Do you start every interior design project with a client questionnaire, or do you try to remember everything discussed in your initial consultation?
Was it mirrored furniture they hated? Or did they say that was their favourite? And, what was their stance on the colour green?
Creating dream spaces for your clients means listening to what they want and using your special eye for design to pull it all together. And, the best way to really understand their needs and desires is with a new client questionnaire.
In this article, I’m going to explore the following:
- What is a client questionnaire?
- Why is an initial client questionnaire important?
- What questions to include in your client questionnaire
- Insights from experienced interior designers
If you’re tired of wasting time trying to figure out what exactly your clients want, keep reading.
What is an interior design client questionnaire?
An interior design questionnaire is as simple as it sounds. It’s a list of questions you ask new clients before you begin working on a project with them. It’s your chance to get to know your potential client’s interior design preferences and align your ideas, so you’re on the same page from the get-go. Without having a client questionnaire to refer back to, you may end up creating something your client is unhappy with. It’s also a great way to sift out any clients that don’t align with your way of working or your interior design style.
Why an initial client questionnaire is important
An initial client questionnaire is important for various reasons:
- Understanding your potential client’s needs
- Determining whether you’re a good fit for the project
- Gathering information for your proposal
- Positioning yourself as an organised professional
- Providing something to refer back to throughout the project
Understand the client’s needs
The most important role of a client questionnaire is understanding your potential client’s needs and preferences. This knowledge will form the backbone of your project proposal, and it’ll give you an idea of different styles, patterns, textures and colours to use. It’s also a great way to determine whether the client’s expectations are realistic or whether there are time or budget constraints, for example.
Helps gather information for your project proposal
Before you can put forward your project proposal, you need to have a strong idea of what the client wants, what they don’t want, the dimensions of the room and if there are any quirks etc. With all this in mind, you’ll be able to put together a comprehensive proposal that details the design style, how long you expect the project to take and how much it’ll cost. Carrying out an initial questionnaire should help give you all the information you need for your proposal and prevent any miscommunication in the initial stages.
Helps you determine whether you’re a good fit
Gathering information about a potential client’s vision will help you determine if and how you can help them. If, for example, their design style preferences are the opposite of yours or their demands and expectations are a little too much, you should be able to gauge this within the initial consultation and questionnaire. Sometimes you’re not the right interior designer for the project, and sometimes they’re not the client for you. That’s just business!
Shows you’re professional and organised
Compiling your client’s preferences ahead of an interior design project will not only show that you’re professional and organised, but it’ll also show that you care, and this will help create trust between yourself and the client.
Gives you a reference point
Gathering as much information as you can about your client’s needs and about the space itself will give you something to refer back to throughout the design process. Did they say they loved floral patterns or hated them? Having everything written down clearly and simply will save time and prevent any unhappy clients.
What questions to include
Before you can get started on putting a project proposal together (and decide whether you’re the right designer for the job), you’ll need to ask a selection of general and specific questions to get a feel for your client’s likes, dislikes and project expectations.
Some questions that are helpful to include are:
- Can you explain the project scope and expectations?
You’ll need to understand how many rooms and what rooms will need designing, the room size/s, project type (e.g. redecorating or renovation) and property type.
- Are there any challenges with the project?
Perhaps it’s a rented property, and there are certain things you’re unable to change, or perhaps there’s a very short project turnaround time. These are things you’ll need to know ahead of taking on a project.
- What do you/will you use the space for?
Understanding the purpose of the room you’ll be working on is vital. Maybe your client is looking for a functional family space but currently lacks storage – this is something you can help with.
- What works/doesn’t work in the current space?
Having an idea of what your client likes (or doesn’t like) about the current space can really help. Perhaps it’s spacious, but they want it to be cosier.
- Is there anything you’d like to keep?
This is another important question because, for example, if a client wants to keep their giant leopard print rug, you’ll need to work your design around it. And, if it really doesn’t fit within the design style they’re after, you may need to have a conversation about moving it elsewhere.
