As an interior design business owner, you know that your interactions with clients are important.
It’s tempting to want to appear personable, flexible, relaxed, and trusting in everything that you do. Maybe you have a persona in mind of a happy-go-lucky designer who isn’t worried about money, or you want to come across as confident and capable, no matter your financial circumstances.
It is possible to be all of these things and run a great business – but shaping your business practices around others’ perception of you won’t serve anyone well in the long run.
Take your billing practices for example. No one wants to be ornery about money… but at the same time, things get tricky when you compromise financial best practices for the sake of trying to keep your customers appeased.
Here’s what usually happens:
Many interior design business owners bill their clients and hope that the client pays in a timely manner. Then, they go ahead and work for the client without the guarantee of payment.
Most clients eventually pay, so technically it all works out in the end. But the real question is – what is the mental and financial cost of chasing down money from every client you serve? The mental cost of constant stress will take the biggest toll, and the financial burden can cause the business owner to go into debt simply to keep their company afloat.
At the end of the day, the business owner can be left without paying themselves, filled with resentment toward their client (whether they realize it or not), and wishing they had just required upfront payment.
A solution – payment boundaries
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but the best thing a business owner can do for their billing is to create clear payment processes and stick to them – in other words, payment boundaries.
Yes, it might be nerve-wracking to wonder whether you’ll lose clients by requiring upfront payments. But when you clearly communicate your boundaries from the beginning, most clients won’t think twice about it. If they do, they wouldn’t be a good client anyway.
The interior design industry should be especially vigilant about communicating with clients about their invoicing and payment processes prior to getting started on a project. This can be done in a few ways.
For design services billing:
- Charging a fixed fee
This type of billing strategy keeps things simple and would occur up-front or in stages.
- Billing by the hour
With this method, it’s best to give your client an estimate and invoice them for a retainer. Then, work off that retainer, billing them for more hours when needed.
For product billing:
- Invoicing prior to ordering
Communicate with your clients from the start that you will bill them for products prior to ordering them. This practice will save you from using your business’ money to cover an expense that belongs to your client. Not only that, it eliminates the risk of ordering products for a client that may never pay for them.
Putting these kinds of boundaries in place keeps the project from stalling, protects your client, and protects you!
While the process of up-front billing may feel unfamiliar at first, it will benefit every party in the long run. And you never have to chase money again!
If you still feel unsure about how to adjust your billing process or need advice on your interior design bookkeeping practices, we invite you to schedule a call with AccountSolve today. We’d love to walk you through it!