Design time includes custom drawings, hours in CAD, or even kitchen layouts. Several excellent computer programs have been created to help speed up this process, but the underlying problem is more a sales dilemma than a design problem.
Many of us are afraid to ask for the order, so instead we hide our fear by extending the design process in hopes that our unique creation will guarantee the job, but the opposite often happens. The prospect gets tired of waiting and takes your initial design to another shop that underbids your project. Every hour you spend on designing without an order commitment helps the competition underbid you. They do not have the investment in the design and can easily quote against you.
If you feel this is happening to you, take a look at your own process. A good rule of thumb is "No More Than Three." If the shop is investing in more than three revisions of any project, BEFORE an order, it will stand a good chance of being lost.
To reduce the amount of revisions, prepare the shop and the prospect early in the conversation. Have a cheat sheet of questions prepared that you share with the prospect. The questions should detail all the things you will need to know before a quote can be given: finish, style, species, measurements, etc. Go through the list with them. If they can't decide on a specific style or color, get a range that will help the quote. For example, ornate or plain? Light stains or dark? Solid wood or plywood?
Also prepare the prospect for the quote. Let them know that you will work on two or three designs using the cheat sheet answers as your baseline. If they like what they will see, then you will be asking for 50% down to go ahead with any future changes.
Using this method weeds out the folks that can't decide, have no money, or are just shopping your skills out to the lowest bidder. It also saves you hours of fruitless design time that could be better spent on paying customers.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.