Episode 120: The Importance Of Client Education

Business Interior Design Coach Michelle Lynne

Show Notes: 

 In this episode, we dive into the heart of client education, specifically in the context of project financials and client sourcing.  We've all seen those design forums filled with pricing struggles and client shopping stories. Today, let's break down the myth and find a solution.

The truth of the matter is—clients aren't jerks; they're often just uninformed. Time to shift your perspective from frustration to education. Once you learn how to weave client education into your conversations and even into your contracts, you will find that your clients will respect how you run your business and will be less likely to “shop you” or ask for discounts. 

Educate your clients on the behind-the-scenes work. There is so much more that goes into designing a room than they know, they don’t understand what it takes to pull a design together but you do, it’s your job to communicate that and the value that you bring. 

You're not just creating spaces; you're crafting experiences, you are turning houses into homes. You have to believe in the value that you bring to the project beyond a dollar per hour. Your skills and creativity are unparalleled – don't undersell them. 

Take a moment after this episode and list out the intricate steps involved in designing a single room. Recognize the value in your process—it's a journey, not just a result. Remember, you're not just designing spaces; you're curating an environment. Embrace the process, communicate your value, and watch how smooth your client experience will be. . 

Thank you for tuning into this episode, I hope I encouraged you to be more bold in your client education and the value you bring to the project.  

It would be very much appreciated if you would leave a rating and review wherever you listen to podcasts. It really helps to keep the show relevant, and I would love to come back to see some of your kind words. Enjoy this fall weather, and take some breathing time for yourself too!


About Michelle:

Michelle Lynne began her interior design career after spending more than two decades working in Corporate America. She began in the home staging arena and has since built a successful, award-winning, full-service interior design firm, employing talented designers and serving clients across the country.

In the summer of 2018, Michelle began focusing on a big gap she saw missing in the interior design industry: teaching interior designers how to run the business of an interior design business. She now engages in private coaching and leads an in-depth, 12-month group coaching program, both options focus on teaching designers profitable processes, systems, strategies, and mindset needed to run a streamlined, profitable interior design firm.

Her motto is simple: we rise by lifting others.


Podcast Website and Resources:

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Text UPDATES to 855-784-8299 for business tips, encouragement, and all our DFCM updates.

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Stay in touch with Michelle

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Have ideas or suggestions or want to be considered as a guest on the show? Contact me! https://www.DesignedForTheCreativeMind.com/contact


A Podcast Launch Bestie production


Hey, y'all. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm excited to talk to you today. , this is going to be one of the last solo episodes for a little while, , back and forth with the format of the [00:01:00] podcast. I'm looking forward to getting back into the interview style. I've really actually missed this, but today we're going off script.

So there's no script today. I don't even have bullet points or an outline or anything like that. So that is just my disclaimer on the front end in regards to the flow of this topic. I want to talk to you today about the education of the client. And most specifically in relation to the financials of a project and the, sourcing and shopping that , when the client shops you, so I want to talk to you about that because If you've been around for a little while, you know, I have a Facebook group.

It's called the interior designers business launchpad. And I'm a member of a lot of other Facebook forums of the design industry as well. And a lot of what I see in these forums are conversations of one, how do you price [00:02:00] yourself and to dammit this. Client is shopping me and I'm so upset and so angry and they're such a holes.

So in that respect, I think this go hand in hand that it comes down to the education of the client. I want to share with you that in my opinion most clients are not jerks they are ignorant and They don't know what they don't know and you are the expert that is there to educate them for example if somebody is If you're working with a client and you bring them the design presentation and you share with them.

This is the rug that I suggest. Here's the sofa. Here's all of the things pulled together.

If you do not educate them ahead of time. How you make money, where your profit comes from, where your revenue streams are within your business. And they decide to take your [00:03:00] design suggestions and go look somewhere else for potentially a better deal. They don't realize that they're taking money out of your pocket, unless you tell them this is a very , interesting industry.

And I could go on forever because. Our clients don't walk into a steakhouse and try to negotiate or shop for a better price when they order a 50 steak. They don't ask, did you, what did you pay for this? And do I get part of the discount? Or can you find me something less expensive? Because I was just down at K Bob's.

