I had an epiphany.  Not the ‘manifestation of Christ’ kind of epiphany, but a ‘moment of sudden revelation’ kind of epiphany.  This MAY seem totally radical to some of you, like maybe I fell and bumped my head kind of radical.  To others, it may seem foolish and still others may see this as a natural progression towards creating a new economy built on value.  A quick disclaimer, I have done no research on this topic other than reading the books I have listed on my blog and reading other blogs.  This epiphany is driven on instinct alone at the moment and the results thereof may play out completely different in reality.  Here it goes.

I just e-mailed a client of mine with the proposal that he pay me, what he thinks my services are worth to him.

I’ve never done this before and I may never do it again but here’s a little background.  I’m a residential designer.  I don’t claim to be an architect, though according to the definition, architect best describes my profession.  I charge my clients by the hour or square footage depending on the circumstances.  One of the biggest challenge I often face is creating proposals.  Basically I put together a set of numbers that I think is a fair and marketable price for my services taking into consideration the parameters of the project and the client.  That seems very straight forward until other things creep onto the scene and somehow interrupt this process, for instance:

  • I really connect with the client, though  realize they have greatly under estimated construction costs and my fee.
  • I realize the client is someone I have no respect for and therefore no desire to work with.
  • I realize the project may be beyond my capabilities, though I’m eager to give it a whirl.
  • (for women) I know my male counterparts may be charging twice as much, though I’m concerned with alienating my loyal clients by charging more.
  • (for degree-less professionals) I have 12 years experience in my field, yet no paper to “prove” my worth.
  • I like to think I have a conscience and natural desire to do what I believe is right for the environment and humankind, e.g. design homes that strive for sustainability including home structures for folks with limited means.
  • I have a business to run and a family to support.

Needless to say, writing the proposal can be a daunting task.  Recently, our area is experiencing a shift in real estate sales and therefore labor costs, etc.  Once again I am rethinking what my fees are or will be in response to this shift.  Many clients have been late to pay, with a few not paying at all.  There have been a few remarks as to the rate being high or prices seem to have doubled.  Then there is always the blank stare response that says, “I had no idea it was going to cost that much.”  Of course there are the clients that don’t bat an eye and just roll with the program and are full of praises.

All of this brought me to where I am today.  Even in lean times, the universe has always provided for my family and I feel that I am a fair and equitable person with a healthy work ethic.  So, what if I decide to go against this economy that only values the GDP and work toward creating an economy that values people, relationships, the envionment and defineable products and services?  What if I only attract clients that I want to form a relationship with and I ask those clients to pay what they feel my services are worth to them?  What will happen?  I don’t know what’s going to happen but I had this overwhelming feeling to “put it out there”.  So, I did.

Foolish?  Maybe.  De-valuing?  Maybe.  Risky?  Maybe.

Maybe another world will reveal itself to me.  I know one thing for certain, the anxiety of placing a price tag on my design capabilities has in this instance been removed and replaced with renewed enthusiasm for the project at hand.  I’ll keep you posted on how this approach plays out.


4 thoughts on “Epiphany

  1. We’ve been through similar ponderings, and are in the process of cultivating, intending, doing whatever we can to attract only those clients, vendors, projects, etc., that we want to work with. i.e., fair, responsible, reasonable, respectful, and at least a little bit fun. I’m doing this by putting more of my mental/ emotional/temporal energy on the appreciation of relationships/ projects we already have that are the kind we want more of, and also devoting those energies to cultivating new, healthy relationships, while intentionally minimizing the amount of energy I expend on the unhappy, unworkable relationships we have that are, I hope, breathing their dying breaths even as I write.

    That means, C&E, that we need to get together for supper soon!

    Best of luck with this project you’ve got, in which your enthusiasm has been recently stoked.

  2. Hi,
    I have been practicing this for some time now. I have mostly small projects, renovation or houses. My clients are either people I know or people sent by former clients. I usually tell them what is the cost of the project + the usual architect fee, and then leave it to them to decide how much they want to pay me.
    My former clients are now among my best friends and I am not a millionaire!:)

  3. wow – that’s incredible. you are one amazing woman, ms. h. i am excited to hear how this works for you.

    it reminded me of something while at j&a’s a few weeks ago. they were looking at wedding dresses and came across an extremely talented designer out of cali. she designs dresses for many celebs, etc. they fell in love with one of the dresses and looked at the cost page and she basically says that she asks that people make a donation.

  4. Thanks for the positive feedback. I was hoping that my post would not be interpretted as the sentiments of a defeatist. The notion of asking some one to pay what they think you’re worth raises the question of will I be happy working for much less. In truth, I don’t think this will become a reality because if someone did not value my time, they would quickly find that their project was pushed further and further down the line. On the other hand, by stating a flat fee, I’m self imposing financial limitations.

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