Five Things Interior Designers Can Do Before Starting a Project to Create a Positive Working Relationship
As an interior designer, it is important to maintain good relationships with your clients. Unhappy clients can negatively affect your reputation ultimately leading to the loss of future clients and revenue. Here are some steps you can take with your clients before starting your next design project to help keep things positive:
1. Hear them out
Often times, clients have an idea of what they want to accomplish but not necessarily how to make it happen. Whether they present numerous ideas or just a few, it is your job to listen, process their thoughts, and present a viable solution. You may find that their ideas conflict with your professional opinion, so be sure to give your advice, share some best practices, and let them know what you believe works best. Many times, clients will value your input and work with you to achieve the optimal result. Remember, your job is to deliver the result they are looking for. If you find that the client is insistent on doing things their way and you absolutely cannot make it work, you might want to reconsider working on that project.
2. Be upfront about fees and payment options
Before presenting payment options to your client, be sure to consider all the labor any additional staff that will be needed to complete the project. Give your clients a sense of what you think it may cost and let them know up front exactly what your billing structure is. Will your clients be billed hourly or charged a flat fee? What other fees may be factored into the overall invoice? Being upfront in the beginning will help to alleviate any issues at the completion of the project.
3. Discuss the client’s involvement in the process
With more access to products online, today’s design client is much savvier. As a designer, your professional opinions on what products and styles work best can sometimes clash with your client’s wants and needs. It is important to set guidelines and determine just how much input your client will have. Will they be purchasing some pieces of furniture or will you be in charge of all purchasing? Are there certain pieces they must have, or will you be determining what goes well with the overall style? Addressing these boundaries early in the process will prevent any miscommunication and help to keep everyone on the same page.
4. Use your past experience as a guideline
Experience is the best teacher. If you’ve had an issue or miscommunication with a client in the past, try to address this with your current client to avoid a reoccurance. This helps establish trust between you and your client and prepares them for the process ahead. If you are just starting out, it helps to speak with other designers to discuss issues they’ve had in the past, so you know what to avoid.
5. Set realistic deadlines
Be sure to set a timeline that works for both you and your client, with some time to spare before the deadline. Be mindful of unexpected issues that may arise, such as a delayed delivery or construction mishap. Clients will sometimes be determined to have a project completed by a certain date, but if this deadline is unrealistic you must address it before contracts are signed. Setting up the proper boundaries and expectations in the beginning will help to avoid lawsuits and damage to your reputation.