This entry is at the behest of my co-workers, those professionals and contractors that I work with Daily. It's always in my mind, but I don't think that I would have written about this so early in my blogging life, if ever! Thanks for the suggestion, all.
When you decide to embark on a design/construction project, you have the ability to research/investigate/interview/meet with a myriad of sources. We professionals get enthusiastic, talkative and generous with our thoughts and ideas. Usually that's helpful, although occasionally our eagerness might get in the way. We give information openly. Kitchen and bath showrooms often ask for a substantial design deposit before they will put together a presentation to protect themselves from free plans showing up in a competitor's hands. Or they might show you some of the work and then tell you it stays with them unless you choose to buy the plans; that is altogether fair. I am not talking about a ballpark "guesstimate", but plans done for YOU.
More frequently, it seems to be showrooms for tile and countertops, window coverings, carpet, flooring, windows--even appliances and electronics-- where salespeople on commission put together specifications and prices for your project that the work is taken for granted. If they are able, and they are smart, showrooms might "private label" products to keep you from taking their work and time to get competitive prices on their product by phone. After all, didn't a salesperson put a plan and materials together on your behalf? A competitive second price is easy if all the specifications were already calculated by a first vendor. And don't forget the first person might also have helped you choose the materials, figured sq. ft. or sq. yds. and/or creative installation ideas.
If you are hiring a Design Professional: architect, designer, landscape designer, you'd better be shopping more than price. It will involve experience, education, (hopefully) credentials, taste, resources, contacts, reputation, and personality as well as cost. If you and I work together, it's usually for months or even years to complete a full-scope project and very likely (and I ENJOY this part) we'll continue our relationship from time to time for ages to come! If it's a General Contractor you need, especially for remodeling, this person should be well-connected, reliable, fairly priced and very nice to have in your home, since his staff will virtually be living with you.
We're used to giving information and ideas away. And then some of us put a lot of work into a contract or a proposal. Especially if it involves time PLUS the product (finding, buying, delivering, installing) --- it might also require drawings for you or even only for the vendor's own use. PLEASE remember when you shop, it's NOT always going to be "apples and apples": even if the materials are the same, the labor can range enormously in quality and detail.
All this being said, I am reminding you to acknowledge the work of these professionals -- before they've "Done" the job. You will look like a Hero if you have the courtesy to say "Thanks, but no" or "We're still thinking about it" (if that's the case). It's possible that by the end of a first conversation you will both know that the relationship won't go anywhere, There can be serious work in putting a formal quote or bid together, perhaps meeting with you to hear the scope of the project the first time and then present ideas and prices at a second meeting, remember that time involved. Even a comparatively short Letter of Agreement deserves response.
A phone call is fine, so could be an e-mail. A handwritten note is lovely, and a tangible symbol of appreciation (like a Starbuck's gift card--no I've not gotten one) is Awfully Nice.
My architect-husband fortunately hears "yes" more than "no". A while ago, a prospective client wrote such a thoughtful e-mail explaining that they had hired someone else that he e-mailed back to thank them for the message! "Yes" is usually preferable to "No", but either is better than no response. Don't be afraid to bear bad news. It's just good manners.
Oh! One last thing: if you have decided that a certain architect/contractor/designer is NOT for you --whether it's in the middle of your first meeting or after reading a lengthy proposal-- continue on to the next person. Asking advice or taking information at this point is crummy. Save questions for your chosen specialist. And if you are thinking that with a few more questions you'll have enough info to make this project a "Do It Yourself", you're most probably underestimating the work...Then you never know when you might have to call back to get bailed out!
Thank you for reading this and I appreciate your time!!