Why do clients hire you? Because you can create extraordinary spaces that they can only dream about doing themselves. So why are some clients hesitant to hire you? Because they are unclear about what they are committing themselves to. They want the finished design but are not sure how much it will cost, how long it will take, and who makes the final decisions.
Nothing makes a hesitant client more nervous than a lack of clarity. You are an experienced design professional, and they expect that you can give them straightforward informed answers to practical questions about budgets, schedules, fees and markups, product selection, and so forth. Of course, you and I know it’s not that simple. Clients often don’t know what they want and frequently change their minds as the work progresses. You don’t want to put yourself out on a limb by promising a budget or schedule that will have to be revised later.
Instead, talk over with the client how you work and what your expectations are for how you will work together. One of the most frequent complaints of disgruntled clients is “the designer did not tell me” or “the designer never said.” So tell them, or better yet have some printed information that you can review with them. I am not talking a contract or letter of agreement; that will come later. I am talking about “gray areas” that can become a point of friction, such as whether you charge for expenses, and if so, how much and for which expenses; how much a deposit you require and the charges it does and does not cover; how you bill, how often, and any fees for late payments; what constitutes a “sign off” from the client on a purchase or phase of the project; and the like.
Your business practices should not be a black box for the client. Spending a few minutes up front to clarify for the client how you work will decrease their anxiety and help prevent ill feeling down the line. Take the mystery out of hiring a designer and let the magic begin.