Carl Seville's Editorial Archives
Design/build services aren't for every client. Knowing which client to target means knowing what kind of project suits you best.
In high-end projects, the clients are often the most demanding. Although willing to pay the most for design services, they often want the most services in return. In this market, you are competing with established architects. This will require you to have a high level of sophistication in your design and construction management.
In mid-range projects, the clients may be less demanding. This is often the best market to work in. These homeowners appreciate and are willing to pay for professional services. This market is typically most accepting of design/build--they recognize the value they get in working with one consolidated group for their remodeling.
In low-end projects, you will often find the least demanding clients. This market, however, does not always have the need or budget for sophisticated design services. You may find that selling design services to this market to be your biggest challenge.
Identify your ideal client. Ask probing questions at your initial meetings. Find out what their expectations are, both in terms of the design and the construction. Understand what information they will use to make their decisions. Are they budget-driven or design-driven? In a strong market, you will probably find more emphasis on the design and finishes than on the budget. As the economy changes, so may your clients' priorities. In a recession, many homeowners may cut back on their discretionary projects to focus more on maintenance and smaller projects for their home. This will require a change in how you market and sell your services. If you focus on high-end discretionary projects, you may need to quickly shift to simpler projects to maintain your volume. Conversely, if you focus on smaller, simpler projects, you may find yourself missing out on projects when your customers are willing to invest more money in larger projects than you are accustomed to building.
Tailor your services to the client's needs. If they want a sophisticated, high-end design, be ready to provide it to them. If they are seeking a more workmanlike, straightforward solution, know how to provide those services. When you provide design services, remember that one size does not fit all. Just like your remodeling projects, some will go smoothly, and some will not. Some clients will be demanding, others easy-going.
Explain your services. What does it include; what doesn't it include? As with any project, setting the client's expectations is critical. When your client is detail-oriented and intent on creating the "perfect" project, you may find yourself creating numerous revisions and spending many hours working out details with them. If they are indecisive, you can spend many hours working on designs with little progress. Some of the more difficult clients to work with are the ones who leave all the decisions up to you. In this case, you must be careful to explain to them everything you are doing and make certain that they understand the design. If they don't, they are likely to be disappointed with the final result and will hold you responsible. The key to a successful project is understanding your client's needs and knowing how you can meet them.
Find your "sweet spot." Identify the type of work that you can perform well and perform profitably, and focus on it, avoiding projects that do not fit your profile. You will benefit from taking on the right type of projects and working to consistently deliver exceptional service to those clients.