- What design styles/colours/patterns/furniture do you like/dislike?
If you can get a potential client to share some design styles and colour palettes they like, this will help align your ideas. For clients that don’t know what they want, sharing what they definitely don’t like can prove extremely beneficial.
- Can you share some inspirational images?
Visually seeing the interior design styles potential clients like is perhaps the most important part of the questionnaire. It’ll also give you the chance to decide whether your style and expertise are suited to the project and give you a chance to discuss realistic expectations for the space. Ask them to create a Pinterest board full of inspiration that you can refer back to throughout the project.
Interior designer most important question
I spoke to a handful of experienced interior designers to ask them what they believe to be the most important questions to ask before commencing an interior design project.
Zoe Hewett, Interior Designer, Stylemongers Of Bristol
“For me, I like to know which aspects of interior design my prospective clients are most struggling with. It might be the cosmetic stuff like colour and style, which is generally pretty easy to help them with, or it might be more complex, like thinking through functional layouts or even a complete renovation.
I ask quite a few questions on my initial enquiry form because it helps me know which level of service to recommend to them – something I learned from investing in a really great business coach. Doing this has really helped me identify which clients I am interested and able to work with much more quickly, and it also fends off time-wasters early – particularly if they can’t be bothered to fill in a short form – that’s a red flag for me!”
Wendy Hooper, Interior Designer, The Victorian Bay Restoration Co
The first meeting with the client is my visual fact-finding mission – a Miss Marple investigation into their likes and dislikes is very important, so I don’t head off in the wrong direction.
Some clients are unsure and apprehensive, and in some cases, nervous about meeting an interior designer. It can feel like a test which is not what it’s about, so the first important thing is to put the client at ease by asking some general questions. I always ask new clients to have a look on Pinterest or Houzz and collect images to get a feel of what their style could be.
This starts to focus their minds, which also helps me identify their likes before I meet them. Sometimes what someone is wearing and the colour and textures in their wardrobe can be a great clue without them even realising they have a preference. Pictures on the wall or other pieces of furniture they have which are favourites will also give clues.
Juliette Thomas, Founder & Director Juliettes Interiors
It’s vital to understand the client’s taste, the room’s needs and functionality and the budget, to ensure that everyone involved is able to achieve the outcome desired within the timescale and cost required.
Top questions to ask clients before going ahead with a project include:
- What does the client want? I.e. full interior design to include walls, floors, lighting, spatial planning, fixed or loose lighting
- What is the property being used for? I.e. home, entertaining, home office, etc.
- Who will live in the property? Ages and sex of those people and their preferences.
- Is the property owned or rented, and what’s the long-term plan?
- What’s the style of the interiors and furniture preferred?
- What’s the colour scheme?
- Any artwork preferences?
- What’s the budget and timescale for completion?”
Jenny Branson, Interior Designer, Jenny Branson Interiors
Your home isn’t just a place that needs decorating, it should support you emotionally as well, so before we even start looking at inspirational pictures I always ask my clients how they want to ‘feel’ in the space we are addressing.
Are they looking to achieve a fun, lively family space, a calm relaxing retreat or something in between? Then we look at images that evoke this feeling for them and the tonal colour palette evolves organically from there.
Do you have to send a physical questionnaire to clients?
While an initial questionnaire is vital for gathering information ahead of any interior design project, some interior designers choose not to send a physical questionnaire to prevent taking up too much of their client’s time. If you’d prefer not to get your client to fill out the questionnaire themselves, instead, you could memorise your questions and split them across your initial call and onsite consultation. This will make the process easier for your client, but you’ll still be able to find out everything you need to get the job done.
Ultimately, asking the right questions at the beginning of an interior design project will save you time and allow you to deliver your client’s dream space. Now that you’ve got a better idea of what to include in your initial interior design client questionnaire, it’s time to make sure yours is up to scratch. If you need a helping hand, download our handy template below. Good luck!