Avoiding Client Nightmares, Part 2

Avoiding Client Nightmares, Part 2


We talked last week about things you can do and look for to prevent clients from turning into nightmares. You can reference the points we discussed HERE.

Today, we’re going to touch on clues you can look for and the questions you can ask


Watch for one spouse to dominate the conversation, talking over the other spouse and not asking the other spouse to participate in the conversation.

Be alert to these personality types/behaviors:

  • Self-centered.
  • Demanding.
  • Argumentative.
  • Critical.
  • Challenging your expertise.
  • Talking over you or their spouse.
  • Interrupting.
  • Focusing on money over value.
  • High strung.
  • Domineering.
  • Controlling.
  • Pushy.
  • Focuses mostly on the money.
  • Late for appointment without a good reason or apology, and doesn’t text or call you to let you know.
  • Negotiates small details.
  • Perfectionist … ask about how they view themselves.
  • Doesn’t see the big picture.
  • Avoids answering important questions.
  • One spouse overly quiet and reserved.
  • Doesn’t look you in the eye.
  • Talks about how important, respected or wealthy they are (insecurity.
  • Unrealistic about time frame or budget.
  • Doesn’t ask questions.
  • Not clear (or spouses don’t agree) about what they want to accomplish.

Sample Questions to Ask

  1. How did you hear about us? What did they tell you about us?
  2. Do you mind if I ask you some questions to understand if we’d be a good fit, and if you feel that we aren’t, would you be OK with saying so during this conversation? It’s really important that it be a mutually comfortable relationship and I want to be sure that we can be very open with each other. Is that OK?
  3. Have you worked with a designer before? If so, ask the next question.
  4. What was that experience like?
  5. Is there a particular reason you aren’t planning to work with them now? (OK responses–retired, ill, moved away, not doing design any more.)
  6. Are you meeting with other designers? (I always like to find out who, and what their selection criteria is.
  7. What is important to you about having your home designed?
  8. What will that do for you?
  9. What would a great interior design experience and result be for you?
  10. What appealed to you about the home you purchased?
  11. What is your favorite (home furnishings or fashion) brand? Why is that? (You’re trying to determine their level of taste and their affinity for high-end brands.)
  12. What interior design magazines do you read? (This will also help you understand the sophistication of their taste.)
  13. Do you entertain a lot? Are you involved in the community? (this helps you understand if they are concerned with fitting in.)
  14. How do you resolve differences between you if you don’t agree on something? (Very telling)
  15. Should we decide to work together, we will be working together for months and perhaps longer. It’s like a marriage and my job is to guide you with your investment in your home/project. Most of us are taught not to discuss money, but that can create conflict and I don’t for that to happen. How would you feel about us openly discussing what you want to invest?
  16. Are you more focused on the end result, or on staying within the budget for the project we are discussing? The reason I ask is because some people want a specific result, and if it is more than the investment the planned to spend, they’d rather do the project in phases.
  17. What is your time frame for the project? Do you have a special event coming up? (If they have an unrealistic deadline, you’ll be in trouble and you need to discuss that in advance.)
  18. Have you been through a remodel before? (If this is the type of project they are doing.)
  19. What was that like? What was most challenging to you?

If you use these questions as guidelines, you will avoid many headaches. Please do complete your Ideal Client Profile and keep refining it. An added benefit is when someone asks you who you work with (a referral source) you can easily let them know.

You are much more likely to attract the right clients and avoid the nightmares if you define them clearly.

Gail Doby

Gail, with her team at Gail Doby Coaching and Consulting, has helped more than 10,000 designers in 76 countries. Many of them have achieved amazing results... doubling, tripling (and more) their revenue and profit... with clarity and confidence. Gail and her team build one-of-a-kind experiences, walking beside Interior Designers to help them create and implement their plans.
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  1. Joy Nelson on July 5, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    What do you do when the client starts deferring all specifications issues to the contractor and you later discover that they are having an affair? When trying to address the specification issues the client would reply that she and the contractor have everything in hand.

  2. Magdalena Bogart on July 6, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    The questions in your article are super helpful. An eye-opener for me was your question:

    “Are you meeting with other designers? (I always like to find out who, and what their selection criteria is”

    I always feel, this is a “tabu” in the industry to ask with whom else the potential client is
    meeting, though I would very much like to know.

    Thank you for my learning experience.

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