Occasionally I will have a subcontractor or a GC ask me about getting some kind of referral fee for landing a job. There are a number of reasons I don’t entertain the idea of referral fees. We all do our work and make our choices based on who we believe to be as people in society, our standing, our culture, our race – sorry to say, and our backgrounds. My family comes from a relatively conservative background, fiscally speaking. Now that we have our own family we more or less carry the same truths about ourselves. No matter what, I want my clients to feel they have been treated with the utmost respect, kindness and diligence as well as receive my creative capabilities and work in a professional manner. Referral fees are not in the best interest of the client who should be at the forefront of our objective and service.

  1. The cost of the referral fee is rolled in to the design fee. I don’t do this, it is hard enough to stay competitive in this market where everyone calls themselves a designer. I don’t need to raise my prices anymore than necessary, so it just doesn’t make good business sense.
  2. It encourages others to refer out of greed. This is not in the best interest of the clients. What if the designer isn’t a good fit for their project?
  3. If they know there is a finders fee, they will throw a ton of unqualified leads my way. This is not profitable and a waste my valuable of time, taking time and effort away from designing great spaces. This just doesn’t make good business sense.
  4. I would like to know I have been referred because of the quality of work I produce, the level of service I offer and the fabulousness of the end product – not because someone is getting paid. And In return I only refer other contractors that do great work, do it in  a timely manner and do it for a reasonable fee.
  5. It simply just feels unethical. I like to treat my clients the way I would want to be treated. If I know a sub came on a job and had to pay to be there, I would always question whether he actually knew what he was doing, was he the best choice for the job?

There is so much trust that goes in to working in this field. I need my clients to trust that I am giving their design my all. They need to not question my ability to do good work. They need to understand when I manage a job, it is truly only because I trust the painter to do good work, I trust the drywall guy to do good work. I only bring others in who will elevate the work I produce for them. When trust is undermined the work slows, the clients aren’t happy because there is an ounce of doubt in their mind. Its a huge waste of time and money.

I get a ton of my work through word of mouth and referrals. I would say at least 80% of my clients have come to me through someone else. When this happens both parties already have a sense of trust, the last thing I would want to do is burn that. It would take weeks, if not months, to earn that back.

I would also caution using people off of the websites that refer jobs. If I were a member of one of those sites, I would have to pay to get a job. That’s not how I want to earn a living. I just don’t want to get a job that I had to pay a third party a fee for the lead.

I have to say this attitude has worked extremely well for us without it even being a thing. I love the work I do and my clients seem pretty happy as well, or they wouldn’t refer us. Of course there have been a couple of mishaps along the way, but so many other factors go in to working relationships that I am extremely happy with the outcomes over the years.