For the Aspiring Interior Designer: 5 Tips for Success, Respect, & Happy Clients

Tips for the aspiring interior designer

When I am hiring someone for Barton + Barton Interiors, I often look for experience in a customer service role. It is no secret that client happiness is the most important factor of your success as a designer. Happy clients = more clients. My tips for aspiring interior designers include several skills you can learn in a customer service role. After all, our main goals are to maximize client happiness and make their experience as seamless as possible.

Successful interior designers are detail-oriented

Tip #1: Be Detail-Oriented

Perhaps the most obvious & cliché, yet the most important tip I have to instill in future designers is to be detail-oriented. A prerequisite to success at any job, being detail-oriented is what makes your service valuable. Come up with ideas and solutions that they can’t find on Google or Pinterest. Let your imagination run loose but keep a tight leash on the big picture and operations. Be creative and spot opportunities to make your clients’ life easier in ways that they would not think of themselves. 

I like to leave my clients with luxurious details that elevate their at home experiences. To give you an idea, we recently used Crate & Barrel’s Clear Glass Carafe to make even the smallest everyday task, such as taking a glass of water to bed, a more enjoyable experience. See our post about ‘Creating a Spa-Worthy Escape at Home’ for similar ways to transform a space through the details. It’s the little things that give a big impact. Whether you have a natural aptitude for being creatively meticulous or have to work hard for this quality, being detail-oriented will bring you success in any project & apply to all of my following tips.

Tip #2: Be Attentive + a Good Listener

Being detail-oriented will particularly shine when it comes to listening to your clients wants, needs, desires, & dreams. Being attentive and a good listener is important throughout the collaboration but especially in the initial meeting. One way to maintain your client’s happiness is to continuously demonstrate that you fully understand what they are imagining, and offer them solutions to match. What does their dream space look like? What problems do they have that need solutions? Look for those opportunities to impress with details. 

My strategy in the initial meeting with my clients is to let them tell their entire story without interruption. Refrain from offering your opinion and just listen so you can collect as much information as possible and are later able to thoroughly interpret their needs. After the initial meeting, continuously refer back to their original story, offer them solutions, and reassure them that you constantly have their goals in mind.

Being adaptable will bring you success as an interior designer

Tip #3: Be Adaptable

What is the number one rule in customer service? The customer is always right. One of my biggest tips for aspiring interior designers is to throw your ego out of the window and grow some thick skin. Was that too harsh? To keep your client happy, there are several things you will need to adapt to; two of which are their unique style & unexpected roadblocks throughout the project. My advice is to view those unexpected changes as opportunities. Find a solution, take ownership of the setback, and use it as a chance to impress your client with your problem solving skills. 

When it comes to adapting to your client’s style, do not take it personally when they do not like your design. Appreciate different tastes and don’t let your ego get in the way. As long as you are comfortable putting your name on it, remember the client’s happiness is the end goal. A happy client is a happy designer.

Tip #4: Empathize with Your Client

If I were you, I would listen to English designer Sophie Conran’s advice when it comes to client management: “You’ve got to be able to empathize with your client. Being an interior designer can mean lots of things, there’s a little bit of being a nanny in there, a little bit of psychology and lots of empathy.” As mentioned, I often seek employees who have had experience in a customer service role. One of the skills you develop in this type of role is empathy and how to more easily relate to and assist others. Especially when it comes to moments when your designer instincts differ from the client’s wishes, showing empathy for their wishes can go a long way. Come from a place of giving advice and provide them with options on how to get a result they would be even more happy with. Propose your solutions and support them with visuals, expertise, and empathy. Being able to speak your mind without offending is a strong skill to develop and can gain you a lot of respect. And if that doesn’t work…try speaking in a British accent! It seems to work for Sophie & I!

Tip #5: Make the Experience as Seamless as Possible

Loyalty is built on reducing customer effort. Always be aiming to make life easier for your clients and their experience as seamless as possible. I like to say that interior design is 20% designing and 80% project management. When it comes to managing a project, two of my biggest factors include communicating and respecting all trades. Your relationships with your architect, contractor, furniture maker, etc. are primary factors in making a seamless experience. Don’t try to be a jack of all trades; know who the experts are and respect their value. Good communication amongst those relationships and with your client is the only path to success. Being detail oriented + attentive + adaptable + empathetic = a good recipe for a seamless experience and happy clients.

All aspiring interior designers can sign up through our Community page for opportunities to learn, share, and grow as a designer and as a business.

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