The Design Agreement: Stop Doing Free Estimates

If you want to stop giving away free estimates and designs, the first step is to convince yourself that what you are doing has value.  If you aren’t convinced that your design and estimating efforts are worth money, you will communicate this to your clients in a flash.  Architects are paid for their time.  Interior designers are paid for their time.  You deserve to be paid too, if you are the one filling a design role.  This role may include some or all of the following:

1.  Meeting with the clients
2.  Comprehensive needs analysis interview
3.  Jobsite measurements
4.  Preparing conceptual drawings
5.  Meeting with clients again
6.  Extensive design/floor-plan consultations
7.  Meeting with subs to optimize the design
8.  Revisions as needed to the floor plan
9.  Preparing 1/4” drawings
10.  Elevations/perspectives
11.  Meeting with clients again
12.  Blueprinting costs
13.  Copies
14.  Telephone expenses

First, you have to overcome the typical homeowners “built-in” notion that you should provide free estimates.  Can you imagine going to your doctor for a free physical or going to your dentist for a free checkup?  Why do remodelers still offer to do 15-30 hours of work designing and estimating projects for clients before they ever sign a contract, much less get a penny for it?  You can’t afford to do it anymore.  Your time is too valuable.  If you are doing a smaller project like replacing a window or a door, then a design agreement isn’t appropriate, but common sense will tell you that.

More and more contractors are adding design to the full range of construction services they offer.  For some, this has become a profit center.  Whether a profit center or not, this agreement provides a way to receive payment for any design services separate from the construction agreement that may or may not follow.

Conceptual Drawings $  1st Payment 
Design Development $  2nd Payment 
Production Design $  3rd Payment 
TOTAL DESIGN FEE $ 

Click here to see a sample design agreement.

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