There is nothing more maddening then spending countless hours with the client, making several presentations, going back and forth over colors, only to have them go down the street to the guy who saved them a couple of bucks. You must protect yourself and your design. Many cabinetmakers are a little too eager, or hungry, and are willing to give the client many unbillable hours in order to land the job. This is no way to become successful. You must build your business on reputation and quality. When your portfolio alone is enough to cause the customer to sign at the dotted line then you are doing something right. My first rule is: Never design a job for free.
You need to make it clear to the customer that good design takes some time and costs some money. Gain respect by being honest about the pricing. Use a good estimating program to show the customer where their money is being spent. I always bring up budget early in the meeting. Most customers will hesitate feeling that they won't get a fair price if they tell you what they are willing to spend. I make it clear that I need to know what to design to. It isn't going to do any good to design that award winning kitchen if they aren't going to pay for it. I will tell them quite frankly that I can design them a $15,000 kitchen or a $150,000 kitchen. Of course they will pipe right up with we aren't looking for a $150,000 kitchen and almost without exception they will tell me what the budget is.
Determine what the customer's wants are. If you are designing for the homeowner those wants will be very specific. Usually it is the woman who you must cater to, but not always. Be careful not to alienate her husband. He may be very interested. Or he may just want to know that the refrigerator is going to be big enough. Either way you cannot afford to shut him out. He may be the one signing the check.
Count the drawers. This is a simple and very useful tool in determining the functionality of the kitchen. If there are not enough drawers the kitchen usually won't work. I try to make sure there are at least twelve drawers in an average kitchen. Fifteen or more is better.
To create that work of art that makes mouths drop open I will determine which wall is the most important. Which wall will stand out the most. Is it framed by an archway? Do you see it from the great room? Once this is determined I know where to start. This is usually a great place to put the range. No matter what goes on that wall it must be fantastic. All the other walls will serve that wall. Sometimes you will have more than one wall that needs to be fabulous, but even in those cases one wall in particular will be the focus wall. Keep that in mind and start from that point.
By watching where you spend the money you can create a dynamite design that stays in the budget. In fact, you can probably get a little more than budget if you play your cards right. Show them a great design that is a bit over budget. Chances are they will go for it. If the budget is that unmovable, and very seldom is that the case, you must have a simple option to hit the budget. Those drawers mentioned above are a really good bargaining chip. I mean, really, how can you give up that killer range hood? But honey, I need those drawers. Fine. Here's your money.
If you do it right you can create a great relationship with the contractors by holding the hand of their clients. Treat them right, treat them fair, and stay reasonably within budget and contractors will be happy to point work your way.
Rich Steen is a designer based near Sun Valley, Idaho. His work can be found in resort area homes and businesses in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, & California.
copyright 2009 www.richsteendesign.com