How to Walk Your Client
I hear you say – “what?”
I know it sounds weird but I am quite serious.
You need to learn to walk your client through the design process. This means starting from scratch as if they a complete design virgins. And like life, they will never tell you if they know nothing about design as they won’t want to look inadequate in your eyes.
Let’s face it, the reason the client employs an interior designer is so that they can get a good end result achieved from a professional, but as you are well aware, you need considerable input from your client to make their project succeed.
Therefore you need to guide them, step by step into how that is achieved.
I was reminded of this when I had a client recently, who on the outside appeared in control and knew what she was talking about as she and her husband had recently had their home decorated I presumed she did. I was in a hurry as working with a newborn baby, time is precious, so I leapt straight in thinking she knew the process. When I started going over my design, I realized that the questions she was asking me were suspicious! Questions like “how do your other client’s make their color decisions?”, “how many choices do I get?”, “how do we know which colors can go in each room, do bathrooms have to be white?”. I suddenly thought that this was all new to her and she felt out of her depth, but didn’t want to admit it. I felt awful of course, because if the client can’t be open with their designer, how can you possibly get a good result? I had not followed my own rules. How did I fix this, you ask?
I quietly turned the conversation around to how a project goes together and discussed her needs and expectations as a client of the designer, the process of how a design goes together and what information I would give her to help us finalize color choice decisions together. It was amazing, all of a sudden she came out of her shell and we finished choosing all her colors in a matter of minutes, with quick and fast questions from her, answers back from me and then she could decide on what she liked without worrying if she was going to make a mistake. A mistake? This is not how a client should feel – being in fear of making a mistake; they should feel comfortable with you as a designer, they should be able to say, I don’t like that color or finish and move on feeling happy with their decisions.
We have to remember that as designers we do this every day, our clients will only do this once in a while and it is usually involves a large financial cost, so they are really worried about making mistakes in their choices and having to live with them everyday.
At the end of our meeting, she said she was so happy to be able to work with someone who involved her and listened and made the decision making easy for her, she didn’t have to think about making mistakes, because all the answers to her questions made her feel comfortable with what she had chosen. She was relieved, and I must admit, so was I. It was a good reminder for me to follow my own design process and explain it to the client, even when I think that the client has done it all before.
I hope you can learn from my mistakes and make all your client experiences good ones!
Further reading on design processes
The design process (downloadable)
The design process (online)
The key to a successful design
An just for fun – if you are thinking about color schemes – why not sign up for the free color ecourse here and get your color skills a step ahead of your competition!