ICS Magazine

The Incredible Value of Interior Designer Referrals

September 8, 2010

Interior designers can be very valuable referral sources for cleaning and restoration companies, as they are in a position to refer very wealthy people to your firm.

It’s important to recognize the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator. A designer has a license and is proud of the fact that they are more than just a decorator – they design living spaces. I bring this up because the last thing you want to do is insult a designer by calling her or him a decorator!

The jobs you can get from interior designers are absolutely phenomenal. Since they are almost always working in the extreme high end, the jobs tend to be very exclusive. Several cases come to mind. We once did a 3,000-square-foot high-rise apartment with $100-a-yard carpet, charging $1 a square foot for the cleaning job. Another time, one of our designers called us out to do 14 large Karastan rugs in an office space. The boardroom rug was 30’ x 40’! Every rug was huge, and the job ended up being several thousand dollars.

I remember a story some years ago written by Ruth Travis. She’d got a job from one of her designers to clean some animal skins that had been water damaged in a shipping container. She restored the skins to like-new condition. The designer was happy, the client was thrilled, and she made “mucho dinero” on that job!

An associate of mine did a $20,000 residential cleaning job from a designer that found him through the IICRC Referral Network. It turns out that the owner of the home was terminally ill and wanted everything cleaned before she departed. The carpet was fine wool, the upholstery was silk, and the drapes were made of mohair. Wow!

You can really get some fantastic jobs through interior designers, and it doesn’t stop with cleaning. Protection of new fabrics is also big business. One of my members just did a $27,000 protector job for a huge celebrity; the referral was from a designer, of course.

Serving the Designer

Interior designers work very closely with their clients, and it becomes a very personal relationship. Because of the close relationship with the client and the value they place on that relationship, they need very personal service from you. I have found that designers want to work directly with the owner or someone that can take care of every detail for them – just like they do. Some designers can be very demanding, but the payoff is worth it.

Referral Fees

Designers make their living by marking up whatever they sell to their client. In other words, in addition to their design fee, if they recommend a fabric, or purchase a rug for a client, they will buy it wholesale and sell it to the client retail, thereby making a profit. Because of this, designers are very interested in referral fees. In fact, they may want to mark it up more than 10%.

Many times they will have you bill them. In this case, you have to be very careful if the client asks you how much you charge. When you set up the job with the designer, be sure to ask who is getting billed. If the designer is getting billed, ask the designer if they will be marking it up and how much in case the client asks you how much you are charging. Some clients understand that their designers get paid on furniture, but get angry when they find out they are marking up services, so be aware.

Author’s Note: For a free report on how to find interior designers, how to call on them, and how to build a solid referral relationship with them, e-mail me at howard@howardpartridge.com and put “designer” in the subject field.