Free Design Advice- "Does this room make my butt look fat?"


As I was flying home from a wedding in Portland last weekend on Delta 773, sitting in row 10 (no first class ,but close enough to see the little hot towels being passed out) on a 767, I was privy to  a conversation that was unfolding behind me in row 11. Quick, all you people in row 11 on flight 773, listen up.
The two seatmates spoke loud enough and with unusual  candor, but one seatmate was abusing the privilege of sitting next to a professional. For 2 out of the 5 hours, he was picking the brain of this poor Psychologist. He was asking questions and getting free advice from this young professional
Sigmund Freud was turning in his grave and I was about to turn around, but didn’t want them to think I was listening………

Many professionals are asked to give free advice. As an interior designer, my profession falls in the group and it seems to be the “New Normal” with everyone, everywhere.

So how do I gingerly address people who want free advice, information about rooms I did, where did I get the furniture, what color should I paint this room, what should I do about this room layout? I smile and say nothing…….. Those questions are my red flags that nothing good will come out of this for me.

If I walk into a home, the hostess is either embarrassed that her home wasn’t done by a designer( I am there for the food and wine, not an inspection) or wants a quick redesign from me.
Even as a designer when I am being interviewed by a new client over the phone, they want to know if I give a “free consultation”.  No, I do not give free design advice without payment. I will however come and look at projects or interview clients at my office, but I don’t decorate or change one little pillow without a fee. I run a business ,not a hobby.

The internet is blurring the fine line I walk, but I know the difference between giving free advice and giving away just enough advice that doesn’t hurt my gross margin.

It is becoming a common occurrence on the internet with some websites used by designers and other professionals. We are willing to write blogs, post videos, and articles about the knowledge we have or review beautifully taken photographs about other professionals.  We are becoming a massive Free Advice nation . Everywhere on the internet, I am using some form of free advice from Food Network to the groups on LinkedIn. Anything I want to know or learn is free somewhere on the Internet.

I am being told I need to embrace all forms of social media to gain a larger audience. My business needs to have a Facebook Page, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram to post photos of my rooms. So I dutifully sign up for everything hoping to capture a new client or a new follower. I even “Googled” myself and my business to see how many times I appear on the internet in searches. (114-small beans for really famous designers)

Many new websites want us to join and post our beautiful rooms, which we gladly pluck down our portfolios. I smile to myself when someone adds me to their “ideabook” or “pins” something off my board. I know they now have a copy of a room I designed, but they haven’t asked me any “who, what, why” questions.
They just like my room. Period.
When people ask questions  for only specifics of the room, a red flag goes up on my end. I call this person a “shopper”, they don’t need me, they want my sources.
I cautiously respond to questions on the websites where I interact with homeowners. When someone asks “what is the paint color in this room?” they need to be made aware that the color may not look good in their home because of the lack or too much natural light changes the color.  The color is always impacted by light and what you see in my room on the internet is not actually a true representation of the color because of when it was photographed.

When I do a room, it is studied, measured, and photographed before I even begin to design or decorate it.
Then it is discussed  and re discussed with my client until they are doing a happy dance. A lot of time is spent behind the photo you see on the internet, lots of questions asked and answered, selecting the pieces to be used in the room I design and the placement of each piece. I am paid for my time to design the room and my clients appreciate the value I bring to the project.

If a designer gives away all their sources for a room, it is by their choosing. If they help you with free design advice, they are hoping that someday someone will actually pay them for the value they bring as a professional. If a designer writes a blog, it isn’t because we want to make money from the blog (which is news to me-wow! I didn’t know people are actually making a living by writing blogs! They have sponsors!! ) it is an extension of our business.

                                                      YouTube-Sally Fields 1985 oscar speech

As Sally Fields said upon receiving her academy award in 1985, ” You like me, you really like me!” We are choosing to give out information  and show the public our rooms we created, just so you like us as designers,and hopefully hire us for your next project.

If you happen upon a website that offers a forum on design solutions for homeowners, realize non professionals are also giving you advice. You now have 500 people helping you and hopefully they will solve your design dilemma. Just don’t be disappointed if things don’t turn out because no one actually stopped by to see the issue in person to give you better advice.

To the man who was on my flight last week asking  questions and getting free advice while sitting next to the Psychologist:
“Good for you, but I was hoping the good Psychologist would have turned it back at you and asked you about your job and also received free advice. That usually is a deal breaker.
He was too polite not to stop you.

In my world, we call it “Air decorating”………

Follow me on InstagramTwitter, FaceBookHouzz,LinkedIn, and Pinterest too!

Leave a Reply