Design Business

Working with First Time Design Clients

Working with first-time design clients can be both a joy and a pain.

The reasons for joy are self-apparent: You’re making money and you’re helping someone improve their space. It’s a win-win scenario for you both.

However, the downsides of working with a first-time design client can sometimes interrupt the joy. For example, first timers don’t often understand the process of working with a professional interior designer. They may expect too much too soon and for too little. They get sticker shock. They want to micromanage the entire design process. It can be maddening, to say the least.

However, it is possible to have a pleasant, amicable relationship with first-time design clients. In this post, we’ll explore several aspects of working with first-timers, including how to find them and how to effectively manage their design needs.

Here’s a list of additional tips for working with first-time interior design clients.

How to Work With the DIY Type Client

Pinterest has turned almost everyone into amateur interior designers. While Pinterest is a wonderful resource that’s sparked millions of insanely creative ideas, it has also made it more challenging for interior designers to do what they do best. Everyone wants to DIY their interior design— including your clients.

Often times, a client comes to you because they (consciously or subconsciously) recognize their own shortcomings when it comes to interior design. Perhaps they started on a project and then became overwhelmed by all of the tasks required. Or, they decided to use your services to save time and effort, but they’re still planning on micromanaging you every step of the way.

Either way, working with a DIY client can be difficult because you’re bumping against egos and their need to control the process.

Is there any hope? Absolutely. When working with a DIY client, help them understand that you’re their partner and you both have a common goal. Communicate often, share your vision for the final outcome, and be willing to listen to the client’s concerns, fears, and suggestions. If you disagree with a client’s suggestion, back it up with professionalism, logic, and examples.

How to Find First-Time Interior Design Clients

First-time interior design prospects are everywhere, but finding one and getting them to trust you with their project (and their money) isn’t easy.

Start your search by going to where the highest-quality prospects are most likely to hang out. Hint: It’s the Internet’s largest social media platform with over 2 billion users.

If you guessed “Facebook,” you’re absolutely right. Facebook is the best place to search for prospective interior design clients because so many people use the platform. What’s even better is that Facebook allows you to zero in on the ideal design prospects with its intense targeting options.

For example, you can set your ads to show to only those who’ve liked a certain interior designer or who’ve purchased a home within the last 12 months or who are interested in pregnancy-related topics (this may indicate that a baby’s on the way and a nursery’s in order). As you can see, there are countless ways to use Facebook to find prospective clients.

Another option is to advertise on DIY blogs. Sure, you’ll attract DIY clients, but as long as you follow the tips in this post, you should be able to work well together.

How to Set Yourself Up for Success With First-Time Design Clients

Let’s discuss how to prepare yourself to work with a first-time interior design client.

Set Expectations With New Interior Design Clients

First-time interior design clients

It’s up to you to set expectations for first-time interior design clients. You have the monumental task of “de-HGTV-ing” your new client. Some clients come in expecting the process to resemble their favorite interior design TV show. They provide a list of three to five must-haves and you read their mind and create a jaw-dropping final project within the span of an hour, minus commercial breaks.

Of course, real-life interior design doesn’t work like that. It can take months of waiting for deliveries. Weeks of coughing through sawdust and getting stuck on plastic-covered doorways. Days of you frantically tweaking designs due to zoning problems. Hours of shopping. Minutes of your team arranging and rearranging furniture. And finally seconds of breathless anticipation while waiting for the client to finally give their nod of approval.

It’s not like HGTV at all. It’s a lot more nerve-wracking— for both you and the client.

Teach your first-time interior design client how to work with you. Give them a primer on the interior design process.

Give your clients a primer on the interior design process. Here's how: Click To Tweet

Sometimes, it’s best to provide your first-time interior design client with a document that clearly states what to expect and when.

Also, be clear about the budget and make sure that your client understands everything on it. Your goal should be to make them feel comfortable about their first interior design experience. If you can accomplish this, they’ll likely work with you in the future.

Avoid Talking Money

Step one: Don’t talk money. At least not at first.

While money is an important part of your business arrangement, you should avoid talking about money in the initial consultation with your first-time interior design client. Help them understand the process of working with an interior designer. Understand their needs and desires for the project. Get a clear idea of what you both need before you introduce potential costs. In fact, you can even ask them for their budget— but don’t get into the nitty-gritty of project costs just yet.

Save the money talk for the follow-up meeting. Here, you’re better informed about what the client needs, and you can then create a more specific budget without throwing out scary estimates that may be more than the actual final cost.

After discussing money, require a down payment so that your first-time interior design client becomes fully invested in the process.

Expect Pushback

First-time interior design clients

No matter how much you prepare certain clients, some will hesitate when it comes to paying for your services. Some first timers experience sticker shock when they receive an interior design proposal. But that doesn’t mean that you should give up on them. It simply means that you should take your time to explain how you arrived at your figure.

Be sure to put everything in writing. Your proposal and an itemized list of costs, which should include furniture costs, delivery fees, and your fees. Also explain what goes into the design process and how long you typically spend drafting, sourcing, shopping, and arranging furniture. It may seem obvious to you, but it can help the wary first timer understand the scope of your services and the value that they’re truly receiving from working with you.

If the first timer still balks at the cost, give them time to think over your proposal. Don’t pressure them into making an immediate decision.

Sometimes, your client will ask for a discount or lower your fees. Don’t do that. Not only does that cheapen your value, it’s an insult to your other clients who pay full price.

Final Thoughts

Working with first-time design clients can be challenging, but also rewarding. If you play your cards right, you’ll win a client (and their referrals) for life. Use the above tips to improve your strategy for working with those new to the world of professional interior design

Don’t forget to download your list of tips for working with first-time interior design clients here.