First, do you know that you don't have to accept every potential client that comes your way? You can screen clients to make sure that your partnership will be a good fit. You can qualify them to make sure they are looking for what you are offering. You can interview them to make sure they have honorable intentions.
Interior design projects are personal. They are demanding and emotional and stressful. You want to make sure that when you enter into a relationship with this other person that you both get your needs met and respected.
Because when we accept projects and agree to work with somebody only for the money or out of desperation, it can create headaches deep into the project. Often either the designer or the client ends up unhappy. When we jump into a project too quickly without properly taking time to evaluate if it is the right project, we may realize later that it is not a good fit and then it is much harder to extract yourself from that project. We may have to give more than we wanted to to have a happy client.
5 Questions to Ask Potential Clients
Here are 5 powerful questions that will help you determine if a potential client is a good fit. Listen to what they are saying and what they don't say. Read between the lines. Listen to your gut. Honor the vibes you get from the client. Be curious.
1. Have you worked with a designer before? How did it go?
This question provides insight into any previous experiences that the client may have had. Maybe they've blown through 7 designers and 5 contractors already. Maybe they worked with someone who didn't deliver, maybe that designer didn't deliver because the client wasn't clear in their expectations. If they have worked with a designer before you can ask what they liked, what they didn't like and really see some of their expectations for you coming out. Maybe they've never worked with a designer and you're going to have to hold their hand more or explain the process.
2. Why are you hiring an interior designer?
This speaks to the motivation of the client. Why do they want to hire a designer, why now? What about their current situation made them search for a professional? Did their contractor push a designer on them? Are all their friends hiring one and they want to be with the "in-crowd"? Do they watch home improvement shows religiously and want that same experience? Did they try it themselves and realize that it was out of their wheelhouse? Find out why they are enlisting the services of a designer and make sure they're in line with the work you do.
3. What are you looking for in an interior designer?
Being direct in the beginning will set the tone for open communication. You also want to make sure that what they are looking for is something that you can (and want) to provide. This question may be answered when you ask question 2 above, but if not make sure you ask. This is also helpful if during the project their expectations of what they wanted change. Then you can bring it back to when they answered this question. In our initial conversation, you told me that you were looking for creativity, but I feel like we're copying this image from Pinterest. This is a good place to watch out for people who only hire you for your designer discount. You can find us the cheapest price, right? Ultimately, their answer should reflect a respect and appreciate for interior design professionals.
4. How hands-on will you be?
Talk to the client about how they want to participate in the project. Do they just want to approve the proposals? Or would they rather go shopping with you? Are they expecting to do some work themselves? Do they want to see a bajillion options or is the one that you select going to be enough? Are they going to have their husband weigh in? What about their friends, co-workers, neighbors, mother-in-law, and entire bookclub? If their answer fits with the way that you work awesome! Or you can avoid working with a client who wants to be your shopping buddy or gives no feedback.
5. What are your expectations for this project?
I am a HUGE proponent of setting appropriate expectations with your clients. I believe this is the main reason that projects fail and clients are unhappy. This begins by asking early and often what clients expect. What a potential client expects of the project may be much different from how you work or what you see needs to be done. They may expect that you'll be available 24/7, they may think that you're going to give them a room that looks exactly like their favorite inspiration image - down to the same furniture. They may expect that when you give the design presentations it'll be just like on TV. Or they expect that the budget is a TV budget. Having this conversation early allows you insight into the client and if their expectations are reasonable and doable or if they need to be set free.
If you find yourself in a project that is not the right fit for you check out these articles: