When it comes to the type of design clients your business is attracting, the ideal scenario is this: Getting ALL dream clients, all the time.
Your dream design clients are the people who value you, don’t question your fees, have projects you would love to work on, and get along great with your personality. My own client (an interior designer) told me just last week that her dream clients are constantly reaching out, now to the point where she doesn’t even have to try to “sell” herself on discovery calls. The groundwork we have put in place to “pre-qualify” potential leads is working!
If you’re reading this blog post, chances are high that this isn’t the case for you… yet. Maybe you are getting some dream design clients (so you know they exist) and some less-than-ideal clients who make you feel like their therapist. Whether those tough clients are constant or few and far between, most interior design projects take several months to a year — that’s a long time to work with anyone who makes you want to pull your hair out!
The good news it that, yes, you CAN do something about it. The first step is diagnosing the problem. The second step is putting the right pieces in place to solve this problem before it ever reaches your calendar or feeds off the limited energy you have every day.
Here are the 3 biggest potential causes (with solutions coming up next) of the wrong clients knocking on your door…
Let’s talk about each of these…
If you encounter people who question your design fees (or your timeline, etc.), chances are high that you’ve attracted a person who is NOT your ideal client. Here’s how to remedy the situation…
What is it about your current client that’s not ideal? Is it just price? Are they from a region or part of town you weren’t originally intending to serve? Is their project the one who were hoping to land?
If the region is off, start mentioning the area you hope to serve specifically in your marketing… and make sure that location is listed on your website! Ideally in the footer, About, Services pages, and backend meta description and alt-tags.
If their project isn’t the type you were hoping for, take a look at your marketing. What have you been focusing on most? I’ve seen many designers spend their time on DIY topics and then wonder why potential design clients only call them for color consultations. If you want to continue landing full-service projects, spend MORE time talking about that service. List it first on your website’s Services page. Share more about it on social media, in newsletters, and in blog posts. Paint a picture of what that experience is like for design clients, how it changes their lives (during and after), and share your process.
If it really just comes down to price, think about the value of brand you are putting out into the world. Does your business visually look as high-end as your prices? Is your brand messaging conveying the real value of what you do and your experience? If you’re attracting design clients who don’t respect you, having a lackluster brand could be the culprit.
I hear this one at least once per week. Even the highest level interior designers (any business owner, really) have to set realistic client expectations. Not only does this person not know how you work, which is likely different from the other interior designer in your area, they are also likely to have been educated by “reality” TV shows that skew their perception of budgeting, timelines, and scope.
Unfortunately, it is all of our jobs as business owners to educate our potential clients, for us and for them. Sure, attracting the “wrong” people is bad for our profit, growth, and mental health, but it’s also a waste of time and energy for them, too. Making sure your design clients have an experience that meets and exceeds their expectations of you is Client Care 101. Here’s how to do it…
Website copy that speaks to your clients’ pain points and shares your process for solving them. You won’t be able to go into too much detail, but expressing your value and what clients can expect, at least in cursory terms, is a great start.
Writing blog posts, newsletters, and social posts that educate potential design clients are a must in my eyes. You could share the true cost of a professional service like interior design, how long a design project takes, your process, your tips for budgeting their investment, what they can expect in their first meeting with you, etc. Make this information public, share it around, and you are sure to nip at least some imperfect clients in the bud.
Educating a lead before your first discovery call is also something that can bring a lot of clarity to your conversation. When they request to book a call with you, have an automatic email set up that sends them a link to book that discovery call and some more information about your services and process. Answer their FAQs before they get on the phone with you, and you may just weed out people who aren’t right for your services.
Your onboarding process is another touchpoint where you can educate new design clients on what they can expect when working with you. In the rare event that they are still not your ideal client at this point, this should at least set some realistic expectations for working together, including boundaries.
For example, if you don’t want clients texting you on weekends, make sure they know in a very polite and professional way that you are a person too and need to recharge on weekends to be at your best for their project during the week. Etc.
Creating a connection with potential clients is another layer of your brand and marketing, one that I see as a missed opportunity more often than not. Remember, people want to connect with people.
If your face is missing from your social feed or your website, if your voice and mission are missing from your brand… potential design clients don’t have the opportunity to get to know you. If they can’t get to know you, then you are just another interior design firm that designs beautiful spaces. They will either shop you by aesthetic or by price instead of feeling like they want YOU.
Let them into your world, and potential clients will feel like they know you and like you before ever meeting you.
Visibility. If you have never had a brand photoshoot done, please put it at the top of your to-do list. Quality brand photos, especially photos with you in them, connect with other people and elevate the value of your brand instantly. Potential clients want to see WHO they are working with, not just pictures of interiors all the time.
Voice. The best strategy you can take is to not try so hard. Just be authentic to you. I used to obsess over how my blog posts sounded, and then I realized I don’t care. I write how I speak. This is my voice, and maybe it’s a little formal sometimes and maybe it’s too casual. But this is how I write for myself when I’m journaling or working on the novel I’ve shelved on and off for 10 years. It’s me. (For clients, of course, my writing is tailored to their voices, but that’s a different thing.)
Storytellling. The next layer of creating human connection is storytelling. You can do this by sharing stories of your work with design clients and by sharing your own stories. How did you get into interior design? What’s your philosophy? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Why do you do what you do? Who are the special people in your life? Etc. These are things we can all relate to.
Add tiny pieces of your story and personality across all aspects of your brand and client experience, and I guarantee you will attract more clients who want to work with you for you. (Sounds like the same advice you might give someone about dating. 😂)
There you have it — 3 reasons you might be attracting the wrong design clients and several ways to remedy the situation before it starts. Need help with a brand messaging strategy that puts all of this into play for your business? Let’s chat!
I believe that life, like home, is meant to be designed. In just 3 years, I built a life I love and a business that supports interior designers across the globe. I’m obsessed with books, a bold red wine, and helping women rise in their power — and I believe that your freedom in business starts here. Read more >>