In this episode, I dive into a common challenge faced by designers: creating proposals for clients with vague scopes of work and uncertain budgets.

I share some strategies that have worked for me in guiding clients through the design process, determining fair fees, and ensuring transparent alignment between scope and pricing. Learn the importance of professionalism, expertise, and customized proposals in addressing wishy-washy situations.

If you’re looking for confidence and clarity on how to handle undefined scope and budget scenarios, this is the episode for you! 


This episode is sponsored by Devix Kitchens

Read the Full Transcript ⬇️

Welcome to another Shorty episode. Today, I want to answer a question that came up inside designer’s room. It’s a question that we had a lot of conversation about inside the group, but I really thought it would be worthwhile to bring this. I’m clicking cause I’m trying to pull up the question. Here we go.

[00:00:14] because I think it’ll be useful for us to talk about here on the podcast. Somebody asked in designer’s room. About creating a proposal for a potential design client. This particular client had a laundry list of things that weren’t working in their home, and they’re considering a large addition.

[00:00:31] The scope is fairly vague at this point, and I’m having trouble coming up with my design fees because I based them on the scope. How should I estimate my fees without a defined scope of work? I’m not sure if you guys have ever had this situation happen to you before specifically, but I can tell you that also, oftentimes.

[00:00:50] We get nervous putting together pricing for projects because it is a little wishy-washy because the clients aren’t entirely sure what they want. They’re not entirely sure what their budget [00:01:00] is. I’m sure some of you are nodding your heads in agreement right now because this has been you. And just for reference, this particular designer who is asking mentioned that they usually charge a flat fee.

[00:01:13] So they couldn’t just simply say we charge hourly, let’s get off to the races. So. Now, here’s what I want to say to this, for anyone who struggles to determine what the scope of work is and so, so that they can calculate their pricing or anyone who struggles with getting clients to narrow down the scope of work or what it is that they want the client has hired them to do, this is my suggestion to you.

[00:01:40] You are expected by your client to be the expert. You just are, you are a design professional. You have been doing this for a hot minute, possibly for 10 years or more. Maybe it doesn’t matter if you want to charge reasonable, reasonably high rates for your services, which you [00:02:00] do. You need to be professional and you need to have a general idea of what things are going to cost.

[00:02:05] And you also need to be able to guide your clients as far as scope. So what I had said to this particular designer was the best thing that you can do. After you’ve met with the client, potentially at their house, or via Zoom, or however you want to do this to capture all the information, is You type up the list, what we call a consultation summary.

[00:02:25] You could call it a scope of work of all of the things that this client has said they want your help with. Even if they’re like, well, we might want to do, cause trust me, I’ve had this happen so many times. Well, while you’re here, let’s just also look at our onsite. Cause like the vanity is a little chipped.

[00:02:41] It might be kind of nice to do that. And then also while you’re here, I know we didn’t talk about this in the call or it wasn’t in our intake form, but I’m also thinking just since I have you, you know, might be worth looking at what it would cost for you to help us with the den and recovering the sofa.

[00:02:55] Yes, absolutely. Great. We love scope creep. Great, great, great. Write it all [00:03:00] down, right? Everything. This client says down so that when you. Then show it to them, and they can see the volume of their requests. Sometimes people diminish the amount of work that they think they need to do, but then when they see it all written on paper, it’s really eye-opening.

[00:03:17] And let me just rewind for a second. Chk This is why I recommend you bring an assistant to an in-person consultation. If it’s on Zoom, it’s a little bit different. It’s recorded. You could probably pull a transcript. You could use something like a Fathom note taker that you can attach to your Zoom.

[00:03:34] That’ll just take notes and transcribe the live Zoom call. It’s great. It’s a free service, but if you’re going in person to a consultation, pay for an assistant. It doesn’t matter. They don’t even need to be a designer. They could be anyone. They could be your sister. They could be your son. Doesn’t matter.

[00:03:48] I mean, maybe not like a nine-year-old, but you know what I mean. Get them to take the notes. Because it’s really hard for you to listen. Write and also provide [00:04:00] feedback and speak. I don’t know, I’m not that good of a multitasker, maybe you guys are better than I am, but I learned very quickly that my like chicken scratch notes while I was walking, I would be like walking with a clipboard trying to write things down and I would get home and I would be like, I would barely have written anything down and I would be relying on my memory and I would type everything up and it was so freaking time-consuming.

