Initial consultations are an essential part of all interior decorating projects. It is an opportunity to meet the homeowners, learn about their project, and begin to offer your professional advice.
Your initial meeting is the first step towards developing a personalized plan that suits their needs, style, and budget. It is also a time for you to demonstrate your value and discuss how you propose to enhance the appearance of their home.
Whether it’s your first time working with a client or you’re looking to improve your skills, conducting a consultation can be a little nerve-wracking, especially if the opportunity it large.
This guide will provide you expert advice and tools to assist you in delivering a positive client experience during this consultation period.
We will delve deeper into the process of conducting a successful interior decorating consultation, from the preparation required before the consultation, to asking all the right questions during the consultation, and finally, following up with the client.
Note: As always, we’ve themed the images in this article to make it a little more interesting! This time we’re exploring minimalist concrete living rooms, with dark stained wooden details, with teal furnishings and features throughout.
Start with a Consultation Questionnaire
Preparing a questionnaire to help you gather information beforehand is the first step to a successful consultation.
It should also include questions regarding their budget, timeframes, and any special requirements.
Most interior decorating consultations begin with a phone call, and this is an ideal moment to go over the questionnaire with the homeowner.
The goal during this time period is to ask enough questions to help you understand the homeowner’s vision.
These are some questions you may like to ask:
- What is your design style? (E.g., contemporary)
- Do you have a color scheme preference?
- What type of furniture do you have in mind?
- What kind of lighting do you prefer?
- What is your budget for the decorating project?
- What is your desired timescale?
- Are there any specific requirements?
By taking the time to gather information from the homeowner through a well-crafted questionnaire, you will get a better understanding of their vision.
This will enable you to arrive prepared for the initial consultation with tailored suggestions that meet their specific requirements.
When asking the questions, you can use free tools such as a simple Google Doc or Google Sheet to record your answers. If you want to use specialist questionnaire software, we’ve found Typeform to be affordable and user-friendly.
Research the Homeowner’s Style
The next step is to prepare for the consultation by researching the homeowner’s design style and preferences.
This involves taking the information you have gathered from the questionnaire and using it to research.
This may include looking at color schemes, furniture, and accessories and exploring styles they may be drawn to.
For example, if the homeowner has indicated they are drawn to contemporary design, you might research current interior decorating trends that make use of this design style.
Look at images and inspiration boards to better understand what they might like. If they indicated a preference for a particular color, you might research ways that color can be incorporated into a decorating scheme.
This research aims to tailor your suggestions and solutions to meet their specific needs.
By doing this research in advance, you can go to the consultation prepared with ideas and recommendations tailored to their style.
Do You Charge for An Initial Consultation?
Whether to charge for the initial consultation is entirely down to the interior decorator.
Some will offer a free initial consultation, whereas other interior decorators will charge a small fee.
The fee for an initial consultation can range from a flat rate to an hourly rate, depending on the scope of work.
Some interior decorators who charge a fee for the initial consultation may deduct this from their overall fee if the client decides to proceed with their services.
In this instance, the fee for an initial consultation is typically used to cover the time and expenses associated with meeting with the client and preparing a written proposal.
There is more in-depth content on this topic over at the QC Design School.
The Benefits of Arriving Early
Before arriving at the consultation, you should ensure you have all the tools you need to conduct the consultation. This may include:
- Tape or laser measure
- Notebook and pen
- Your interior decorating portfolio (to showcase your previous projects)
Arriving early gives you time to find the location and avoid any traffic delays. This will also give you time to organize your tools, avoid rushing and becoming stressed, and prepare yourself to meet the homeowner.
During the consultation, you will have the opportunity to connect with the homeowner and gain a first-hand understanding of their requirements.
Listening carefully to the homeowner is one of the most important aspects of an interior decorating consultation. By doing so, you will have a clear grasp of their vision and the scope of work. It will also enable you to deliver customized advice that is geared to their specific requirements and preferences.
Approach the consultation with an open mind, asking questions and acquiring additional information to better understand their vision.
Here are some questions you could ask the homeowner during the consultation:
- What do you like and dislike about your home’s existing design?
- Can you describe the general look and feel you’re aiming for?
- Do you have any specific features, colors, or ideas in mind?
- Do you have any existing furniture or furnishings you’d like to incorporate?
- How do you plan to use the space?
It is also important to be open and flexible throughout the consultation, as well as willing to explore other options and suggestions that are provided.
Providing Creative and Practical Solutions
During the initial consultation, the interior decorator must identify potential obstacles, such as budget constraints.
Then, offer creative and practical solutions to overcome these challenges.
For example, if the homeowner has a limited budget, the interior decorator may suggest alternative furniture options that are more cost-effective.
With all the information gathered, the interior decorator should now be ready to provide several decorating suggestions.
Discuss the advantages of your proposals and provide examples of how they would improve the overall appearance and feel of their home.
By offering suggestions and solutions and providing guidance and support throughout the interior decorating consultation, interior decorators can help homeowners create beautiful and comfortable living spaces.
Tip: You can also explain the interior decorating process to your client during the initial consultation. Many homeowners who have never worked with an interior decorator before will appreciate the guidance. Again, this is an opportunity to build a rapport with the homeowner.
Optimal Time for a Consultation
The length of an initial interior decorating consultation will vary depending on several factors, including the size and complexity of the project, the number of rooms involved, and the homeowner’s needs and preferences.
However, on average, an initial consultation can last between one and two hours.
If the interior decorator is working on a large or complex project, it may be necessary to schedule multiple consultations.
The first consultation may focus on the overall design and planning, while a second consultation may be dedicated to taking measurements for selecting materials and furniture.
Confirming Next Steps
After the consultation, you should provide the homeowner with a written proposal that outlines the details of your plan for their project.
The proposal should include a breakdown of costs, including any materials, labor, and installation fees.
It should also have a timeline for completing the project and any other essential details the homeowner should know.
A written proposal serves several purposes, including:
- Providing a clear and concise summary of the decorating plan to help the homeowner better understand the concepts.
- An overview of the decorating plan, including details about the materials and furniture.
- A timeline for the project, including the estimated start and completion dates.
- An estimated budget for the project, including all costs for materials, labor, and any additional expenses.
- A payment schedule, including any deposits or stage payments required.
By providing a written proposal, interior decorators establish clear expectations and help ensure that the homeowner knows what is included and that the project runs smoothly from start to finish.
After sending the client the written proposal, it is essential to follow up to see if they have any further questions or make any decisions regarding decorating their home.
This time is critical to close the deal and to progress with the full interior decorating job. There are literally thousands of websites that can guide you on effective follow-up, but we’ve found the guides at betterproposals and newoldstamp are worth reading.