I don't even know if those are around anymore. I'm really dating myself. I was just down there and they have,, instead of a 50 steak, they've got one for 19. 99. Can I get something like that? Instead, our clients do not walk into Restaurants or Nordstrom or anywhere and ask them the same things that they ask us or they don't go shopping for something [00:04:00] less expensive the way they do with us.

A lot of it is because they've been educated on the way things work outside of the interior design industry. It's our job to educate them on how you make money In our firm at ML interiors group and what I teach to interior designers in the interior design business bakery, we have a, , value based or a flat fee.

We're going to, we're going to be talking about that, , in a moment, but then we also sell furniture to our clients along with some of the other expenses that come up that we explained to them. 

When we explain to them, , here's my profit centers. Here's where, here's my, here's where my profit comes into play. I don't make money. I don't make profit off of freight. I don't make profit off of, the receiver things along that line. You're explaining it to them. If you educate them into that, they're not as likely, not all the time, not all the time, but they're not as likely to go try to shop and find a better solution.[00:05:00] 

They're not doing it to be turkeys. They're doing it because don't we all love a good value. We all love a good value. And if we're not explaining to them. and educating them. The reason why I have chosen all of these pieces is because they all work together. And if you change one thing that might be a little bit more than you wanted to pay for let's just say some side tables in the living room, you might, maybe you want to, maybe you're paying a little bit more for those side tables than you wanted to pay.

And you can find something that is less expensive that you like just as much. However, what's going to happen is that then the rug Because of the way these are shaped, the rug that we've purchased, or that we're suggesting, is an 8x10. But if you get these new side tables, then you're going to have to increase it to a 9x12 rug, so that they're not wonky with the front legs of the side tables next to the sofas, , on the rug, and then the other one , on the hardwoods.

Explaining to your clients, That [00:06:00] every single selection is weighed in comparison with the others so that the overall solution is what you're bringing them. The individual pieces are taken into consideration as they work with the other pieces. Imagine, our clients don't understand this, but when you're pulling the design together and you're saying, okay, this might be a little bit more than what they wanted to pay for the side tables, but we only have to buy an eight by 10 rug.

So we're actually coming in a couple thousand dollars less overall because of the way these selections play with each other. If a client understands that this is how you go about your your job, or what you bring to them at the end, do you think they're going to be as likely To go out and try to replicate what you've already done.

Most of the time, I will tell you from experience, the answer is no.

However, as a compounding effect [00:07:00] of you explaining the process , and , the details to your prospective client, even before they sign the contract, you should be explaining this to them. What we teach. And I think I have a workshop coming up soon. Uh, depending on when you're listening to , this, , is probably coming out like the week before Thanksgiving, the week after Thanksgiving of 2023.

We have a workshop coming out in December. It's called rolling in the dough, how to qualify quote and close clients while you are baking your profits into your project. What we teach in this respect in the free workshop, if, if you're looking for that, you can go over to the website designed for the creative mind, click on workshop and you can save your, save your seat there.

It's free five days. It's an hour a day. And if I may say so myself, it's a really bad ass workshop. I've actually ticked off some other coaches because what I give away for free is better than what they charge you for in their program. We go through this content, but even if you can't go through the workshop, [00:08:00] even if you're listening to this after the first part of December in 2023, we have other workshops, but take away from this podcast from this episode, what you're listening to is that it's.

imperative that we are telling our clients, this is what we do. This is how we make money. This is how I make my money. I make my money from my design fee and from the sales of the furniture. And by the way, do you pass on the discount? Let me just tell you, babe, this is not a discount that you receive. You did not receive a discount from anybody.

What you receive is trade pricing. You receive pricing to the trade because you have your, , your resale certificate so that you can resell. Do you think that , the buyers for Nordstrom, do they get a discount from Hugo Boss? No, they do not get a discount from Boss. They buy at the trade pricing, at the industry pricing that they [00:09:00] receive.

That steak that we were talking about earlier. If you're going to go to a steakhouse. Okay, here in Dallas, Bob's Steak and Chop House is fabulous and one of my favorite places, but nationwide, let's say it's Roots Chris. If you go to Roots Chris and you ask them, Hey, I want that 50 steak. what was your discount?

