Top 10 Questions Interior Designers Should Ask Their Clients

By on October 3rd, 2019

1.What’s your budget?

  • This is the very first question that’s asked – some designers are afraid to talk budget early on, but why waste everyone’s time if their budget isn’t consistent with the products and services you provide? You need to at least determine that they are in a realistic budget “range” that will allow you to give them what they are asking for.
  • This is one of the most significant questions you can ask your client. The amount you have to spend will determine how much you can design and the type of materials you can use.
  • Early on in the design process, you should also discuss payment. After you’ve established the guidelines of the project, try to present your client with an estimate of both the cost and the amount of time it will take. Establish a billing schedule and indicate how you prefer to be paid, whether it’s by the hour or a fixed fee.

2. What is your timeframe?

  • If they say, “Oh we aren’t in a big rush, we want to finish these 6 rooms by the holidays”, and the holidays are 8 weeks away, then it is likely this client has an unrealistic idea of how long a quality design project takes. Make sure that you aren’t over-promising with regard to time. It will set you up for an unhappy client every time.

3. Have you worked with a designer before?

  • If the answer is ‘yes’, why are you changing designers? If a client has a lot of bad things to say about a former designer, it is likely that soon they will have similar issues with you. Be aware of these red flags while you can still walk away from the job. 

4. Who makes the decisions on this project?

  • It can get very confusing if you are working with a couple and you aren’t sure who makes the decisions. I recommend asking this question while both partners are there, so you get an honest answer that they both agree on. This will help your project move faster and more smoothly in the long run. And keep in mind, sometimes one partner controls the style direction and the other the checkbook. You need both to get the job done.

5. What do you consider expensive? Inexpensive?

  • Everyone’s idea of price is different. One client may think a $400 lamp is a bargain and another client may think it’s extravagant. Be sure you are talking the same price language. I simply ask, “When buying a sofa, what do you consider a reasonable price range?” And I continue the same question for carpets, artwork, and so forth. Some people value parts of a project and not others, so don’t confuse a sofa budget with an art budget, they may not be consistent.

6. How did you hear about my firm?

  • If you get published in every magazine in your area and the client says they found you in the phone book, they are probably not your idea client. Referrals are typically best, but second best is someone who has seen and even researched your work and is very familiar with what you do.

7. What is your design style or vision?

  • If a client says they prefer ultra-traditional and you specialize in contemporary, this relationship is not a fit. Don’t try to make your style and practices fit theirs just for the money. Go out and find another client who appreciates and understands your style and you will both be happier.

8. Do you use Pinterest?

  • For my firm, Pinterest has become our favorite tool for understanding what clients want. If they don’t already pin, then we invite them to, so they can create pin boards for all the things they love. We do this before we even get started on their project so we are fully in-tune with their wants and needs from the get go. Plus, it makes our job so easy when we can access their boards anytime day or night if a creative whim strikes us. You can request an invitation from someone who is already on Pinterest, or follow WSI Designer Marketplace on Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter and send a message to @WSIDesignTrade for a Pinterest invite.

9. What are your goals for the project? 

  • Before you discuss how to design a client’s space, make sure you know what they want help with. Some good details to pin down (in the contract) include:
    1. The specific space(s) that will be designed or decorated
    2. How the client intends to use the space
    3. Whether any existing feature(s) of the space will be removed or changed
    4. Whether any additions need to be built or installed
    5. The extent of the design, or how much work will be done – do they expect paint, accessories, furniture, lighting?

10. Can you show me some examples of designs you like?

  • Developing a good idea of what your clients like and dislike is necessary if you want them to be happy with your final designs. Of course, this can be the most difficult part of the design process because you may find out that you and your client disagree about certain styles or techniques. However, the earlier you discover points of conflict, the better, because a straightforward relationship will ensure that you have plenty of time to compromise before you start working.
  • The best way to determine what your clients want is to ask them for examples that inspire them. It’s easy to miscommunicate by brainstorming aloud, and you and your client are more likely to understand each other if you look at fabric samples, design magazines, or other concrete materials together. Don’t worry about putting clients on the spot by asking them for ideas or examples—instead, come prepared with photos, preliminary sketches, or samples from your own portfolio that clients can peruse.