you pay us the final 5%. So the remaining 50% gets chopped up into pieces to sustain us for the length of the project. And we we determined that sometimes it’s at work or sometimes it’s beginning of construction, we take it you know whatever before product is delivered if every project is a little bit unique so that can be finessed. If a project is three months, going to be three months long, it’s different than if a project is going to run for a year so we we sort of have to determine that. And what those numbers are. But the other thing we do is we have this last year with a project, the scope. It didn’t creep it’s a product change clients were completely renovating their house and they ended up having to do way more work because it was in 100-year-old house and they enterprise

27:04

choices that they didn’t think that they were going to do they ended up ripping off all the plaster and redraw wall and everything so their budget went from, you know, X number of dollars to y number of dollars, and that’s fine as these choices were made with their full consent and approval and and everything they didn’t have the views were things that they wanted to do because they want to stay in this house for another 25 years but they don’t want this is their forever house they’ve been in the house for 20 years they want to stay another 10 years. And so we were doing all of these things to update the house. And so in the end, all we do is we just calculate recalculate our numbers. So that if that 100,000 originals 100,000 changes 250,000, we just recalculate our numbers and that becomes, that becomes the budget in red and it’s reflected in the in the subsequent payments. So it all worked out in the end. And the clients understand that. And frankly, by fees, by the middle of phase two. They don’t mind paying us because they totally see how much work we’ve done, how we facilitate the project. How you know they couldn’t get to that stage without. Yeah, so it’s not it’s not it’s not an issue it’s not an issue and I think as long as you’re very clear and you let them know sort of like this is the process I think just be very clear up front, at least I do because like you said everyone’s different and it’s, It’s, you have to, they have to understand the concept because it’s not the same as being sold by the hour and this is the fee, and I like it because I don’t really have to have a money conversation, every single month, that I hold on to, which is also sort of nice it’s like, this is what we’ve discussed. This is how much it is, this is how much you’re going to owe me and they know that unless they increase the scope, that’s going to be what our cost is like, that’s what it’s going to be.

28:53

So how do you account for I guess assuming more in phase one How do you account for, let’s say you, I don’t know how you do your presentation because that’s another discussion as to like do you show, do you show one or two options of let’s just say it’s a living room just to keep things simple like do you show a couple sofa option. And like what happens if you get to the presentation and by no means do i mean this reflection of you because, but let’s just say for whatever reason, you didn’t hit the mark for them and they’re like yeah that’s not really what we were thinking we were you know whatever like how do you handle. What are your boundaries on I guess revisions and

29:25

alterations. It’s sort of a multi part question, you know, the first part is my tend to really only show. One thing I show them one so far. But I always preface it by saying, I don’t want to give you something you hate. Yes, and it has happened, it has happened where somebody has said you know what, I don’t love that. Or I changed my part my personal favorites. I’ve changed my mind. So where they’ve given us a brief, and then they’re like oh I thinking about it or my friend, or whatever and I think I’ve changed my mind which they, you know, don’t tell us and then we get to the presentation and it’s like yeah you know what, I think I really would like something else, right. So, what we so it has happened. Usually, we get way more right than we get. Yeah, I would imagine, I don’t even say wrong I’d say like, maybe it’s just the communication, or maybe the client isn’t as on board or whatever the situation is. I had one, you can believe either client to stop like animal prints. Oh my gosh,

30:38

like, Well,

30:39

I’m glad to hear. Sorry, sorry I can’t work for you.

30:43

So what we do is, and what we encourage our clients to because we don’t want the process to be dragged on and I don’t want to take the client to go look at 10,000 Yes, sofas, whatever it is. So, what, what I say is, I tell them that let’s use a sofa, for an example, I say okay let’s use this as our price marker. Let’s use this 30 $500. Yep, I’m just using that as No, let’s say the sofa 30 $500 let’s use that as our price Microsoft will still keep that in our budget. And because soap is a great example actually because before I placed an order. I insisted my clients. Go and sit on it. I was

31:25

just going to say, that is one of the best,

31:28

because I can think it’s the most fabulous sofa in the world, quite sits on it was like, Yeah, no, then I don’t want them to get them now because they’re so fun. You know, so, and that has happened, where if I had picked a chair I thought it was stunning so it was beautiful, gorgeous chair client loved it went and sat on it, it was not, it was not comfortable for them. And I don’t want them to have, I can’t imagine a chair showing up my client spent like $6,000 on it. And she’s like, yeah, this doesn’t work for me like I can’t imagine

32:00

that’s not doing your job right either right i mean this is

32:03

not it’s not serving anybody. no. So, they’re fine to pick it from a picture and say yeah I like it but don’t something that’s so personal something you’re going to sit on or be in your family room or your dining room chair that I insist that they sit on it. So, for something similar, sometimes like

32:21

you can’t always find the exact model on the dock,

32:24

so similar. Yeah, so, so sometimes so we use that as a price marker and sometimes the fabric changes or whatever we make those adjustments, but we use that as a price marker and saying, okay, it’s going to be approximately, 30 $500, if it’s $3,000, our software accounting system we will make that adjustment, and credit that $500 to something back to you, it’ll go towards something else. And if it’s 40 $500, you’ll be owing us more when we go to take the rest of the payment from you. So it’ll make that adjustment so no do that if something is not suitable. We will we select and we’re happy to re select for the client. What I have in my contract it’s interesting that you brought this up because no because the project manager about this. I have in my contract that I don’t do more than three revisions three minor revisions. Yeah. Before I start billing the client. Our from all the time that it takes. So, even though I do flat fee. So yes they’re allowed to do three minor revisions and then in my contract is to describe what a minor revision is. And it’s something that basically doesn’t affect the entire project and Heinz redo the whole project,