What did you pay? Like whoever sold it to you, Benny Keith, or even the butcher. The butcher, it's not a discount, it is the industry trade pricing. So why? Because we buy furniture from our vendors at whatever pricing they give us, whether it is a wholesale price or whether it's by the container or whatever it is.

It's none of the business of our clients and we do not get a discount. So if they say, do you pass on any part of your discount? Feel free to tell them that you don't receive a discount. I buy to the trade. I buy to vendors that only sell to individuals with my credentials. Okay, so , , let me remind you of that.

It comes down to education. . [00:10:00] I firmly believe that our potential clients, or once they sign the contract and they become our clients, they are not there, most of them are not there to take money out of your pocket. They just don't understand the way our industry works, and they don't understand because you don't explain it to them.

You cannot rely on HGTV to educate the client, because that is just completely ridiculous entertainment quality content to begin with. How do you run your business? 

If you are buying to the trade from to the trade only vendors, that is a benefit. , To your business, because that's where you can, that's where you can create your profit margins. that is just a factor of doing business. That's who you buy from. Take any other industry and think about, do you walk into the dry cleaners and ask them if they can match somebody else's pricing or ask them [00:11:00] if they, if you can get a discount.

I mean, maybe you get a discount when you get a ARP or something. Right? Triple A discounts for different things and things along that line. But that's because you're paying to participate in that group to get the benefit or whatever it is. So please step back, get the defensive armor off when you're dealing with your clients and you're going into these conversations and simply educate them and let them make up their own mind.

If their boss's cousin's sister is a designer in Topeka, Kansas or wherever, and this is how she runs her business, by giving discounts and all of the things, negotiating hourly rates or whatever, that's the boss's cousin's sister's choice as a business owner. You have your own choice how you want to run yours.

So educate the client and stick to your guns.

If you are simply buying retail and taking the [00:12:00] quote unquote discounts that they, the designer discount from Pottery Barn that's like 20 percent or whatever, I'm going to suggest that you review your business model and work with to the trade vendors who will not sell to the public, who make it very, Inaccessible for the public to access them.

So, there's that. , it's just educating the client. , here's how I run my business and stick with your guns. Let's talk about your pricing and the value that you provide to the client. It comes down to education, but it also comes down to just realizing that, babe, you're running a business.

, this is a business and it goes back to , the moment that we just had a moment ago in regards to the fact that this is the way you run your business. This is how I charge. It is up to you to believe the value that you provide to the client. You have to believe it in order to achieve it.

You have to believe it in order to sell it to your client. You have to [00:13:00] believe it in order to say, no, I'm not going to change my rates in order to accommodate your budget. Your rates are your rates. What we practice at ML Interiors Group and what we preach and what we teach in the Interior Design Business Bakery is a flat fee, value based, lump sum design fee.

When you have this Figured out and you have your pricing intact. A lot of what goes into your pricing, , there's a calculator and a formula and the levels of complexity that go into the room and things along that line, we calculate it by the square foot. You can do it by the estimated number of hours, a percentage of the overall fee.

Like there's a variety of different ways you can come up to the actual design fee. And that's not what we're talking about today, but what we're talking about today is. You have to believe that what you do matters. And in that respect, a lot of what it comes down to is that we take, and , I say [00:14:00] we, because I've done this in the past.

Every once in a while, I still fall victim to my own, you know, stories in my head, but the hundreds of designers that I talk to, we take for granted the skill that we have, this ability to create beauty. Is something that we take for granted because it's probably something that you've always been able to do and as you have identified that as a gift or as a skill, you have honed it and you have improved your skill level and you have studied whether you've gone to school for interior design or whether you are self taught, you're still studying.

All the time, whether you're scrolling through Instagram or flipping through a magazine or going to museums or traveling or whatever, a true designers creativity is always. Always turned on. It's always growing. It's always being inspired.

So when somebody is talking to you about your design fee,[00:15:00] step into this power, step into your big girl panties because you're running a big girl business now. This is not a hobby. We'll work for wine is just when you're starting to dip your toe into the idea of calling yourself a designer or a decorator.