[00:04:22] So now, I don’t know. I bring someone with me, it is worth it. How long are you there? Two hours. How much do you have to pay this person? $20 an hour. So for $40, you’re gonna save yourself an extra hour of time After the fact. Do it. Do it, do it, do it.

[00:04:37] So take all the information down and then send it. This is what I said to this designer inside the designer’s room. Then send that summary before you’ve even put a price to it. Send that summary. To the client and say, I just want to make sure that I captured all of your requests or the entire scope of work that we talked about, please have a look [00:05:00] and let me know if there’s anything missing or if there’s anything here that you want to remove because I will be basing my price, my design fee on the scope of work and everything that is entailed.

[00:05:12] A, that tells your client that you’re super professional and that you listened. B, it tells your client that you’re also professional and that you are not just picking a number out of a hat. You are basing your design fee on concrete scope of work items that might be related to the amount of time, and difficulty level.

[00:05:33] What have you, and then C, you’re telling your client that you’re putting together a very unique and customized proposal and that it’s not cookie cutter and if that’s the type of business that you run and you want to show them that you are a high-end design firm that does custom unique design and every project is unique and you show up blah, blah, blah, tailors your design fee to them, that’s what it shows them.

[00:05:59] [00:06:00] That would really help get ahead of trying to come up with a number because I do not believe that you should be able to pull a number of a hat or just do it based on square footage without really knowing all the details. Unless your pricing model, and again, this comes down to what your pricing method is, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go check out Pricing with Confidence.

[00:06:21] I created that course. Just for this specifically, I walk you through different pricing models. I give you templates like Google Sheets to calculate it in different ways. You need to figure out your method, but if your method, unless your method is something that’s like, I always charge 20 a square foot, regardless of the amount of work, great, then it’s easy.

[00:06:42] But if you want to have a pricing model, that’s a little bit more fluid, a little bit more customized, then I highly recommend you get all the information from first. Before you give them a number, the last thing you want to do is shoot yourself in the foot and then find out, Oh, wow, I gave her a price, but actually [00:07:00] she wants me to do so many things.

[00:07:01] And now I feel guilty and weird asking for more money. Like nobody likes that. All right. I hope that was helpful. Figure out your pricing, be the expert, and show up professionally. And if your clients are wishy-washy and they want to know what something’s going to cost, well, then you come prepared. With budgets to talk about with them or to show them.

[00:07:22] I remember a couple of years ago, my clients were so clueless with the budget and they really wanted to see something. And so I was like, you know what, this is going to be worthwhile for me to bring one of my budget templates, my project budget templates to their house when I meet them, and I did. And we opened it up and I showed them and it actually, I actually printed a recent project, which actually I think I highly recommend for the right client.

[00:07:47] It worked really, really well. Obviously, I kept the client information strictly confidential. Like I, I blacked all that out, but they were able to see, I showed them like, Oh, this is a this is a recent project that we just completed. It was similar to [00:08:00] yours. Here are some of the differences. And this is what.

[00:08:03] The proposal looked like, and this is what the client paid. And so it gave them a sense of, Oh, okay, this is the caliber of design that Rebecca offers, and I can really see what it’s going to cost. And in the end, they ended up being a really great client. We got to do some really luxurious furnishings for them, but I think that really helped them see and understand the value of every client’s going to be a little bit different and every designer is also a little bit different too.

[00:08:29] There you have it. I hope that helps you get a better sense of what to do when your client is wishy-washy and doesn’t know what their scope of work is or what their budget is. Hit me up in the DMs on Instagram. Let me know if you found this helpful or if there’s more. In here you would like me to dig into a little bit more.

[00:08:47] I’ve certainly done episodes in more depth about pricing, in more depth about consultations. You can go check them out. Just scroll in the designers, nope, Resilient by Design podcast, but you can [00:09:00] also search the podcast inside designer’s room if you are a member. All you need to do is go to a little search bar, type in the content and their podcast, and it should bring up the episode.

[00:09:10] All right. That’s it! Go forth, prosper, and make some big money! Alright, I’ll see you soon.