My favorite way to waste my time, energy and brain cells

  • Advertise with us

« back to Sweating for Bucks Through Woodworking forum

Forum topic by fineamerican posted 07-01-2010 06:23 AM 1922 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View fineamerican's profile


150 posts in 3141 days

07-01-2010 06:23 AM

Topic tags/keywords: humor question resource

About a week or so ago I posted a sketch up joint to enlist some thoughts on the best way to go about securing this joint. This project was intended to be a mission style entertainment center. Now about 2 weeks ago these folks called me to inquire about my services. They said they heard my name through my local woodworking guild, Greenville Woodworkers Guild. Heres the story, Im new to drawing large scale projects with cad programs, or anything much more than a few quick sketches and some client inspired notes. I’m not sure exactly how to go about charging for my time drawing using sketch up, Im no sketch up pro, but do a pretty decent job, the dimensions all end in number we use, not the 1/32 or the 1/64. In this particular project I went through great detail to show internal parts of the piece, showing what wood would be used where, etc. So the clients wanted references, I provided them that. They wanted to visit me at my shop(which is also my home) so I opened my doors to them today. I spent about a hour going over everything with them presented them with a very standard contract Im sure most of you have in your own files. I ask for a 1/2 deposit of the final agreed fee. The wife pulls out her own contract with it documenting that I take 1/3 now, then anoth 1/3 God knows when, and so on. I didn’t even read it, or ask to see it. Maybe I offended her? Who knows I politely told her my payment policy one of which is accepted by shops everywhere, and to be honest no one has ever broke off their own contract on me! She takes my paper work makes plans to cut a check with me in the morning and leaves. About one hour later she calls to tell me they are going to do more thinking and will contact me after the 4th since they had so much going on. Uh What the ? I calmy told her that was fine and would talk to her next week. Now I may be pig headed, but Im not taking this assignment. I know Im the only one working in a family of 6 and we are the great recession blah blah blah. What pisses me off the most is Ive got well over 1.5 days of drawing time, a awesome entertainment center waiting to be built for someone, but not a penny from these people. WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE! You guys and gals here have always been super cool to me, and when Ive got a question I get many answers. Do I explain why I charge for a design fee from the get go? Does that weed out those pesky window shoppers, do I offer to waive the design fee If hired? What do you all think, or what do you do.

Thanks to everyone of you- have a safe 4th if you travel and dont try to run away from the roadblocks in your respective jurisdictions.

-- John A. Thomas, South Carolina,

14 replies so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3141 days

#1 posted 07-01-2010 06:48 AM

if I understand you correct you have already used 1½ days work on them
and they have seen the scetsh ,then you charge them for it as any achitect/lawyer
wuold do …. period !

just my 2 cent

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3068 days

#2 posted 07-01-2010 07:18 AM

Larger companies are expected to give free estimates and I think this causes confusion when it comes to smaller companies. As in your case you might find that you loose business charging a potential customer for a design. Sometimes you have to go that extra mile to get the customers and expect that sometimes you will not get the job and loose the time. That being said, if a design is going to take more time than normal and is interrupting a current project I would charge them a nominal fee for the design. You would have to weigh the expected time loss to the design to the potential loss of the customer. As for the customer pulling out their own contract that does seem a bit out of the ordinary, I certainly don’t think I would accept their contract, seems a bit fishy. If they do call you and are willing to accept your terms than I would accept the job.

View Arnold's profile


215 posts in 3588 days

#3 posted 07-01-2010 07:35 AM

Check with your guild that they don’t use you design while having someone else builds it. Tough question to answer.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18290 posts in 3702 days

#4 posted 07-01-2010 07:44 AM

You run into that in all fields, the time it takes to get a price together is part of overhead. Doing the design, may or may not be part of that process. Designers charge for that only. Tough one alright. Hope you didn’t give them the design with the other paper work.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3311 days

#5 posted 07-01-2010 01:58 PM

John, Probably one of the most frustrating things about this business. You spend hours designing, engineering, working out all the details and do detailed drawings to show them exacly what they will be getting (what any professional should do), only to take your drawings and will probably give them to some jack-leg that couldn’t design or draw a shoe box if he traced it and wonder why he will end up being cheaper then you. You already did a day and half’s worth of work. I’ve struggled with this frustration for 25 years, on one hand I feel that’s part of my service and that is what makes me stand out and it’s just part of the cost of business…........Untill I get a customer like that, then I wonder why the H__ I didn’t charge for my drawings! No easy answer there. Sounds like this customer got taken on a bad contract before and now they are over cautious. I usually tell a customer like that, if they check out my references and they still don’t feel comfortable working with me then I would recommend they don’t, because I’m going to be the same way. If I don’t feel comfortable, then I don’t want to work with “them”. That’s a two way street. I don’t charge for my drawings, but on the bottom of my proposals, it clearly states that the drawings are the property of “The Hufford Furniture Group” and can not be sold or used by others. It probably doesn’t stop someone from taking my drawings to someone else, but it might make them think twice….......and it makes me feel a little better! LOL.

