In trying to share with other designers out there how I work, I find that one of the most common questions asked of me is how I bill. First, we are pro-forma, which means that clients have to pay in full prior to receiving merchandise. Once a job is presented and approved, items are invoiced in full and for some items we receive a 50% deposit. The 50% deposit is for long-lead items (upholstery, custom furniture and pieces being shipped internationally), invoiced in full are fabrics or one-of-a-kind pieces like antiques or immediate delivery items like light fixtures. Both of these are billed with our commission.
As items become ready to be shipped, we bill the balance and at the same time, bring together all the different shipping charges which are added on to the invoice. The items are not shipped until it’s paid for in full and that rule is never broken in the office. Every time I have, I’ve ended up regretting it. I’ve learned the hard way that people are much happier to pay and get, than to pay once they’ve already received the items.
Concerning commissions and fees, I find that everybody works in different ways. We charge 35% of the net cost and if we are consulting on architectural detailing and specifications and the client already has an architect, we charge a flat fee, which depends on the bulk of the work. I find that however people bill (hourly, flat fee or a combination) it usually comes out to approximately the same thing. I feel very strongly about the fact that one should collect the cost of the merchandise and your fees before installing because you can be stuck with people not wanting to pay the balance and then you’re held responsible to your suppliers. This works very well for me as when we present a job, we present it in full, so all the figures have been calculated prior to presentation, which allows the billing to move very quickly.
How do you work? Have you worked this way and had problems? Let me know.