How do "Pros" charge for design time?


Jay_Kreger

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I know that there has been a lot of discussion lately about how to charge for your work or, in Adam King's example, how to charge for the end result of your work. But I'm curious about how to charge, or if you charge, for all of the work that leads up to the actual build?

If a potential customer comes to you and says, "I'd like you to build me a cabinet. Something unique but, it needs to meet a certain set of perimeters. Can you design it for me?" How do you charge for that research and design time?

What do you do if you sketch a few ideas and the customer says something like, "Oh, never mind. I don't really think your style fits with mine, I'm going to go somewhere else."

Or, what if you get the design nailed down to exactly what the customer wants and then they realize that the cost will be substantially greater than what they had hoped it would be?

Do you establish a flat rate for design time? If so do you allow the customer to make revisions? If so, how many?

Do you establish an hourly rate? Do you give the customer a guess of how much time you'll spend, ie., "My hourly design rate is $X.00. Based on what your describing, I would think I'd have 5-6 hours to give you an initial design."

Do you reincorporate your design charge back into the cost of the project or do you let the design charge stand on it's own?

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Im kinda curious also as to what these guys have to say. I never really thought about charging for a design, I usually just make the stuff and then put itup for sale. Hopefully thats going to change over into taking orders for custom stuff before years end.

However, there is also what I call "Cost of doing business". In other words, if I am adept with a software program and lets say it takes me 10 minutes to make a design, then no, Im not going to charge the customer and chalk it up to the cost of doing business.

But (always a but), if I am meeting with a customer for the first time, and what they tell me is so intricate I know it will take a few hours of design, refining, etc. I might be upfront and charge them something (Maybe $25.00 ?)and be honest with them about it.

To me, you are doing two things here with your customer:

1) You are letting them know that you do not work for free. That you take pride in your work and that it all starts with a well thought out design.

2) You have more then likely landed the customer if they agree. Reason being, they are not going to part with money if they dont like/trust you and since they now have a investment into it, although small, they are going to stay with you.

Just my 2 cents worth :)

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I charge an up front design fee. If the clients like the design and a contract is signed I roll the fee into the overall cost. If they don't like a design I will make changes one time at no extra charge. If they like the design but decide to hold off I still charge the fee but will deduct it from cost of project if they sign at a later date. Either way a fee is charged and collected.

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I charge an up front design fee. If the clients like the design and a contract is signed I roll the fee into the overall cost. If they don't like a design I will make changes one time at no extra charge. If they like the design but decide to hold off I still charge the fee but will deduct it from cost of project if they sign at a later date. Either way a fee is charged and collected.

Dale,

Do you have a set rate for design or do you adjust it based on the piece?

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I, too, generally charge a flat rate, depending on complexity, for a design. Sometimes I'll suggest a simple scale model made from scrap wood or cardboard. If the design process is going to be iterative, I'll charge $75/hour against a retainer. If the client goes forward with the project, I'll generally roll the design fees in to the final costs.

Simple example:

I make a lot of rustic split-twig signs. My usual quote on the final costs are:

* $100 for design sketches (retainer required)

* materials (marked-up retail)

* $10 per letter and extra fees for decorations

* $75/hour for extra time requirements, like delivery and installation

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Hi Guys

Interesting one this. I've been designing and making now for over forty years and it is not an easy one to answer. On most jobs I will charge. At present it would be around €200.00 which covers initial sketches and the working drawings this is then included within the project costs if the client goes ahead. However, some clients get very put off at the though of paying for something they don't have if they decide not to go ahead. I have been caught in the past by presenting a design that is not commissioned only to find the client has got someone else usually cheaper and almost always a crap job. I've even had some come back to me afterwards to ask if I'll put things right. I'd rather not say my answer.

Nowadays I charge, I tell the client I'm going to charge and why. If the project goes beyond initial sketches etc. and becomes more involved then I'll make extra charges. Normally these are nominal to help cover things like mock ups etc. All of which are rolled up into the final quote.

Hope this is of some help

Pete

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  • 2 months later...

I have just completed a SketchUp design for a custom cabinet for someone I met at a dinner. SketchUp is still fairly new to me and I am a nut on getting detail right. So, yep, I probably have 30+ hours in this design project (allowing for one major rework after initial submission). See my Blog piece on this: http://woodtalkonline.com/blog/66/entry-733-building-custom-furniture-on-commission/

Of course, I can not charge for 30-hours of design time on this project. The learning curve on SketchUp is fairly long and the project has helped me progress significantly. But I have tweaked and tweaked and tweaked. Either way, I told the prospect that I would do the design for him when we first met. I wanted to do it to gain skill.

In the future, if I were to do more contract woodworking, I would certainly charge for the design work. I would give the prospect an estimate of time @ $35/hour and stick to it unless the prospect changed the design.

The real question is ... will I start doing contract furniture building? Stay tuned ...

Chester

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