Whatever you want to call yourself, but let me tell you, when it comes to your fees, again, this comes down to the educating of your client. [00:16:00] And if it's necessary to educate your client, take this time as an exercise. And I'll challenge you when you're done with this podcast, when you're done with this episode, when [00:17:00] you're done listening, sit down somewhere and write out all of the stuff it takes to just implement a single design, just pick a room.

What does it take? Let's just start with being on site, seeing the property to seeing the space to begin with the measurements. of the room, the understanding of the client's needs. So there's the research that goes into, how do you want this room to feel? How do, how are you going to use it?

If it's a bedroom, who sleeps on what side of the bed? How does the, you know, how did the nightstands need to function? Do you need shelves? Do you need drawers? Do you charge your phone next to your bed every night? Do you charge it in the other room? What about your lighting?

Do you need to read? Do you need just all the things? So there's just the research phase that takes a lot of time. And then there goes on to the development phase as well. When you're developing the design, you've got your measurements. You want to figure out, okay, so let's say we're just designing a bedroom.

Okay. , you've got the bed, do you like the headboard? Do you sit up [00:18:00] and read? Do you want it to be upholstered so that you have a back or do you want it wood so that It doesn't collect, you know, dog hair or your hair or whatever. Do you want a seating area? Do you read? Do you need a desk in there? Do you and your husband watch TV from the bedroom?

Do you want a fireplace? What about the window treatments? Do they need to be blackout or do they need to be light filtering or whatever the case may be? So there's a variety of things that go into learning about the client. Again, you go back to HGTV and they show up before the commercial and all of a sudden they know everything about this person, create a bedroom around all their wishes and all their needs.

And we know that does not happen. overnight. It doesn't happen in a week. It doesn't happen in the span of the first 12 minutes of an episode. All of this goes in and then you start looking for the pieces. And then you probably need to enlist your trade professionals. Like how much fabric do I need? How [00:19:00] much wallpaper are we going to need?

Hey, how much is it going to cost to paint this or to add some more molding or anything along this line? So it's not just you sitting in front of the computer or sitting in front of, catalogs or whatever, creating this design, you know, this inherently, but until you sit down and start like organizing your thoughts and putting thoughts on paper and spelling it out not until you do that.

Are you able to share that with your client or your prospective client so they understand it's not just rainbows and fairy dust and poof, it's a beautiful design. If you want to charge 55 bucks an hour or 75 bucks an hour, rock on, we all have to start somewhere. The client needs to understand that it's going to add up.

Let me just say if you are charging 55 or 75 dollars an hour, that you really need to come on over into the Interior Designers Business Launch Pad, go through our workshop. Uh, we also just rolled out a, sugar and spice [00:20:00] society. So that's brand new. If you have questions about that, DM me on Instagram and I can get you some information there.

 You can DM me at, , design for the creative mind. That's the handle. And I can share with you what that is. It's a new membership. , in fact, I don't even have it written down in front of me. I don't remember everything that goes in it, but it's just a really simple way to dip your toe into the interior design world and start, start growing in your level of sophistication.

And so you're not charging 55 or 75 an hour or even 125, like, let's bump you up if you were to charge by the hour, which I'm not an advocate of, but that's completely different episode. So let me come back to the point, remember I said I didn't have this bulleted or outlined or anything. So this is all free flow in my head and I'm really trying to keep myself together and not be a squirrel on cocaine because I can go down a variety of different topics right now.

But let's stay on point about your. Value. Once you sit down and you're creating a room, your [00:21:00] value comes from knowing the different vendors that you're working with, the different levels of quality that you're working with within the budget that you have created and worked on with a client that they've agreed to.

You know how to mix high and low end or high, let's just say high and medium end. Okay, but maybe high and low depending on when you're starting. Okay, it could be that you are sourcing from a vendor that would be like the equivalent to Nordstrom slash Neiman Marcus slash, Saks Fifth Avenue. So I guess Nordstrom is more in the middle, but , you're not.

, you're not going lowbrow, but you know how to mix the high and the low. Think about an outfit, think about an outfit. I was at Luann live last, , was it last week? I think it was last week. And I was doing some, speed rounding of coaching. And I was giving this example to somebody that I was sitting there with and I had on.

