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Business Tips

How to Communicate With Your Interior Design Clients

In this article, we'll go over why communication is so important when working with clients as a profressional interior designer and how you can master the art of persuasion required to seal the deal.

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Top things to know about communicating with your interior design clients:

  • When it comes to clients, you'll want to define the expectations for working together first.
  • Build trust with your clients by showing them care, asking them questions, and making them feel heard.
  • Use clear and concise language when communicating with your clients.
  • Always try to use concrete visuals over abstract concepts.
  • Most clients don't love surprises when it comes to services; it’s best to put them at ease and tell them what’s coming.

Working as an interior designer means you'll have clients you'll need to communicate with regularly. This communication can take many forms, but it essentially boils down to clarifying your expectations and trust. Trust means that your client knows what to expect from you, and you know what to expect from your client. A lack of trust between two parties creates a lot of tension in the process because one party doesn't fully understand what they are signing up for—this is what you'll want to avoid!

Communicating effectively with clients can be challenging, primarily when they are not used to working with an interior designer. However, if you approach communication with the right mindset and follow some simple tricks, it will become much easier for you and your client.

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Define the expectations for working together.

When you start working with clients, it is important to clarify what you expect from them. A great place to begin is by explaining your role in the design process. Similarly, your client might want to know what you expect from them too. It would help if you also defined your expectations upfront regarding communication. What do you require from the client? Do they need to email photos regularly? What about follow-ups after the work is completed and before payment is processed? Having clear expectations with your clients will save you the headache later and help make things run smoothly.

Also, clarifying your expectations and building trust in the early stages of your client-designer relationship will increase your client's chances of feeling comfortable working with a professional interior designer—which will be great for you in the long run!

Build trust with your client.

One of the most important aspects of building trust with your client is demonstrating that you care about them. Remember, your clients are people too! Sometimes it's as simple as respecting them and keeping open, honest communication. You'll also want to ensure that you always respond to your clients promptly, keep them updated on the status of their projects, and make a point to check in with them once or twice a week. Regularly checking in on the project and staying engaged will demonstrate that you care and are interested in what they have been doing.

You can also show your client how much you care about them through exercises like discovering their favorite colors or asking for feedback on certain design styles. Ask your clients questions and make them feel heard. These exercises can help build trust and endear your client more so to you as they feel valued when they leave the consultation.

Pro-Tip: If your client doesn’t know what their design style is, have them take this interior design style quiz to find out!

interior design mood board
Mood board by Liliane Haas. As a fun exercise, show your client a mood board of different design style images and see what they gravitate towards.

Master the art of persuasion.

People hate losses more than they love gains. When it comes to mastering communication with your client regarding explaining a product or design, this will be key to keep in mind. For instance, if you can position an item as something they already have and will be taken away if they don't purchase, they are more likely to buy. According to First Round Review, "Once people start contemplating their ownership and see it in action, that's their mental reference point. They'll have to suffer a loss if they decide not to buy."

How to put this into practice:

Try wording decorator and styling notes to make your client feel they already have the item or room in question. For example:

  • "Your living room is now so much brighter and cozier" instead of "Here's an option to make your living room brighter and cozier."
  • "This origami vase on your kitchen counter changes the entire space," instead of "Put this on your kitchen counter, and it will change the entire space."

Use clear and concise language.

Masterful storytelling is concise and clear. First Round Review says, "Storytelling is the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the difference between being a manager and being a leader, between closing a customer and winning a lifelong fan." It might sound silly, but pretend you're writing to a sixth-grader. The reality is that your clients are busy and don't have time to parse fuzzy concepts; it's your job as a designer to make things very clear to them.

How to put this into practice:

  • Your goal is never to dumb something down but to tighten it up. Consider this while you're writing styling notes for your clients. Your notes should be short and easy to digest.
office mood board designed in spoak

Mood board by Holly Wampler. The styling notes in this mood board are a great example of being descriptive yet concise and getting the point across clearly.

Use concrete visuals over abstract concepts.

When explaining a design style or idea to your client, you'll want to paint a picture for them.

For any success you seek to convey, ensure your description is underscored with a specific, concrete image—and not left as an abstract concept. Show them what you're trying to explain!

How to put this into practice:

  • Use mockups for everything! Every time you recommend something, use a visual to paint the picture. For example, you might show how different furniture combos can change a space or how a punch of color in a wall art selection can make the impact you're describing. For your clients to understand your ideas, they need to see them.
  • Teasers, or sneak peeks, are best executed with visuals. It's one thing to tell a client what's coming up in their project, but showing them by sneaking some teaser product into your mockups will help them visualize the room as a whole concept. For instance, it might be some pillows you're thinking about for the bed while you're sourcing the nightstands. Maybe it's a tray for their coffee table while you're working on sourcing living room furniture.

Clients don't love surprises.

Ruin surprises on purpose. Hear us out! First Round Review says, "Every time you surprise someone, you risk making them suspicious. Even when they don't become suspicious of you, they'll still be a bit less comfortable with you and what you're telling them than they were before."

How to put this into practice:

  • Ease your clients in their projects by telling them what's coming. When you start the project, let them know what you plan to cover in Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, etc. As your project continues, ensure you're always communicating what's coming up next to keep them excited.
  • Use teasers. If you've told your client you're going to tackle art in Phase 2, in Phase 1, you might want to tease a few art ideas by adding a couple of pieces to the book and including them in mockups. Doing this will help them visualize the room as a complete concept and build trust that you will come through with what they expect.
  • With your mockups/styling notes, show the full picture first, then dive into smaller areas. It can be almost stressful for a client to watch something "build up" without knowing how it ends. If you already have a vision for the end result, show it to them up front, and then dive into the details and vignettes.

When working with clients, it's important to maintain open lines of communication, build trust, and establish the right expectations upfront. You've got this!

Photo Credit: (Left) ELLE Decor

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Date Posted
September 30, 2022



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