Tips for Working with Affluent Interior Design Clients

I want to chat with you about affluent client psychology.

A while back we got to hear from Karen Fisher with Designer Previews at one of our design summits.  Her insights about how wealthy clients think about interior designers are timeless.

Here are my biggest take-aways from Karen’s talk

1. They’re intimidated by both interior designers and architects.

The are very concerned with not looking bad or not having excellent taste.  However they do need reassurance.  Karen says that she often finds herself playing the role of “Design Mother”.

It’s very important that you show them that you understand them and take the time to find out what they want.

2. They’re often spoiled.

Many of these wealthy clients are young, happen to be savvy business people and have been very successful through their brilliance in business.

Many of these young wealthy clients are married and at least half of the wives also work.

When working with this type of client you must “act together”.   Make it a point to always provide accurate bills, listen well and always, always deliver what you promise.

3. Privacy is critical.

Wealthy clients don’t want you or any of your staff talking about them outside of your office. Be very careful about what you say and to whom.

4. Be extra diligent about your manners.

This goes for any client for that matter!  Always write thank yous and offer small gifts if appropriate that show you are thinking about them outside of your business relationship.

5. Be clear about costs up front.

Take care to tread very carefully when talking about budget. They don’t want you to think of them as a blank checkbook.

6. Keep your relationship business-like

Wealthy clients or any of your other clients don’t want to hear about your personal life.

Some clients may want to become friends with you, and if you end up blurring this line too much during the working relationship, it oftentimes becomes more difficult to get paid for your work.

Remember, this is a business transaction first and foremost.  You have a business to run.

Be careful not to ask what they do and too many personal questions at the beginning of the relationship.

Clients need to know they can trust you so erring to the side of being more business-like rather than being too friendly is the best strategy.

7. Real estate vs. possessions is what’s important to the younger affluent.

8. Treat your clients and everyone you interact with respect.

I have watched some designers in action at the design center, and unfortunately I have been unpleasantly surprised at how they treat their clients as well as showroom staff.

Everyone you come into contact deserves both your respect and consideration.

I don’t want to lecture, but our the interior design industry has gotten a reputation that is often the result of a select few that don’t understand the rules of common courtesy that Karen discussed.

Thankfully, the majority of designers use common sense about this.

Next time you find yourself working with an affluent client I hope you keep these things in mind.  I believe that treating all client with respect and taking the time to listen to their needs will serve you well.

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. Farha Syed on February 7, 2016 at 1:24 am

    Those indeed are great pointers to keep in mind. Thank you Gail.

  2. Tracey Ingebretsen on February 19, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Thank you for your important tips. You reconfirmed my thoughts

  3. Cj on February 20, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Thank you, great article.

  4. Mavra Patropulos on July 28, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Thank you Karen for the great advice.
    Hi Gail, I have signed up for several of your seminars in the past which have been very beneficial in my business.
    I have a question regarding client relationships. I have become very good friends with a client that I did a total remodel and extention of her existing home. She and her husband were ecstatic at the results. She is moving to S.F. Bay Area and has asked me to visit her and also discuss about up-grading her kitchen but not to the extend of her privious home. I am 31/2 hrs away and I am not sure how to charge her. I have noticed lately that she has become price conscience. Since she is such a wonderful friend, I thought not to charge her for my first visit the travel time, since I’ll be visiting her as a friend but also including the scope of the job.

    Could you please advise if this is a professional approach. I am speaking with my heart’s desires not my business interest.

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