Setting Expectations with Clients: 10 Steps for Interior Designers

Jun 29, 2024

As an interior designer, setting clear and realistic expectations with your clients is crucial for ensuring a successful working relationship and project outcome. Here are ten strategies I’ve used for years, which have proven effective for myself and other interior designers in my program:

1. Initial Consultation: Start with a thorough initial consultation to understand your client’s vision, needs, and budget. For example, during the first meeting, ask detailed questions about their style preferences and functional requirements to create a clear project brief.

living room with brown wooden table and chairs

2. Define Scope of Work: Clearly outline the scope of work, including what is and isn’t included in the project. For instance, provide a detailed document specifying the areas to be designed, the types of materials to be used, and any exclusions.

person in orange long sleeve shirt writing on white paper

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3. Set a Realistic Budget: Agree on a realistic budget early in the process. Use an example budget breakdown to show where funds will be allocated and discuss potential areas for cost-saving.

black and white Texas Instruments calculator

4. Create a Timeline: Develop a project timeline with key milestones and deadlines. Share an example timeline with your client, highlighting critical phases such as design approval, procurement, and installation.

black marker on notebook

5. Regular Updates: Schedule regular updates to keep your client informed. For example, set up bi-weekly meetings or send weekly email summaries to review progress and discuss any issues.

6. Visual Aids: Use visual aids like mood boards, 3D renderings, or sketches to convey your design ideas clearly. For example, present a digital mood board that illustrates the color scheme, furniture, and accessories for each room.

brown wooden cabinet near green and white table

7. Transparent Communication: Maintain transparency by discussing potential challenges or delays upfront. For instance, if a specific material has a long lead time, inform your client immediately and suggest alternatives.

two women talking while looking at laptop computer

8. Document Everything: Keep thorough documentation of all communications, decisions, and changes. Share an example of a change order form to show how you manage and record modifications to the original plan.

person writing on white paper

9. Client Involvement: Involve your client in key decisions to ensure their satisfaction. For example, invite them to showroom visits or material selection meetings to make choices that align with their vision.

Young female therapist sitting on chair and discussing problem with patients during psychotherapy session in group

10. Post-Project Review: Conduct a post-project review to discuss what went well and areas for improvement. For example, schedule a final meeting to walk through the completed space, gather feedback, and address any final adjustments needed.

Remember, setting expectations is not a one-time event. Continuously communicate with your client throughout the entire project to keep them informed and address any changes or concerns promptly. Being transparent, organized, and proactive in communication will help you establish a positive and productive working relationship with your clients as an interior designer.

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