You know, like 800 shoes and I had on a 700 jacket, but y'all, I had on [00:22:00] pants that I got on Amazon and a t shirt that I got at Target. Okay. So it's mixing the high and the low in the rooms where your clients are going to be residing and making it feel luxurious. Making it feel welcoming, making it feel comfortable.

Babe, you make a house feel like a home. You make a room feel like you're walking into a hug. Don't take that for granted and give it away. Like, how can you not put a price on, like, how can you not value what it feels like to walk into a hug when you get home from a hard day? So let's go back to the work that it takes.

To create the space, you know, your vendors, you know, the, the ebb and the flow of the room, the ingress and the egress, it's not what it is. Ingress and egress, like how much space needs to be between the night stands and the bed and how high they need to be and the lighting, how high it needs. [00:23:00] to be you know, if you're hanging pendants above the nightstand or if you're getting light fixtures that sit on the tabletop, the scale that goes together, these are things that if you didn't go to school for, or if you did go to school for, but you inherently know that lamp's going to be too small.

It might not cost very much, but it's going to look really puny on this nightstand. I need a bigger rug to fit under this king size bed. I can't go with something puny. It's going to look like a postage stamp. Oh, you know what I could do is I could layer some rugs so I can get a more expensive but smaller rug and lay it on something that's a little bit less expensive, but I can get, you know, to cover more square feet.

Okay. So they're not really going to be sitting here very often because they said that they don't really sit in their bedroom. They don't watch TV in their bedroom, but there needs to be a sitting area over here in this little niche. in the window, so it needs to be somewhat comfortable, but I don't have to go real high end , for these occasional chairs.

Maybe we just go with something that looks really good because it's not going to get a [00:24:00] lot of use and it's still going to last a while. All of these things that you're mixing and matching and even going back to the example that I gave you earlier about the furnishings and how they all fit together as a whole.

You were looking at what fits together as a whole in its entirety. individuals have built their own rooms, if they're not working with a designer, piece by piece, little by little, whether it's a hand me down from friends and family, whether it is because they saw something on sale and they liked it, and they just buy pieces over the course of many, many years.

They don't understand how much the overall is going to cost, but they're also not thinking of it as an overall. They're thinking, oh, that's a really pretty rug. I think that's going to match with my. Betting. Oh, that's a really pretty lamp. I think that looks good. I need to get rid of the ones that granny gave me when I graduated from college and had my first apartment.

All of these things are [00:25:00] things that you take into consideration at once. Do not sell yourself short and do not price your fees based on the fear you believe the clients are going to come into the conversation with. When you educate them as to how much goes into the work that you do, And , this is a short podcast.

Like there's a lot more that goes into the services that we provide. We can't even cover in here,

but when you explain to them how much goes into it, if you're talking to them about some of the investments that you've made and that you run your business like a business, because you use specialized, , interior design, project management software. Because you have vetted your contractors, because, you know, the vendors and if there is something that goes wrong with an item that you can simply call up your vendor and have it handled that you're not having to chase, you [00:26:00] know, 1 800 cheap furniture from overseas in order to get something repaired, like you bring these relationships in addition to your design genius.

So educating your clients on everything it takes, and one of the things that we use at ML Interiors Group when we're explaining to them, like, what it looks like, it's simply, it describes to them the amount of work that goes into a custom pillow, a custom pillow. And share with them all the decisions that have to be made.

Okay. It's not just picking up pretty fabric, but it's picking out the fabric that's going to work. Making sure that it has the capability of holding up as a pillow. The fabric's not going to stretch figuring out how much fabric you need, depending on the size of the pillow that you're making the pattern and the repeat of the, of the pillow itself.

Then determining if it's gonna be a 20 inch pillow, then you need to get a 22 [00:27:00] inch insert. And is the insert gonna be polyester? Is it gonna be down, or is it gonna be a blend? Is it gonna be 50 50, 75, 25, 90 10? And then from there, like how are the edges gonna be? Is it gonna be a box edge?

