Non-Payment: A Designers Challenge

Following on from my last post, I wanted to discuss non-payment in more detail and explain SBID’s role in putting a stop to it for the industry.

Getting paid by a client at the end of a project can be a thorny issue for interior designers; it is still one of the biggest challenges designers face. We are the first in and the last out of every project, which leaves us vulnerable to exposure to any faults generated during procurement of any other trade involved. This can leave designers susceptible to criticism or unnecessary conflict as pressures mount to complete projects on time. Blame is sometimes directed at the last trade on site, ie the designer and, in some cases, the contractor.

When money runs out due to procurement overspend, clients look to save from alternative destinations. With construction professionals and designers the most unregulated, they are vulnerable to client abuse. Notably when the sums are substantial, some clients believe it’s worth chancing non-payment. Building contractors and designers are two trades where all-encompassing skills are required therefore withholding payment puts the designer or contractor under financial burden, making them more willing to settle for a lower sum than the due amount.  The costs and delays incurred by court proceedings often outweigh the sums in question, a factor that is heavily leaned on as negotiations between client, contractor or designer begin.

Vanessa Brady discusses challenges designers face with non-payment on the SBID interior design blog

This unfair and very common industry injustice is a challenge I am addressing. Along with industry recognition, the issue of non-payment is something I have raised regularly at cross-party government meetings in Parliament as the representative for Interior Design; and is one of the many reasons that ten years ago I set up the Society of British and International Design (SBID).

This year the SBID is celebrating ten years in business. It is the largest interior design organisation across Europe and the British representative of the European Council of Interior Architects. I am now on the second phase of this journey. It’s unacceptable in 2019 for a recognised business, industry or individual to be prevented from achieving a fair legal conclusion to an injustice, based solely upon financial restriction – whether that restriction is the cost of appealing the injustice or client knowledge that financially withholding payment is a negotiating tool for discount or sometimes worse.

The skills and responsibilities involved in interior design is misunderstood by most of the public. The perception is an interior designer is, for many, based upon years of television shows that incorrectly label the protagonists as interior designers when they are often, in fact, interior decorators. Challenging the misconceptions surrounding the role of a professional designer is something I have spent many years addressing at cross-party government meetings in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

I don’t like to lose so I won’t fight unless I can win, even when it has taken years to achieve a successful outcome as in a recent case you can read more about here. When a win is achieved it’s proof that the determination not to fold and the effort invested to fight an injustice is worth it.