-- John @

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4047 days

#6 posted 07-01-2010 02:06 PM

I used to have a large format sign business.
Clients would suggest I do several sketches for them to pick over before commiting to fabrication.
I told them there was an hourly fee for this.
Rarely did anyone take me up on my offer.
I finally got out of the business rather than keep pushing my blood pressure up.
I found government offices, at all levels, unable to comprehend the value of my time or skills.
They commoditized everything. ( lowest bidder symdrome)

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View fineamerican's profile


150 posts in 3141 days

#7 posted 07-01-2010 02:45 PM

Alot to think about here. I use a watermark on my work, and upload the images to the deisgn gallery on my site. They have to have a password I issue to them, to see their work. I can undertand the overhead factor, but Ive only seen guys saying things like ”$250 will get us to a desgin estimate, with a delivery time”. So I guess this is one of those things I have to customize for me, but follow some basic truths some of you have laid out here.

-- John A. Thomas, South Carolina,

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4244 days

#8 posted 07-01-2010 03:16 PM

I would say it all depends on how busy you are and how much you need the work.

If your services are in high enough demand that you stay busy almost all the time, I would go along with charging a design fee which would be applied toward the total job cost if accepted by the customer. But if you are beating the bushes looking for jobs, I think, as others have said, wasting time on jobs you never get just comes with the territory.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3674 days

#9 posted 07-01-2010 03:44 PM

it is a tough one!

when people subcontract the design process to a 3rd party, the design costs money, so in a way, has to be calculated into the final cost. this is where ‘custom’ pieces play a part- since it’s a brand new customized item – and that costs money since you can’t walk into your local furniture dealer and pick one up.

I would factor this into the purchase price as an item.

Other than that – I would not give clients the full construction sketches, but only a rendered representation of the final piece. that way your design stay within your domain.

Another point is – that your designs stay with you, and can then be reproduced, or offered to other potential customers (maybe at a lower design cost since the plans are already made – a marketing plan).

not the best scenario to go through, but those things happen. best to learn from them what you can to better protect yourself for the future, and maybe improve on your dealings.

Good luck!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View uffitze's profile


199 posts in 2981 days

#10 posted 07-01-2010 04:04 PM

It seems to me that based on the fact that they pulled out a contract means that they were prepared to hire you, and the deal went south because neither of you was comfortable with the other’s contract.

As far as doing design work pro bono, the other responders have covered my thoughts pretty well. (Ie. it depends on how busy you are, and what your reputation is, and never, ever give out more than a rendering with a watermark on it to a client unless they pay for the design time and the drawings.)

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3983 days

#11 posted 07-01-2010 05:06 PM

I am an AutoCAD drafter by profession, and I am employed by a company, but I do AutoCAD and Sketchup design, and rendering as a side business. When I start a project for somebody I might hand sketch some ideas and discuss design elements with them for free, but once I sit down at my computer and start modeling or drafting, I get $25 per hour. I am willing to do as many design changes/looks as the customer wants but I don’t work for free and I let them know that up front. This protects me and the customer, and it cuts down on frivolous design changes by the customer. If I misunderstood their needs or made a mistake I wont charge for the time to fix these errors, but if they want to see several photo real renders showing several different finishes, from all different angles, and nite and day shots showing sun position and shadows…they are paying for that stuff. As much as I like to model and draw, I don’t work for free. This way they own the drawings, and the designs and they can take it to whomever they want to use for fabrication. And I usually draw a very loose line as to how many hours I charge…I don’t gouge people for every minute I am working.


View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3919 days

#12 posted 07-01-2010 05:38 PM

I get a non refundable retainer between 500 and a 1,000 bucks. Anyone who balks at that has no idea how much the real thing is going to cost and as a rule, those clients are always a PITA.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 2966 days

#13 posted 07-01-2010 10:46 PM

Wow, just today I was complaining to my wife about this issue! Thanks guys, good post with good responses. I’m learning a lot here!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View Ben Martin's profile

Ben Martin

34 posts in 3235 days

#14 posted 07-13-2010 07:47 PM

My main line of work is computer programming and network design, and I run into this all the time as well. My solution is to simply provide them with basic sketches as part of the quote (which I do for free). If the quote is accepted, I have termes for payment laid out.

Cost of $X up front,
$X on submission of any schematics/layouts/other preliminary documentation
$X after each milestone for the project
$X on completion

Until I receive the deposit, I will not provide any professional documentation, or analysis beyound the basics absolutly required to get a ball park figure, and the quote outlines any areas that could cause the price to fluxuate.

If I was selling a piece of furneture, I would only sketch out the basics to see what was needed, and get a rough idea of time and material required. Part of the quote would include time to prepare full blueprints if needed, and I’d definatly require the 1st check cleared before providing the blueprints to the client.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics