In the Society forum, we were talking about the process of onboarding interior design clients. While your design process will be unique to you and the project you're working on, the way you onboard clients should stay the same each time.
Onboarding Interior Design Clients Saves You + Your Clients From Frustration
You should have this process in place before someone contacts you. If you don't have this in place, every project will be different and usually leave you reinventing the wheel at every turn.
Everybody’s onboarding process is going to be different. I'm basing this on what mine was. You will, of course, have your own process.
You'll want to automate your process as much as you can. Of course, every project is going to have something different to it, that's the nature of design, but with it, there's going to be a lot of things that you are going to do over and over again. The more automation you can put in place along while onboarding interior design clients will help you to deliver an excellent experience every time.
Automating your onboarding your interior design clients starts with:
Prospective clients coming to you and what you're going to do
Getting the contract signed
Kicking off the project
Before you get on the phone or set up a consultation with a prospective client whether that's going to be free, paid, online, phone call, or in person that is when you want to get information up front so you can avoid the A-Hole price shopping clients who are just wasting your time. You want to have them jump through a little hoop for you before you even talk to them.
I suggest you have a short initial questionnaire form on your website that they can fill out. Get the basic information, so you'll know if this is a project you want to pursue.
What kind of help are they are looking for or what room they need help with?
How much are they ready to invest in their project?
What is their timeline to complete their project?
Vetting people on the front end can save you from a nightmare project!
Getting the contract signed
You can go the old-school route and have them sign a piece of paper with you if you're going out to meet them or you can get the contract signed digitally. A lot of times even if you are going out to meet clients locally you're going to have to come up with your quote or an estimate of what the project’s scope is going to be if it's not your standard flat fee.
You might want to get your contract signed digitally. If you use Mydoma, you can enter the text of your contract, or letter of agreement, inside your Mydoma studio account and have them sign it there.
If you're not using Mydoma, you can use HelloSign and have your contract signed digitally. You can upload the contents of your contract in there, and you click to sign, then you email it over to your client, and they click to sign. When they’re done both parties get an email and can download that file.
If you're using Mydoma you can get paid through their platform. They will charge an additional processing fee on top of what the payment processor is charging you, so please be aware of that.
If you have Squarespace Business plan, you can create a service and collect payment by either connecting with Stripe or PayPal as the payment processor.
If you’re using Wordpress, Stripe, PayPal and Moonclerk can be used to take payment.
Tip: Before you can send out your “Welcome Packet” you need to know how your own process works. If you've never had a client before then, you’ll want to work with somebody (or make up a fake client and play both roles) to go through the entire process. You’ll want to document the process (and how much time it takes you to complete each step). Inside the Society, there is a Masterclass that will help you with creating your own signature design process.
Kicking off the project
We're kicking off the project after we've had some consult with them, we got payment, we got the contract signed, now we can kick off the project.You want to detail in this “Welcome Packet” (you can create a PDF, or you can create an initial email) letting them know how the project will go.
Next, you need to give the client homework. There's information that you're going to need from them before you can get started. Tell them what they need from them before you can start designing so you're not at a standstill on the project. They need to know what their responsibilities are.
Have them fill out your full design questionnaire at this time. There's a long format design questionnaire inside the Toolbox, so if you want it done for you resource go check that out.
Regarding this kickoff, you can replicate this in your project management software. Whether that's Mydoma, Trello, Workflow or Basecamp, you’ll put in the task list where you have your client’s task and your tasks so everyone can see what they need to be working on along with the due dates assigned to each task.
Now is the time to include links for them to complete their homework. If you have them fill out a design questionnaire, you can send them a link to fill it out. If they need to schedule a time to talk to you, then you include a link to your calendar so they can book that time. If you need to send them a separate link to sign a contract if you're not using Mydoma, then you put it all in one place everything in one spot, and everybody can be on the same page.
As for what you’re working on, let the client know that once they complete their homework, this is how you’ll get to work. You’ll include your signature design process with approximate dates that they can expect to hear back from you. Also, let them know that if they have questions or concerns how to contact you.
If you don't want to invest (or can’t afford a project management software like Mydoma), you can go back and forth via email. It will get messy, so you should look at some project management software to make your onboarding interior design clients process run like a well-oiled machine.
You can get Trello, it is inexpensive, and you can create a template where you can set up tasks for you and your client. Unlike Mydoma, it will be more difficult to track your design process, conversations and collaboration during the project.
Setting up client expectations keeps everybody on the same page, and everybody's happy.
Sometimes we have problems with our clients, and I think it's just because we haven't clearly expressed what we need them to do and what we're doing. It's just getting it all out there on the front end of your onboarding process.
Alycia Wicker is an interior design business coach specializing in online marketing strategies.Her clients land more of their own dream clients and make more cash, period. Celebrity gossip whore. Elvis-obsessed.