5 Biggest Mistakes Interior Designers Make With Clients

Here are a few of the mistakes some designers make...

1. Not setting expectations well. We all hate negative surprises and the worst ones are the ones that cost money and time. From the beginning of your relationship with the client, you need to establish a range for your budget. Clients have no idea how much things cost, so you should have examples of what a typical window treatment, room furnishing budget or renovation cost would be based on either the photos in your portfolio. Give them a range and then you’ll be able to read their reaction. If their eyes flutter and they don’t look at you directly, they are very uncomfortable.

2. Not asking enough questions and truly understanding what the client’s motivations and priorities are. Never assume. Always feedback what you hear your client say to be sure you understand what they really want.

3. Not communicating quickly when there are problems with the project, products or schedule. You should start the beginning of your client relationship by asking how they want to hear the good news and the bad news. Ask if they prefer a phone call, email or a meeting in person. First, be sure you have three solutions…decide which is the best solution and then either discuss it in person (very important for dominant CEO types) or by email or phone.

4. Not taking care of every last detail. At the end of the job, it is easy to get bored and disinterested and not want to finish the last few details, but those details are the ones that determine whether you will have a raving fan or a raving…..you know what I mean. Those extra details and a nice thank you gift and note at the end can mean the difference between more work and referrals or them telling 10 people how badly you handled their project. The little things matter the most.

5. Not asking for testimonials! This is one of the best tips I can share with you. Ask for testimonials early and throughout your relationship with your clients. It actually reinforces the reason why they made such a good decision to hire you. Help them with the testimonials by writing what you want them to say…you remember the compliments they’ve given you, so just write it out for them and ask them to tweak it, put it on their own stationery and that you will pick it up on a particular date and then bring a small token gift. Your clients want to help you, too.

Bonus tip - Job appreciation…any time you make an installation or deliver a product, be sure to admire the beautiful result with the client. This is really not as self-serving as it sounds. Clients need reassurance that they made the right decision. They are very insecure with designers, and this is a great technique that I learned from one of my teachers years ago. It works like a charm because your clients look to you for your approval, so share it liberally, but honestly.

Gail Doby, ASID, is co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of Design Success University. Gail is an Interior Design Business Success Mentor to thousands of interior designers globally. DSU’s Business Mastery Membership and classes include Value Based Fees and Marketing Intensives. Click here to get your complimentary copy of DSU’s Interior Design Fee & Salary Survey eBook and IDEAS newsletter subscription filled with inspiration, business tips and time-saving resources.


  1. Excellent tips! Thanks for sharing this information. Gail Doby, ASID is always right on the mark when it comes to valuable, practical, inspirational and up-to-date information and tips for design professionals. I've been a member of DSU's Business Mastery Program for awhile and have learned a lot from Gail. Thanks!
    Ceil Petrucelli
    Ceil Petrucelli Interiors & The House Therapist
    Bennington, VT 05201

  2. Really excellent thoughts in making the design finish a success!! Come and visit soon!

    Art by Karena