interior design business, design project, customer service, clients

Starting a Design Project the Right Way

Have you ever heard that saying that you should always "start the way you want to finish"? That REALLY applies to interior design projects, too! If you want the project to finish with the client singing your praises, everything neatly tied up, and those wow-worthy interiors, then you have to start with a happy client, an organized process, AND a great design. Here are my can't-fail tips for starting a design project the right way!

1. Set Expectations

The most important thing you can do with a new client or project is to provide all the information you can about how you work and what your expectations are for your client. You want to talk about communication, timelines, and fees. You want to be VERY honest about the budget and the scope of work. Tell your client when and how you want to meet, introduce them to members of your team, and make them aware of any challenges. Like the fact that furniture and appliances have a FAR longer lead time than normal. You want to be honest and provide them with all the information they need so that they understand how the project will progress and how you and your team work. It's even better if you can give them a Welcome Packet that spells all of this out. That helps to avoid any future questions or issues. (If you want help with a welcome packet, get in touch with me!)


Most of the problems that come up later in a project can be traced right back to the fact that you probably didn't listen to what the client asked for. As designers, we can get SO excited by the potential in a house that we forget to listen to what the client wants! And maybe we don't agree with what they're asking for, so we conveniently forget. The key to a great project is that you give your client a home that's beautiful AND also supports how they live. And sometimes that means compromise. But start off on the right foot by gathering all the information you can. Use extensive client questionnaires, get input from EVERY family member, go over their Pinterest boards and ideas with them to make sure you understand what it is they love. If you can deliver them a home that hits all of their goals, you're going to be the hero!

3. Go Over the Contract

You want to have a great contract that really covers possible future issues. Those could include price increases from vendors, damage in the home, freight costs, and more. But two things that people tend to forget in the contract is a point about photography and also references. You want to be sure the client understands that photos are what make your business and get you future work. And you want the client to refer you to other clients. Tell them that you want them to be so happy at the end of the project that they will want to tell everyone they know about you! Review the contract with your client, explaining each point and why it's there. This shouldn't be adversarial - it's just business. When you go over the contract together, point by point, it helps avoid any issues months down the road. 

4. Ask for Questions

This is also the right time for you to give the client space to ask ANY and all questions. Not only does that help them understand how the process will work, it also helps to establish trust between you. If you make it clear that you're an open book and that no topic is off the table, they will feel that you're being transparent and open. And that will help them trust you in the future, too!

An interior design project is a collaboration between you and your client. That's how you want it to start so that when it ends EVERYONE is happy! Download my FREE Collaboration Tips to help you start off on the right foot!



Check out more design business tips and tricks

4 Tips for Attracting (and Keeping!) Great Clients

Why Customer Service Is More Important Than Ever

Wrapping It Up: The Final Touches

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