This was a substantial order and the designer received 50% down on the whole house full of furniture and lighting to which she had added in a 25% purchasing fee. Unfortunately, shortly after the designer placed the orders, the owner of the property became ill and passed away. The next unfortunate incident was that the executor of the estate told the designer that they did not want the furniture and they were not going to pay the balance due on it.
The immediate problem is when you are working with a 25% purchasing fee the wholesale cost of the furniture and lighting will not be covered by the client’s 50% deposit. In this case there was a substantial amount of money owed to the vendors that the designer was personally responsible for, that was not covered by the deceased client’s deposits. This is not a situation that you would want to happen to you and your design business.
So how do you protect yourself from this? There are some simple guidelines that you can do to prevent this disaster.
Tip #1 - The best way to protect yourself is not to extend so much “credit” to clients. Remember you are not a bank! We often think that 50% down is the only way to do business but that is just not true. When you have an order with just 50% down you are actually financing the balance due on all that merchandise until you get paid.
Tip #2 - Protect yourself by asking for 100% payment on your orders up front. With a long-time trusted client you could ask for 50% down and bill the next 50% in 30 days. However you do it, the funds need to be in your hands long before the furniture ships from the manufacturer.
Tip #3 - I know someone is reading this and saying… My clients aren’t going to go for that! No way! Well that is not true. You need know that this is just one of those personal money beliefs that result in not taking care of yourself financially. Clients expect to pay for special order goods ahead of time. They do it all the time on the internet and with other businesses, so why not yours? You don’t have to put yourself in a financially precarious situation just to make a sale. You can be paid for merchandise before you actually deliver it. This is a good business practice, just make sure you deserve their trust by following through no matter what and you always do what you say you will do.
A last thought… If your design business is serious, not a hobby you need to protect your families’ assets from unexpected and unforeseen events. Talk to your attorney and CPA about setting up a corporation or LLC so that you create some separation from the business and limit your liability.
Terri Taylor, IDS Professional, ASID, IIDA, IFDA, is President and Creative Director of Taylor Design Group and Design Biz Blueprint. She is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer at design conferences and interior design colleges throughout the country. She speaks on a number of topics related to the business of interior design, including: business practices, sales, marketing, motivation, leadership, success and personal growth.
Ms. Taylor is nationally known as an interior design business expert and coach who teaches and mentors interior designers to help them create successful design businesses.