You guys, the Paradox of Choice is a thing. And no, it’s not just the “spoiled millennials” who are having this problem (yes, it actually is a problem). Too many choices can actually paralyze, and it’s no different when it comes to interior design options.
In fact, you could probably say it’s worse. After all, it’s not like a jar of jam you’ll be eating for a week or two; it’s a house you’ll live in, and live with, for years. Making the right choice is therefore crucial.
It’s completely understandable that our design clients could sometimes have a hard time making up their minds. As a professional, however, all that feet-dragging could cost us in lost time and opportunities.
So then how do you reconcile apparent pickiness with revenue, all while making sure that you create (and execute!) the best design possible? Is it really pickiness or just a lack of guidance?
Let’s look at common client behaviors and the best solutions.
Common Client Dilemmas When Presenting Interior Design Options
While every client is unique, there are plenty of commonalities in how they act or react during the design process. These behaviors can be classified into four archetypes.
“I want something else.”
This usually comes from clients who don’t know what they want, which makes it extremely hard to offer them a design solution. If you let them run the show, you could get stuck in the design development stage for months, mostly because generating ideas and fleshing them out takes a lot of time. Even if you were being handsomely paid for all your time,
“I hate all of it.”
Not only did your ideas not pass muster, they were also summarily dismissed in a very negative manner. That’s … frustrating, to say the least. Even worse, they’re not even providing you with alternatives.
“Can we try this with that instead?”
We all love the clients who actively participate in the project, but sometimes, things can get a little out of hand. This type of client will look at all your interior design options and mix and match them, “just to see what it looks like.” Updating tons of specifications for this sole purpose is rarely productive and can quickly get old.
“I changed my mind.”
It’s the planning stage, after all, which means nothing is set in stone. However, it does become a problem when a client changes their mind too often. Besides re-specifying taking a lot of time, having to go over and over options with them also eats up a lot of hours.
How to Present Interior Design Options Efficiently
Simply put: Taking charge during the earliest stages is crucial if you don’t want your client running away with your hours and effort. Here are a few things you can do.
Ask them to present you with samples.
It doesn’t have to be a complete mood board (that’s your job). A bunch of pictures, links, and inspirations, however, will go a long way. From here, you’ll get a good idea of their tastes, wants, and needs.
Ask them flat out why they don’t like any of the options you presented.
Sometimes, it’s all a matter of miscommunication. Being frank (but still tactful) will help you better understand exactly what she wants.
Put in provision revisions in your contract.
This protects both you and the client, and sets expectations early. If they know they’ll have to pay for it, they’ll be more deliberate with their choices from beginning.
Limit the interior design options.
Like we said: Choices can paralyze. Limit the amount of variants to two or three, otherwise the client will feel like a kid in a candy store and it would be hard for him to decide on something. To put icing on the cake: They might think you don’t know what you’re doing.
Make a like/hate pile.
Take a bunch of photos that show different design styles, furniture, and accessories. Ask your client to sort them into two piles: the one they love and the one they hate. It would be even better if the client would have to find images for these piles themselves. This would allow them to flush out in their own mind what they have envisioned as a solution to the design problem at a more detailed level.
Ask “inverted pyramid” questions.
Start by asking generic questions like ‘What colors do you like?’ and then go to more specific ones, e.g. ‘How this room would be used?’, ‘How important is it to have a writing desk here?’ etc. By narrowing questions step-by-step you will make it easier for your clients to answer them, by the time you direct the conversation into greater detail, they will already have some picture in their heads.
Use mood board tools.
Start by presenting mood boards where different furniture, finishes, and accessories are shown together to create an all-encompassing design intent. This would let the client get a better look & feel of the ideas you suggest in a more comprehensive way. Later you can develop the ideas into more detailed plans.
Some designers use Polyvore or Pinterest for creating mood boards, but they are not designed for professional purposes. We suggest that you use the Moodboard option the Fohlio platform offers for interior designers.
Its smart browser plugin lets you quickly add product information from any webpage with simple clicks, and then organize products by schedule and location layers. One can generate stylish mood boards via thumbnail gallery view and professional presentation documents. You can update them just in a few clicks, which is great for onsite work. Give it a try now!
What are your go-to techniques when presenting options to clients?