Five Mistakes to Avoid at the Initial Consultation

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Five Mistakes to Avoid at the Initial Consultation

You could be making some crucial mistakes at the interior design initial consultation that are jeopardizing the growth of your interior design business.

Today, I’m sharing Five Mistakes to Avoid at this all-important first meeting.

I have over 100 reviews from happy clients, and now charge $800 for my two-hour consultation meeting. Needless to say, I have learned a lot along the way and am sharing with you the biggest pitfalls to avoid!

I encourage you to watch the video and see where you can improve your business processes.

Make sure you have my Free 4 page PDF download for a comprehensive list of what Interior Design Services to offer to your client’s and estimates of fees so you are confident in knowing what to charge. (More on that in Tip#5)

Five Mistakes to Avoid at the Consultation

1. Not getting payment up front

I highly recommend setting up your processes to receive payment for services before you meet with a client. When you do this from the offset, to confirm the consultation booking in your calendar, you set a precedent for how you work.

We require payment for all services ahead of time and for 100% of furniture for our Custom Design and Project Management services. This way, when client’s choose to move forward with further services, we don’t get pushback because they understand that THIS IS HOW WE WORK.

This structure also helps to land better clients, those who are willing to invest in a professional and client’s who respect that you have structured processes in place. I love all my clients, we have a beautiful working relationship!

2. Taking the tour!

I did this when I was first starting my business nearly 10 years ago. I thought it was a good way to kill time to be honest, because then I was nervous and new. And that’s exactly what it does!

Taking the tour as soon as you arrive at a client’s home kills precious time. It usually involves you looking around the entire home, listening to everything your client wants to change in each space.

Unless you’ve been hired to redesign their whole house, your time could be better spent focusing on one or two key areas and really hit on their main pain points.

I have had great success in setting up the structure of my consultations where I sit down with the client first. I have a branded client folder that includes a welcome letter and I briefly review details of this, sharing what we do and how we can help them with their project.

We also review their completed questionnaire to further discuss their requirements, desires and budget…THEN we can take a look around the house, focusing on the areas that need our attention first.

I have found that client’s like (and appreciate) this approach. It sets them at ease. Despite the fact that they are excited to have you there, people can often feel anxious and are a little unsure of what to expect from your visit. I want to make the most efficient use of our time together at this 2 hour meeting and find this approach works best.

3. Holding back advice

I hear so many designers say that they don’t like to give away too much at the consultation, as they are fearful that in doing so, the client won’t need to hire them on for further services. I can tell you that in my experience, the opposite is true!

Once I start sharing details of various elements of design that need to be considered, client’s seem suprised and sometimes overwhelmed, because they didn’t realize all the details that go into a design project.

Plus, I simply can’t hold back. It’s not in my nature.

Now, I am not saying that I will come up with a complete and detailed design on the spot, a lot of what we do definitely takes time and research. Design is often a complicated process with many moving parts. But if I can offer insight to a design challenge that will help my client or provide ideas for further inspiration, then I will gladly give as much value as I can – after all, that’s what client’s are paying us for!

4. Avoiding ‘Money Talk’

When you avoid talking about money with your clients or you aren’t confident in discussing estimated fees for a project and approximate costs for furnishings, it will come back to bite you later. I promise.

Mistake #4 of things to avoid doing at the consultation is NOT talking about the money. If you find that you frequently get pushback from client’s about pricing, it may very well be because you aren’t confidently discussing money matters in your initial conversations.

Understanding costs involved for a renovation or custom design project is probably one of the most challenging elements for homeowners embarking on a home project. If they tell you they don’t have a budget, it doesn’t mean that they have unlimited funds or they don’t know what money they have in their bank accounts. It is generally because they haven’t a got a clue on what to expect or how much they should budget for, which is totally understandable with a lot of the misleading information on shows such as HGTV.

I encourage you to see this as an opportunity to educate your client. Have open conversations about realistic costs of quality furnishings and custom finishes. As you break down details of the scope of their project, provide them with an idea of costs for your fees and draw on past projects where you can.

We do this successfully with our Furniture Pricing Guides for custom living rooms and bedrooms. It may have been a while since your new client has done a home design or decorating project. Talk openly with them about estimated costs.

I’m not suggesting you commit yourself to any specific number, but if you know that their investment amount is way too low for what they desire, then you need to have this conversation with them at this first meeting. It will help to manage their expectations going forward and help to avoid sticker shock and disappointment at your presentation meeting.

5. Unclear of next steps and your services

If you are unclear on how to articulate how you work with clients and the next steps in working with you, this will decrease your chances of having the client hire you for further interior design or decorating services.

Establishing a clear list of services and setting corresponding rates is crucial to the success of your business. Once you have these determined and set up, getting great clients will be so much easier!

Psst -go grab my FREE Download on Design Services and Rates with a walk through video.

You should bring documentation with you to the consult that includes details about your services and how you can help client’s achieve the dreams they have for their home.

Clients can’t work with you and won’t invest in further services if you are unable to confidently articulate how you can benefit their project and provide them with an estimate of anticipated design fees.

In our consultation folder that we bring to every first client meeting, we include a printed copy of our Service Outline PowerPoints. These detailed outline the 3 main services that we provide past the consultation meeting.

These documents allow us to easily explain the value in what we can do and how hiring a professional for their project will help clients to save precious time and not waste money.

Essentially, we use these as a marketing tool to not only determine the best service for our client’s specific needs and budget, but also to help us in closing the sale.

With a clearly defined list of next steps, we get our contract signed and collect a deposit payment to move forward with the next phase of design services.

We work with fabulous client’s and attribute much of our success to having Claire-ity in the way we structure our business. I want the same for you, so I hope you found this post helpful!

Further Resources



Pricing Guides Cover Home Shop Page Claire Jefford
Make pushback a thing of the past! Educate client’s on costs to furnish a room


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