More Efficient, Faster, therefore, less income!

Subject #1. This is a struggle have been dealing with for a while now. I’m using SketchUp and Layout as my main workflow for years and I constantly improve my elements. Dynamic Component, better library, better texture (ready to render). All this improvement make my life much easier and my work more pleasant. But thing is, by being more efficient and faster, my income decrease when I bill hourly. To avoid that problem, I start to increase my hourly fee but this is something who can’t work with all client. And there’s a limit you quickly reach. I then thought of switching to a fixed pricing system. Like attorney or Notary would do. But this requires to know in advance what is the cost of the project. This is something amazingly difficult to predict mostly when you are in a design process. (I’m in the entertainment business… you never know where this one will end)

Subject #2. This is about drawing sharing. After creating all that efficient workflow, many elements of my library are dynamic components, content ready to render textured (HD textures that I paid), having 2D & 3D visual… etc… Element that take hours to create and improve. Very often in a project, we ask me to share my model. When my model content these “specific” components, I’m inclined to refuse the sharing but this can cause a problem sometimes. I then use a method like Explode All or Save as SketchUp 6 version, but again, this is weirdly welcome from the other side. Since SketchUp free is now web-based and the viewer has finally a measuring tool, this helps my cause a bit. But my fear is not that mister everyone (not drafters) steals my library when looking at a model, my fear is when a proper drafter who uses SketchUp PRO ends up with my library in his computer. This unfortunately happens and has a direct impact on client reducing the need for me as their house drafter can now do my job, using my library.

I’m very curious to have your general opinion on these subject. I’m wondering if creating an efficient workflow is such a good deal. But I can’t see myself not doing it. I can’t see myself drawing element one by one from scratch when I have a nice efficient dynamic library available. This library means more happy drafting, but less money I can bill.

Thx in advance for all your reply.

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If you’re going to continue charging an hourly fee, you clearly need to charge more or you need to stop using those features that speed up your work. You might consider changing your fee structure or setting up a minimum charge for a project with an additional hourly charge after that. Maybe your minimum is 10 hours worth.

As for models, my SketchUp models for projects are not available to anyone unless that is part of the contract in advance. One of my long term clients hired me with the agreement that I provide them with two different sets of construction documents and the SketchUp model for each project. My fee for those projects reflects what I’m delivering. I don’t have that agreement with other clients. They get a PDF document or images of the model depending on the project but the model remains in my possession.


1/ That sounds like a pain, but it would be a shame for it to impact your drive for efficiency. Can you not add a margin to your price anyway, say a few extra hours if that is what you have saved per job from your streamlining projects?

2/ @Enroth De-DC ify is decent in stripping DC’s down. Although it seems to convert the Top level units to in’. But if this is ok for you then it is a really handy extension

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As our businesses mature, the overheads do to.

I agree with this strategy. It is really important to account for all of your overheads in your billing.


every asset should have a price attached…

I will not charge you less for a new wind-machine simply because I carry stock and have pre-made sub-components in my workshop…

in fact I’m more likely to add a premium to cover storage on top of the full initial cost to myself…

you, as client, benefit from speed of delivery, which often can also carry a premium…

my 10 pence + storage + stock >> call it a pound sterling…



Not sure I understand the problem (if there is one).

If I were a taxi driver and were offered a car that got me to places twice as fast as any other, I would be able to double my number of rides. If I charged by the mile, I would double my income. If I charged by the hour, I would make the same amount but I would have a queue of people wanting to use me as it would cost them half as much. In fact, they would probably be happy to pay a bit more than half and that would increase my income.

Surely being able to do something more efficiently is normally win-win all round?


Unfortunatly Simon, I’m not in Taxi business!

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You kind of are if you charge by rate. I just used a simple analogy to illustrate my point.


I would just slightly increase your rate and also be able to take on more work, seems like a win win situation? It’s just the natural progression of getting better over time and improving workflows.

I can do in hours what would have taken me days but I find that helpful for many many reasons.

As for the second point, I never make models for people as I am an illustrator but in the odd occasion that I do for some reason (if I do Arch Viz to top up the old bank) it will have been agreed in advance. In those situations you could make custom materials specifically for that job (and also charge for them).

Nice topic.

More efficient could also mean more experienced so your rate should go up. Some people only look at the rate. Others want to see good quality, good references and know that experienced people and quality work cost more so they are ok with that.

I’m not sure why using a fixed rate shouldn’t work. Its what I do. It does take more time for making an estimate but its fair to all as long as you agree on a fixed amount of work for a fixed price. As long as the scope doesn’t change - you don’t charge extra. If the scope does change, like things get added that weren’t discusses before or (many) revisions are asked for - extra costs will be charged for an hourly rate.

