Today’s article about free interior design advice was inspired by a question I received from Kaitlyn. She has a relatively new business, but this is something that I’ve seen in well-established interior design firms.
My own business is still young and the thing I feel like I struggle with the most is the very first client consultation. My struggle is this: how to get the client without giving away too many ideas. Clients all want to hear your ideas of their space or your inspirations but sometimes I feel like they take your initial suggestions and run away with it without me. How do I inspire confidence and trust with out giving too much away and getting the client to sign that contract?
Have you felt this way? How to get clients to trust you’re the right person for the job without giving away all your ideas? Here is what you can do:
Have a Design Point of View
First, clients should see your aesthetic - on your website or social media and relate to it. They should want their house to look like the work you produce. That’s why they’re hiring you. I don’t believe in doing all styles for all types of clients. Specialization is important. If you have a clear point of view in your designs the client will be hiring you for that and your past projects will be your support.
You can act professional without giving away your bread and butter - your ideas. If you can demonstrate that you know what you’re doing and run your business professionally and not as a hobby (→ learn more about that here: Are you running an interior design business or hobby?) then you will inspire confidence and trust. Clients really want to know that you have talent, skill, and the know-how to get the job done.
Focus on Service
You offer more than your ideas, it’s also about your experience, project management, your expertise. I think that it is important to emphasize this rather than your ability to pick nice things. Anyone can pick nice things, you’re providing a service not just shopping. You should be able to highlight this. If you are meeting with a prospect and they are just looking for free ideas then you didn’t screen them beforehand well enough. Need some more ideas on why to hire an interior designer → 101 Reasons to Hire an Interior Designer.
Be clear about what will happen during the consultation - before the consultation. Spell it out for them in details. Tell them that you’re not there to talk about their home, but to make sure you’re a fit for the project and each other. Let them know how long you’ll be there and what will happen during that time. There are many components of the first consultation that you need to figure out before you meet with any clients. What is the purpose of the consultation, what happens during it, what happens before, what about after, are you going to charge? Once you’re clear on this in your own business (this falls under “be professional”) then you can set up the client’s expectations.
Give a Taste
I think it’s good to show enthusiasm and give prospects a little taste of what is possible. What a beautiful home, it has so much potential! This is also a good time to show off a little - go ahead and throw in fancy designer lingo to establish authority. A open fireplace with Italianate majolica tiles and a dog grate would look fantastic in your dining room, maybe with a Heriz rug in front. These sorts of ideas show off your knowledge and are not easily reproducible. I think throwing out an idea or two is good to give clients a taste, but you don’t want to give too much away for free. Your ideas are your money-makers! I tell clients that it takes time for me to process all the information - the client’s tastes, their home, their lifestyle, their budget - and come up with the best possible solution for their home and family.