The questions you ask of a prospective client should, among other things, help you to filter out who are not your ideal clients, save time, and help to clarify what they expect of you. All of this will allow you to be very specific in your proposal for their project. So what are some of the questions that can help you avoid negative outcomes and instead produce a successful project?
First of all, be sure to put as much information as possible in your FAQ’s on your website. That can act as an initial filter. Then try to do some additional filtering on the phone before you set an appointment.
The first thing you want to do is to get their permission for either of you to walk away after your interview. So ask: Do you mind if I ask you some questions to understand if we’d be a good fit; and if you feel that we aren’t, would you be OK with saying so during this conversation? It’s really important that it be a mutually comfortable relationship and I want to be sure that we can be very open with each other. Is that OK?
Basic Questions to Ask Your Design Clients
Ask them how they heard about you, and what they heard. This may give you an idea of their expectations and who referred them.
Then ask questions to reveal what is expected in the working relationship and client fit.
- Have you worked with a designer before? If yes, then what was the experience like? Is there a particular reason you aren’t planning to work with them now? (Responses that aren’t “red flags”: retired, ill, moved away, not doing design anymore.) Whether yes or no, it is important to clarify how your firm works during this initial meeting.
- Are you meeting with other designers? (It helps to find out who your competition is and what their selection criteria is.)
- Why do they want to work with a designer?
- What is important to you about having your home designed?
- What will that do for you?
- What would a great interior design experience and result be for you?
- What are the qualities they are looking for in a designer? It will probably surprise them that you would ask this but it can be a big help in finding out if you will be a good fit for each other.
- Who will be making the decisions on this project? Then be sure to get their direct phone number and email address. Ask what is their preferred form of contact? (phone, text, email, etc.)
- How do you resolve differences between you if you don’t agree on something? (Very telling and important you pay attention to their answers)
- How involved are you planning to be in the process? (very, somewhat, minimally)
- If the project is a remodel ask if they have been through a remodel before and if so, what was it like? What was most challenging?
Client Questions About Time and Money
Be sure to include questions dealing with the investment they are planning to make in the project and the expected timeframe (use the term investment throughout the project – not budget – as it is an investment in their home/project, etc. and they need to view it as such) These questions will tell you if the amount they plan to invest is a good fit for your firm.
- Should we decide to work together, we will be working together for months and perhaps longer. It’s similar to a marriage and my job is to guide you with your investment in your home/project. Most of us are taught not to discuss money, but that can create conflict and I don’t for that to happen. How would you feel about us openly discussing what you want to invest?
- What is your preferred time frame for having this project complete? Do you have a special event coming up? (Their answer will let you know if they have an unrealistic deadline and you can discuss that before getting into the project.
- What is more important to you, the budget or the result? Are you more focused on the end result, or on staying within the budget for the project we are discussing? The reason to ask is that some people want a specific result, and if it is more than the investment they planned to spend, they’d rather do the project in phases. If you want the project done in phases, please list the rooms/areas, and in order.
Client Questions About Style
Of course you want to ask questions to assess the client’s design style to identify their preferences for patterns, colors, types of flooring, etc. But don’t forget to ask what they do not like, as well. In addition, you might include:
- What appealed to you about the home you purchased?
- What is your favorite (home furnishings or fashion) brand? Why is that? (Their answers will help you determine their level of taste and their affinity for high-end brands)
- What interior design magazines do you read? (Their answers here will help you understand the sophistication of their taste.)
- Do you entertain a great deal? Are you involved in the community? (This question helps you understand if “fitting in” is a concern for them.)
At the end of the interview walk them through a complete project and explain the process. This in addition to putting together an effective questionnaire will not only identify “red flags” but will help clarify the process involved should you decide to work together. By giving them an overview of how you work you also will have left the impression that they are dealing with a firm that has professional business processes in place and they will begin to see the value of the investment in your services.