Every designer has a client intake system of some sort. Unless you are pretty new to the business or things have really dried up (and that can happen to anyone in our fluctuating economy), designers typically don’t take every project that comes their way.
As a matter of fact, many turn down more than they accept.
First of all, there’s the availability issue. A designer might be in the middle of some big projects and not be able to drop everything for a new client that calls.
Then, there are other factors to consider in terms of desirability for the designer like budget, size of job, location, aesthetic or style, client fit, etc. We all want to make sure we are the best person for that project and vice versa.
I thought I’d shed a little light on my intake process here today. Since I’ve downsized my studio some and it’s only myself and one other team member here, we have to make sure we’ve got the right mix of projects to maintain our workload so we can be successful and make money.
Here’s more on our own client onboarding process.
I acquire clients several ways, through personal referrals or through people finding me via my blog or online search. I also have a lot of former clients that come back with new projects.
Once we hear from a new, potential client, my process includes some opportunities to get to know you and your project. I want to see if we will be a good fit and if this project works with our skills, our style, and our schedule / project needs at the time.
The process varies somewhat with each potential client. The reason why is because these projects vary widely in scope, budget, and type and need some careful consideration. Some potential projects may need only a little advice, some may need full service and have a wide scope. We can handle an assortment, but that depends on what we have going on at the time.
I’ve heard some designers book months or even a year in advance.
I’ve had projects booked ahead a few months, but never more than that. I feel like that if a potential client gets booked out more than that, then they likely will be a bit anxious at the start, when we would finally get to them. I mean, If I’d been put off for 9 months before someone could start on my project, I’d be chomping at the bit when my number came up, raring to go.
I don’t really like that kind of start to a job, so I will usually just tell people, in that situation, that I cannot get it to for awhile that I just cannot help them at that point. It’s better for all parties, in my opinion, if they find someone who can start working with them in a more timely manner. I'm happy to work in a consultation to give them some insight or direction if they desire, but sometimes it's best to have them find another option.
We start with a few questions, either by phone or email (I love email). We inquire about the type of service they are requesting, the type of project they have, their budget, time frame, etc. We then send them more information about how we work and what next steps look like.
If they respond back and are interested in moving forward, then we may exchange a few more emails with more in depth questions, then we schedule an appointment. We offer a consultation for a one-time, advice type service or set up an appointment for a meeting in their home for a look at their full service project.
Both of these appointments have fees that are payable at or before the meeting.
I charge $250 for a first meeting to look at a full service project and $375 for a one-time consultation. These are with local, Woodlands-area projects, as I have kind of limited myself to this area. I do some projects in Houston and out in Bentwater on Lake Conroe, but mainly for former clients who keep coming back for further work.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t entertain a fabulous project elsewhere, but I’m not a fan of driving hours a day in Houston traffic, so the closer to our little enclave out here in the far north of Houston, the better for me. (Unless it’s a really desirable project!:-)
The bigger the project, the longer the interview process becomes.
Many of our projects are of a medium scope, typically involving some remodeling design of a kitchen or bathrooms. After visiting about the project and learning of a potential client’s needs, style, and budget, ascertaining how the project will fit into our schedule, manner of working, and aesthetic, then we offer an Agreement. The Letter of Agreement details the process of the job, the design fees, etc.
Sometimes projects have larger budgets and scope, and in that case we take a little more time to consider and do some more in depth interviewing and evaluation. Especially with furnishings, we want to make sure these clients are a good fit since there will be more time spent, more money at stake, and more risk involved.
There are even occasions where we would do a small portion of the project first with a preliminary fee for that particular part only, to sort of test the waters and see if things would go as expected. That’s a good opportunity to see how clients respond to some ideas that are not theirs and if the vision we are beginning to see for their home might be on target.
There are other preliminary assessments we might do to help us all become more comfortable with the designer/client fit. That can include a lookbook for a style assessment or maybe have a look at past budgets I’ve worked with, in case the homeowner is unsure what products cost. They may give me a budget number that looks big, but when you consider everything they want to do with that budget, it might not cover half of it.
I have some realistic budgets for designer supplied items at this link. It can really help you see what it costs to purchase a room of furniture with a designer.
That can make everyone feel more at ease before signing a big contract that would bind us together for months or even longer. Although I do have a cancellation clause in all my full service project agreements, it is always difficult to separate mid-stream in a project, so it’s nice to feel more confident going in, that this will be a good fit for all.
Once agreements are signed and initial payments are made, then we are ready to move forward on the job. With full service projects, this on-boarding process can take a few weeks to a month. We can speed it up if you are in a hurry, but this is typically the time frame for taking on a larger scaled project.
With all that in mind, if you are considering a full service project in The Woodlands, TX area, we’d love to meet with you. Here's more about that process and costs at this link.
If you are needing only some advice and design direction and are interested in our one time consultations… Click here to find out more about these and how they work.