Starting Your Career as an Interior Designer: The Business of Interior Design
Robert and I were talking the other day with our writer about working with clients and I remembered that when I first started I would see clients whenever they wanted to meet. I was, after all, new to the business of sole proprietor and felt I needed to meet every expectation of each and every client. That meant late nights, weekends and early mornings. I remember one particular occasion when I was asked to meet with the clients early on a Sunday afternoon. It would mean I would be driving out to the construction site which would take about 50 minutes each way. I was excited about doing the whole house but the client had yet to pay the retainer I had asked for the project. They told me the check and signed letter of agreement would be with them on that Sunday. So, without another thought about it, I made the appointment. The day dawned bright and clear and I was looking forward to seeing how the project had progressed since our last meeting. At this point I already had about 2 hours invested without seeing a dime of income. It had also been my practice to meet with clients the first time at no charge. But, that’s another story.
I met the clients at the appointed time and we went right to work. We spent about 2 hours going through the roughed-in 4,500 sq. ft. home and I was lavish with my ideas for the job and very open about resources and the like. After all, I had the job, didn’t I? At the end of the meeting the clients thanked me for my time and started to get into their car. I asked about the letter of agreement and they said they had decided to use another designer and, although they liked many of my earlier ideas and would incorporate them into the working plan, just wanted to hear more of my ideas in case they wanted to share them with the new designer selected. Well, I was dumbstruck. I didn’t have a snappy retort and simply stood there as they drove away. I considered torching the place but decided better.
What I did decide was Never on Sunday. I also decided not to let myself be walked on again by prospective clients. It became the policy of my firm not to meet with prospective clients except during our standard office hours. By demanding the respect I and my team deserved as professionals we were able to more accurately qualify new clients. As the years have rolled by I have certainly met with clients on Saturday, early evenings and early mornings. Just never on Sunday. It has given me the time away from the business I need and, at the same time, made me far more aware of the value of my time when working with clients. Clients have far more respect for those of us who set certain parameters as to how we will do business. Consider how you might use the same principal in your business.