Many people never give even the slightest consideration to “being a good client,” but they are lessening the quality of work they are receiving and probably increasing their cost of service without realizing it. While this is written from the perspective of architectural and design services, it probably applies to a great many other types of commercial relationships as well.
- “If you go into the process looking just for the lowest cost, you are likely to get the product of lowest quality.” The market for products and services is not stupid. It tends to bid the price of high quality up over time whereas services and products of lower quality tend to fall over time.
- Be organized. If you collect images of what you like in advance, you will make the design process much smoother and easier. There are great online tools, like Pinterest and Houzz, to help you find, categorize, and file hundreds of images of spaces, materials, and details that you like. Work that you do is work the designer does not have to do, which saves time and money.
- Be consistent and professional in your relations. Changing your mind frequently and getting angry at your architect or designer because they could not read your mind or guess which things were most (or least) important to you is not helpful and makes you less likely to get the project you are hoping for in the end. A change in direction can have a much bigger impact on other issues than you might suspect.
- If you like something the design team presents, don’t be stingy with your praise. Not only is praise cheap to give, it helps guide your designer and lets them know where your mind and eye are leading you so that they can hopefully give more of the same satisfaction elsewhere.
- Don’t be a client with champagne tastes but on a beer budget. We would all like more than we can afford, but getting angry that the 4500sf house you insist is the smallest you can live in is too expensive is just counterproductive. Although a good architect can figure out how to make things seem slightly more lavish than you have the budget for, they are not hypnotists or magicians. The best way to address the issue of budget is to look to your designer or architect for clever ways to make the program work in smaller spaces. Beautiful proportion goes a long way to give a building or space elegance, even if you don’t have the money to lavish on its materials or construction.
- If you have hired an architect or designer to be your expert, second guessing them or contradicting their best advice is just a form of wasting your money. If you do not trust or like the architect or designer you have hired, that is most likely a mistake you made and you should back up and try again. A team where everyone is not pulling in the same direction is not a good team.
- Try to be as considerate of the architect or designer as you want them to be of you. If you call on Saturday mornings to get redesigns done by Monday but lose their invoices for months on end, you will get passed down the food chain to the most desperate service providers over time, which is not the way to get the best value and quality of design.
In conclusion, if you are a client who believes the Golden Rule is “He with the Gold Rules,” you will likely get charged at the premium rate and get the minimum or inferior effort from your architect or designer. Your project will have more hiccups and challenges that it needed to and these problems will likely result in extra costs that might have been avoided if a more conducive atmosphere of partnership and teamwork had been established. The moment a designer decides they do not want a long-term relationship is the moment you become a monetary transaction.
Remember, although the project is most definitely being built with your money and you might sell the project in a year or two, the architect’s name will be associated with the project for many decades, if not the entire life of the building. The best projects are the ones where both the client and the designer are proud of the final design, which is generally the result of a great professional relationship. Being a good client will not only get you a better project at a better price, but will make the project more fun for everyone.
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