I first heard that expression, "You're only as happy as your least happy ......", when used with the word "children" instead of "client". It fits perfectly with "client" though, doesn't it?
Everything can be going swimmingly with all your projects and then you get one phone call or email and boom......your day is ruined.
Most times there is just not anything we can do about moments like these. We coordinate so many different vendors and contractors and have to have them as part of our jobs because we can't possibly provide all the products and services that go into completing a finished room or space.
Stuff just happens and people get upset and we are always the ones they call first.
I've been trying to figure out how to keep clients happy and be profitable
I've been on a mission to try and mitigate this though, in my work, in the past few years. Here's how I've been working it.
Go for quality - I'm trying to use the best quality vendors and contractors so that problems don't arise (I know, almost impossible, even with the best I can find). And I don't care how expensive they are, what matters is that they stand behind their work. If you understand how most don't in this business and how so much can go wrong, you'll soon realize how you have to go high end with this.
Maintain control - I'm trying to keep my eyeballs on all of my work with a more hands-on approach, not delegating as much, so I can retain control.
Avoid high risk - I'm trying to avoid purchasing high-risk items with smaller profit margins for clients and give up that percentage I could possibly earn to avoid an even greater cost when bad things do happen. Because whenever you aren't making a big enough profit on an item, that's when the problem will occur (Murphy's Law).
Select the right client - And my biggest initiative in this direction, is toward selecting the right clients to work with.
Checking out other professionals in our industry
At the Design Bloggers Conference last March, one of the speakers was Miles Redd..
With all the work Miles Redd does, I would assume he would have a staff of at least a dozen people, but no. He showed a pic of himself with his three team members.
He shared the words of Albert Hadley, the great decorator who said, "Stay small."
That spoke to me personally, as I downsized my studio and staff over two years ago. We can only do so much at a time now and it causes to me to be more selective with what we take on and creates less stress overall.
And yet, I'm making more profit than I was before.
I loved hearing a big name designer repeating what I believe is one of the keys to sanity in the design biz.
I always thought that all the really successful designers had big teams of 5-10 or more, to manage all the large projects they have. Now, I look at designers like Miles Redd, Tobi Fairley, and others, I realize, it is NOT about quantity at all, it is about quality.
(BTW, if you haven't checked out what Tobi Fairley has to say about "busy", you can listen to it here on her new podcast.)
The clients you acquire make all the difference in the world
I found that it's really about a type of clientele that is appropriate for you and your business, projects that can produce remarkable results with little friction or pushing, and charging enough to allow for all the unforeseen issues that come up on a daily basis in this business.
I don't want to work myself to death. I don't want to do MORE. I don't want to spend time jumping between 25 projects, juggling a hundred balls in the air, working on my business rather than in my business. (Yes, I know that is exactly opposite of what people tell you to do.)
I want to nestle down into my real comfort zone and work there, in my business, carefully, thoughtfully and with intention........producing the best of what I know I can do.
The only way I can do that is to acquire the right clients with the right projects for me.
After all these years of doing design, I've finally identified the type of full service client I'm looking for and it is pretty specific.
I've written it up in this downloadable pdf for sale, to share with you.
This is the type of client that truly has rendered the most successful projects for me and consistently makes me happiest to work for, even in this day and age with online shopping and all the competition on the web.
You might want to check it out.