Most of the people ask for the 3d model. I absolutely do ‘dumb down’ or strip down the model before its handed over. ‘Smart stuff’ is exploded into raw geometry. Some elements are deleted. Some textures are reduced in resolution / swapped. If you’re using 3rd party commercial libraries - most of the time you’re not allowed to re-distribute that anyway. Its all fairly easy to explain; the smart stuff is your property and you can’t share commercial libraries.

I would never stop using my smart modelling strategies that make my your working life easier and happier. Look for another solution to protect your income and libraries.

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Getting out of that frame of hourly rate would be my ultimate goal because obviously, hourly rate doesn’t work well for me. Increasing my rate simply make me lost contract. Even if I’m faster. Some client sees thing differently, mostly the one who don’t understand drafting and 3D modeling and the one who think stuff drawn itself. (different subject and we don’t want to go there) So my best scenario is a flat rate. Just like a cab from downtown to airport! ;)) Or like some in this forum replied, a flat rate or premium and hourly rate as extra. This sound’s good but I found it very difficult to evaluate jobs in a design process.
The taxi driver has different choices. Hours, or Miles. With those two, you can cover almost every situations. So what would be a mile in term of drafting? A pdf page? A render shot?

Actually, the taxi driver has the two rate systems of time and distance but he could also use a flat rate (as you suggest for an airport ride).

Personally, I use time, flat rate, and percentage (based on project value). I don’t know your field fo work to advise on what might be appropriate for you but what do your competitors do?

Thanks MaxB for your Reply. (Thanks to all by the way. This is SO interesting) I quickly understand that I’m not the only one struggling with this. The problem is not the principle, but the minding of some client we all depend on! MaxB, you’ve been “right on” the subject and I like your reply. I do “dumb down” my model to a point is barelly editable but very well viewable. I feel good that i’m not the only one doing this. By the way, did you knew the trick of saving your model in SketchUp 6 illiminate all dynamic component. I think this is cool!

That’s interesting: My competitor uses mostly AutoCAD and Vectorworks. AutoCAD delivers a very different result. Some client cares, some don’t. The one who cares like working with me but I’m facing A LOT of unsatisfaction when I export my SketchUp work to technical department… But the Set Designer as an exception loves SketchUp. As for competitor on Vectorworks, they have a version of the software (Spotlight) who contain a pretty big library of Stage element. And the cost of the software is similar to my SketchUp and all my extension. So in the end, comparing my work with my competition is like comparing Apples and Bicycles. What I do (“we do” to not be so pretentious) with SketchUp is pretty one of a kind.

I’ve experienced pressures to both reduce what I charge for what I do as well as reduce scope (control and responsibility) of work. It’s not just from me being more efficient, it’s competition and the marketplace generally caused by the proliferation of software and expectations.


I think we all, especially clients tend to error towards faster = better and therefore we try very hard to become more “efficient” to meet that demand. I’ve tried to re-orient that thinking to how do I add value to a project that others may not. That relieves some burden from just trying to undercut the competition in a race to the bottom. There’s always someone out there who will do it for less. And you will lose some clients as your fee increases but that’s normal and that’s business so don’t sweat it too hard…the higher paying clients are the ones you want anyway.

Like the others have said, slowly increase your rate so you don’t lose any of your clients right away from ‘sicker shock’ and describe very clearly in your contracts what the price is of your model and why. For example, you can provide two tiers of models for two prices…1. is the full model with all your assets for more money (enough to make your not worry about losing some intellectual property, and 2. a ‘simplified model’ (ie. lower cost) with those assets removed as they may not care about dynamic components and custom textures as much as they care about keeping costs down.

Good luck.


I only do very small projects hourly. I never include my models or CADD files as deliverables and if someone insists on having them I charge a surcharge. It is in your best interest to look at each project and try to establish a fee for it. Define the scope of work in your proposal and make it clear that the works will be approved incrementally as you go and revisions to previously accepted portions of the work will be extra. As a last ditch include in your agreement that the fee is based on a maximum of “X” hours. And if that Is exceeded the client has the option to renegotiate the fee of pay for the overture at hourly rates. You shoulldn’t Have to work for less because you don’t have a crystal ball.

I have been drawing houses and using computers for almost 30 years and I’m fast. I developed systems and methods to streamline the production of construction documents. And at the end of the day I try to determine the market value of what I’m doing and that’s what I charge regardless of how long it takes me to do it.


It is not a good way to work for hours.
It is ok in handicraft.
People pay for your ideas, for your way of creation, and for great results.
If You are convinced that Your work is desirable it is a waist to work for hours.
It will kill Your inspirations very soon.
Best regards

  • I charge a fixed rate for concept, draft and final plan stages and an hourly rate for revisions and variations. Value your work accordingly. That way, the faster I work the more I make per hour. If it is essential to charge an hourly rate, make sure you are having sufficient breaks. An employer would pay for toilet breaks, drink breaks, stretching your legs, etc… take care of yourself.
  • I export DWG files from layout for clients. Don’t give models unless requested in the contract and then take the precautions mentioned above.