Is it gonna be a knife edge? Is it gonna be corded? Is it gonna be self corded? Are you gonna have trim? How much trim do you need to order? And then you have to go and get a quote , from the workroom to figure out how much it's going to cost to make the pillow. And then you pull all of this together.

Explaining things like that to your client is going to show the value that you bring because all of these decisions have to be made. It's not simply just click and put it in a shopping cart and check out. Are there going to be a few of those items? Absolutely. Let's just get a pillow that's already done.

But sometimes what really needs to come together is that custom pillow that ties the entire room together because of that beautiful, beautiful fabric. And does it need to be treated? So that it's stain resistant if it's not performance fabric. So all of these things, when it comes down to it, like going back to the beginning of this episode, it's all about educating your [00:28:00] client.

Do not be afraid to explain, explain, explain. . Most of you guys know that I have a daughter. Her name is Genevieve and she's five, five and a half, going on about 15. But where we find as parents, my husband and I have two different, you know, parenting styles. Thankfully we agree on the major stuff, but I'm.

And I'm going to say this. I'm very good at explaining to Genevieve why things have to be. Genevieve, you need to get dressed. If you don't put this on, then we're going to be late to school and then you're going to get a demerit and then blah blah. You know, you just explain to them. Or no, honey, we cannot have pretzels covered in peppermint bark for, for dinner.

Because we need to have the nutrients so that you can grow and like, you just explain, okay? My husband says, just trust me, just do it. No, you cannot have the pretzels covered in peppermint bark or whatever, like for dinner. No, just no. It's the same thing. If you've ever raised children and you understand that their [00:29:00] natural curiosity, they're not being just little turds to be little turds.

She's five and a half. She wants to understand why. It's the same thing with your clients. Take the time to explain why. No, honey, you cannot help me make dinner. Why mom? Why? Well, because this is going to splatter or this is because we need to get this done or because we don't have time or just because, you know, mom's cranky.

I don't feel good. Just get away from me. Like whatever. It's the same thing with our clients. So babe, give yourself permission to slow down the process and explain to the client the nuances of why your fee is what your fee is. Explain why. They don't need to be out shopping, you know, wayfair. com looking for a better solution than what you brought them, which by the way, pro tip, put it in your contract that if they do go buy something from somebody that you did not suggest that you, there's a consequence for that and it's financial and it goes into your pocket.

Did we cover everything? I think we covered most everything. I'm going to invite you again [00:30:00] to our workshop. It's called rolling in the dough, how to qualify quote and close high end clients while you are building your profits into your project. We'll see if we can get the registration link on the show notes, but also you can go to designed for the creative mind.

com. Same as the name of this podcast, because that's how original I was. Click on the workshop and register. It's free. It starts December 4th or 5th, whatever that first Monday is in the month. So I'm going to invite you there. I also today want you to get clarity on your next best step, like seriously, as in right now.

So if you're struggling to figure out how your day to day hustle supporting the bigger vision you have for your interior design business, it's time to put on your CEO hat and revisit your business foundations. This also comes back to the education of your client and figuring out how you can go about doing that.

If you go to designforthecreativemind. com forward slash review guide. Okay. Or if you go to DFCM, you can see the [00:31:00] homepage. You can scroll all the way down to the bottom and there's an interior design business review and planning guide. Okay. This is something that I do on a regular basis for ML Interiors Group as well as my other businesses.

It gets you crystal clear on what's working in your business and what's not. So go download that, take a few minutes to just really, I say a few minutes, this is going to take you an hour or so. To go through all of the pages and assess what's working and what's not. Implement some things today to get you closer to the business of your dreams.

Drop some things that might not be serving you. Delegate some things that you are, that's below your pay grade. And all of the things. So, thank you so much for rolling with me on this unscripted, unplanned, un, uh, unorganized podcast. I look forward to the next season we're together. I say season. I just say, we're bringing the interviews back, babe, cause I'm tired of listening to myself talk.

And you probably are by [00:32:00] now too. So thanks for joining me. Thanks for being here. Join us at the workshop, rolling in the dough. Come back next week. I'm sure we have a great guest that I'll be interviewing to share with you. Thanks again for being here and please share the podcast with your friends.

In the interior design business industry. And let's continue to raise the bar for everybody. Catch you next week.


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