33:44

the snowball effect of changing sort of all

33:48

the interesting thing is, I had always thought of revisions. As drawing and pertaining to rain and on a project we recently were working on, I had the client. The client was like, flip flopping and going back and forth and we were like going back and forth and it was taking like months and months and months and it was like lightning or something I can’t remember what it was, but it was something, and I thought, who’s paying for all this time that we’re sourcing we’re finding we’re meeting with the client we’re going back we’re trying to figure out what, because there was no price marker she was like she was just flat out, no I don’t like it. What about this. What about this. And we were going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and it was a lot of time. And like I have to go into my contract, and tweak that revisions line. The other thing, it also pertains to is pricing and having to meet price, because that’s also the time so if they wait on something and now we COVID oh my

34:53

gosh it’s crazy.

34:55

And you can’t get anything like when we present something, I know I can get it all, like I checked and double checked and triple check so on the day of that presentation that quote is good, that pricing is good, the stock is good if they decide to start a hem and haw and wait for a month before they figure out if they’re going to proceed or not, which happens. Yeah. Like, they’re you know they need to think about it or where they’re going away, pre code, whatever. Whatever it is, yeah, ever the situation is so quick. Now, if they wait a month, I might not be able to get anything. I know, right. So, that means I have to spend the time or my team has to spend their time repricing that entire project, who’s paying for that, which is a huge right all right, so now I do have to retweet my contract to make sure that the client knows that revisions are not just for drawing for delays and accepting quotes, and we have to reprice it, they are going to get about I have this happening I have the company right now because I have a condo, this condo project that’s on hold. Like, we are going to have to reprice the whole project and that’s ours that I’m going to have to pay my team to do. And I’m going to build the client for it and call it a revision because she didn’t accept the quote at the time. So it’s sort of a double edged sword but it’s interesting that you said that because I think even with pricing and you have a system that’s working for you. There’s always ways to tweak it and improve it.

36:29

Oh, there always is because to your point, always COVID wasn’t just something that was in the books a few years ago one know when a pandemic hit you, this is what you just you don’t know and and no i everything I’m pricing right now. It’s crazy like, there’s just disclaimers constantly like that you know valid for like a week, like literally a week, you know, nobody can because it’s just there’s so many variables happening with exchanges and duties and it’s crazy. It really is crazy. Yeah, and it’s it’s something I always find that that’s a hard tangible to explain, like when you say revisions on a drawing and even then you’d be like well how much is, is, is, like, what, where does it start affecting things and it’s it’s very hard. It’s not a very finite definitive thing that you can say, you know, three revisions or iterations or whatever it is. So yeah, it is it’s a it’s a challenging thing to I have a client right now that I’ve been working on the showroom and it is, we started just as COVID hit 10 months ago, and we’re still not very far. And I’m going,

37:32

Oh my god,

37:33

I didn’t put anything in the contract about this and yeah, you know, because, how do you foresee that right you don’t you don’t foresee that happening so you don’t foresee it

37:43

and I think a lot of people are sort of learning from what what happened in the last half year and trying to adapt and, like if you can’t foresee stuff like I know in my contract. I had a force majeure clause. I still have a force majeure clause, but that doesn’t really address billing, like, it doesn’t really address these it’s just if it happens like basically the client, you know, can’t come after you and blame you for it. That’s basically all it means. You know, that’s all it means is that, like, just because I can’t get your tile will reflect something but you can’t come after Me, personally, because they can’t get your child because pandemic. But it doesn’t address how to change your fees for that and I think. So that’s why, in a sense, like for me flat fees, I still like I will myself not being a flat fee girl but there still, still occasions where you do have to invoke hourly billing and that’s when I think and definitely after that has to be very clear in your contract, this is going to happen when you go above and beyond. I have a fabulous client that we’re working with now we’ve got our scope of work we’re doing the project is fantastic. And she’s asking us to do a bunch of other things. So you can handle this one of two ways you can either create a whole new scope and address it as a separate project or what we might do, just because I think because it’s better for this particular instance is because it’s a bunch of random things for a bunch of random spaces. I think we will just filter by the hour because it’s almost like an add on purchase, it’s not related like one thing is not related It’s like she wants a piece of furniture for another property she owns and she wants to, you know, do this and do that and like stuff that’s not related to each other. So it’s hard to create a scope, when there’s not really a scope it’s sort of what I call the 15 pieces. She probably, you know,

39:46

today says she wants this and then in a week from now. And I also need this, so like there’s no end

39:51

to it. Right, right. Sorry. So when not when they’re when it’s not a defined space. And let’s be very clear, I do not need you projects like this this is for long term. Amazing.

Published by theproductivedesigner

Crystal is the principal of Crystal Collinson Interiors, a full-service design firm specializing in the Design and Decorating of Model Homes, Sales Presentation Centre’s, Condominium amenity spaces and small commercial projects. Crystal & her builderdesigner team work with many of the GTA’s largest home builders.

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