The Ideal Client – The same way clients look for the ideal person to work with, designers and solution providers also look for clients who are ideal to work with
This combination of “ideal-ness” makes the project go even better than usual, less stressful and overall an enjoyable experience for all involved.
Hope this post finds you well and if by now you don’t know, I am writing this post with a broken heart since last month I had to let my fur baby Jesse (The best Golden Retriever Dog ever) go.
It was sudden and quick but the pain and emptiness in my heart have brought up so many emotions. Anyway, this is my usual little deviation for today.
SO WHAT MAKES A CLIENT AN IDEAL CLIENT?
A lot of time people may think that if they have an unlimited budget or a huge project they are the coveted ideal client. Although, an unlimited budget may be appealing- that never happens and I am a firm believer in that “genius is born in limitation”. Part of the genius creativity and challenge is to work within certain parameters.
As for a huge project, I can say that not all that “glistens is gold”. By that I mean I have worked on huge projects and clients have been a total dream. But I have also worked on projects where clients were a worse nightmare than those with unrealistic budgets and those with little to no people skills.
The unrealistic budgets is an opportunity to discuss and to educate as to why something costs what it costs. Lack of people skills, that is something that is non-negotiable for me. It is something that cannot be taught, but it is definitely what helped me know – who I don’t want as a client.
There is a lot of competition out there, like most I try to set myself apart from the crowd by offering special services, uniqueness and each designer has a special something to offer. If nothing else, a different perspective. Besides, I am also a great believer in that the Universe has enough abundance and clients for everyone who is authentic, ethical and good at what they do.
So, the same way I may not be everyone’s designer I have learned the hard way that not everyone is my ideal client either.
My ideal client from a designer’s perspective is a client who realizes why he or she hired a professional who has expertise in this area. There are many kinds of ideal clients, some know what they like and don’t like. Some have no clue about colors and know it, some have no desire to be creative, others want to make sure they don’t make selections or mistakes that will cost money and not accomplish a well put together space.
An ideal client also has some idea of cost & value and if they don’t, they do a bit of research beforehand. However, if they don’t have any idea of cost & value then believe me when I say’ that it is not the designer’s desire – at least not mine – to spend every penny from the budget and then some. Nor do we think, “Oh well if she has $50K to do a kitchen and some flooring, let’s make sure we come in at $65K because she must have it.” NOT AT ALL!
SPEAKING OF BUDGET
For me and my business, the best form of advertising is a satisfied client who will tell her family and friends about me. The same applies when working within client’s realistic budget if I bring in the project on budget, or under a realistic budget, the client is likely to hire me for future projects and refer me.
When designers ask for a budget it is simply to get an idea of where do we go from here? what can we do for that amount? and what is in the best interest of the client and the project? What makes sense?
My thoughts are something along the lines: Well let me see what she needs? what does she want? what is a must have and how could I make this work?
On the other hand, if a client tells me they want to do a complete master bath renovation and they have $5,000 dollars then, my thought is ok let’s break this down into small bites to shed some respectful light on the budget vs expectations.
I have experienced a client tell me – “Well, I watch HGTV and they have done many bathrooms for less than $5,000”. Then, it’s time to explain “The made for TV” method.
All in all, working with an expert within any industry is all about getting to know each other. Listening is key on both parts and ultimately seeing if it is a good fit or not. But the most important aspect of being a good client is your people skills. Basic, good old fashion people skills. That said a bit of common sense and trust also comes in handy.
REMAIN OPEN MINDED
A designer is your guide to make the right choices, your advocate when it comes to dealing with the trades if your designer has been hired to manage the project. Your designer doesn’t want to tell you that an item or a certain part of the project is going to cost more- just because she feels you can just write a check.
An ethical, authentic and good designer will go to bat for you and deliver as promised, a designer wants an outstanding end result as much as you. Remember, this is her life work.
