The 10 Biggest Mistakes Home Designers Make

Today I will talk about the common mistakes designers and contractors make in the sales, implementation and completion of plans for residential remodeling and new home projects.


Design Fees: The majority of the contractors and designers I meet are not charging enough for their design services. You clients should value all your services and you deserve to make a profit for all the work you’re doing.


Mindset - Fear: You need to be 100% committed to charging for your design services. You are giving the customer your time and your ideas, and those are worth something. Don’t give into the customer, hold your ground. If you lose the job because of these charges, chances are they weren’t worth the effort you were going to put in anyway.  


Good Qualification Process: Prior to taking a look at the project you should prequalify all your prospective clients. When you prequalify a client it is vital to set everyone’s expectations at an equal level so you don’t end up wasting your time with tire kickers.


Design Agreement Terms & Conditions: If you don’t have a clear description of the scope of your project’s design and development process you might end up meeting with a client numerous times and make very little money. Some clients require a lot of time and you need to make sure they’re on board with the entire process.


As Built - Inspect & Measure: Rushing this process will only cost you money. If you need to set a separate appointment to go create the initial As Built drawings onsite, it is worth it.  Getting the design agreement signed and then taking care of the as built at the same time will save you a trip. But, be careful not to rush or else you’ll just have to come back anyway when you realize plan isn’t accurate.

Producing Inadequate Designs: This can cause major problems for you. Not only will you have to spend more time trying to fix the issues you’ll also have pay to reprint plans, lose credibility with your client, builder and municipality.  There is even liability issues that can arise.


I have the City of Duluth permit checklist / plan requirements that I have converted to my own check lists to make sure I cover everything.  I also use a template sales email and share this with clients who are wavering on signing a design agreement to show them how much detail is required just to get a permit along with the details needed to establish an accurate estimate.  This template provides clients valuable resources, but is also intended to steer them in our direction.


Understanding of the Products You Sell: Selling your design services is no different than selling anything else for a project. Framings, plumbing, carpentry, cabinets, etc. all of the elements that are needed to complete a project, including plans. Show a list of the many elements that go into creating, planning, estimating and scheduling a project to demonstrate that you really do know your stuff.


Having a Portfolio: Being able to show prospects design projects and discuss project details is a great way to build credibility and earn trust.


Lack of Supporting Materials: Having educational marketing materials on your website and elsewhere online helps your prospects learn and understand the process of design build.  Once your clients understand the true value of your services they are much more likely to move forward. This also does much of the sales leg work along with pre-qualifying your buyers.  When you follow up with an impressive sales process you will continue to earn their trust and their business.

No Sales Process: The sales process starts where the marketing process leaves off.  Just winging it is not a strategy! You need to know your process inside and out. This will help you earn favor with your prospects. Showcase your company with informational materials that highlight your company’s design and development process.


Not discussing Budget: The absolute most important thing that you must do as a designer is discuss the budget. You need to have in-depth and thoughtful conversations with you client to ensure that you’re both on the same page. Earn your prospect’s respect and trust by being open and honest about all the costs that go into a project. In return, they will be more comfortable talking money with you.