If you want to be an ideal client, please listen, be open to suggestions of alternatives and why. Respect office hours and if something comes up on the weekend or a Holiday unless it is an emergency don’t text, call or email. Wait until the next workday.
When you have a lot of requests, make a list, save the list and add to it. Review your list in person at the next meeting to make sure everyone is on board.
If you don’t see something in the agreement ask, mention it- chances are that if it is not in the agreement you haven’t been charged for it and it won’t happen. The same if you have doubts about what is included vs what is not included.
Being proactive avoids issues later, don’t assume that because you mentioned it two months ago when you first started working together it is going to be included.
When making selections, be open to a suggestion without compromising what you want and love. But hear the pros and cons and listen to your designer when she says, if it were my kitchen/bathroom or home I wouldn’t do it. Let your designer inform you why one product is a better option for your particular use or why one color palette may be better than another.
After you have made your selections I respectfully suggest that you don’t continue looking. For example light fixtures, you already have one and you love it so you said yes. Now, you are scouring the internet just to see if you see something better than the one you chose. This will only make you uncertain about your selections and it will drive you crazy.
We all change our minds about something we choose at some point, but don’t obsessively keep revisiting every single element you have already selected. Remember, a lot of manufacturer and vendors either charge a restocking fee or don’t accept returns especially if the items are special order. At the same time is important to remain flexible as sometimes items are discontinued, back ordered or simply a better option shows up.
If after a wall, and I mean a wall or two- are painted you decide the color is not right – speak up don’t wait till the entire house is painted to say so. When in doubt, ask for the painter to stop and call for a meeting. Revisit the paint selection, but be prepared to pay for additional paint if all the paint has already been purchased.
To avoid this have samples of the color put on several walls and look at the color in different lights. Live with the color for a day or so. It seems like it would add to the timeline, but believe me it will save you money and disappointment.Your designer will make sure this happens prior to the final selection, but sometimes paint stores make mistakes when mixing custom colors/or on a color match.
TIMELINE & EXPECTATIONS
Talking of timeline, if the length of the project is something that is really important to you and you want it completed in that time or sooner; understand that the timeline and the accessibility to the project site by the workers are directly correlated. You are really paving the way for disappointment if you say something like:
“Well, the installers/crew cannot be here before 10 am during the week, and they must be gone by 4 pm. On Wed, Thurs & Fri they need to leave by noon because I go to yoga, and Tuesday it really is a pain to have all that noise before 2 pm because I work from home. Then you follow that by, Oh by the way, when are they going to be done? You know we are running out of time and I want this done before I take off for the summer.”
When undertaking a project regardless if it is a renovation/design or design only prepare yourself to have dust, a mess, and people going in and out of your home. Expect noise, make arrangements to have a mock-up kitchen somewhere else if you are doing a kitchen or to work away from home during that time.
Don’t schedule a party for the reveal until the project is reaching the end.
If you have hired a project manager or your designer is also doing the management of the install, realize that certain parts of the install and project happen in a certain order for a reason. That the crew prefers to work a full day and they count on minimizing the number of trips so they can stay profitable.
COMMUNICATION & UNDERSTANDING
Be kind, be nice, be understanding and of course -this is a business transaction but remember that having a plan, clear expectations, all requests, and changes documented are key to a better experience. It is really important to me as your designer that you trust my expertise, experience, and skills and for you to be wowed by the end result. Receiving praise is what all humans want and need, so a great testimonial and referrals are so appreciated. (Of course, when deserved).
Other recommendations and suggestions remain calm there is a solution for everything and we have done this enough of times to have an arsenal of past experience to draw from. Stay flexible, as sometimes a change has to be made midway or after the demo or a fabric has been discontinued but the mill did not inform the house accordingly at the time of order and another selection has to be made.
Instances such as these are stressful and can send you into a bit of a panic, but your designer will find the best alternative and that is why it’s in your best interest to trust your designer and for your designer to also manage the process.
As always, I can only write about what I know, what I do and my past experiences.