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Monday, January 14, 2013

5 signs a potential client may be crazy

"Oh hai! Let's talk new trim for this door!"

So you get a call/e-mail/text/smoke signal from a potential client requesting an interview. Great! you think. More money in the bank and a chance to fluff the portfolio while making the world a prettier place.

But this person is giving off a weird vibe and you have a nagging misgiving or four. How do you tell if your potential client has a certain joie de vivre or needs a few restful months in the Charlie Sheen wing of the local psychiatric hospital?

1. Their home is a mess. And I don't mean the symmetrical vases on the mantle are a few inches off. I'm talking capital-D dirty with Jurassic-size dust bunnies and junk piled everywhere. If they can't maintain a basic level of sanitary living, they have no respect for anything home-related.

2. They throw out a decorating red herring. Visions of beautiful classic spaces fill their heads - linen slipcovers, custom cerused oak built-ins with bone trim, lamps and objets from high-end showrooms, oh, and plastic perforated solar shades. Because that's what they've always had and it works for them.

3. Feng shui is discussed with reverence and at great length. Your potential client truly believes that household objects and wonky floor plans are imbued with magical life-transformative properties.

4. You're told a mother/aunt/sorority sister/pot dealer (don't laugh, I've had the latter happen) will be weighing in on all design decisions. Because they have a "flair."

5. Entire episodes of HGTV shows are quoted. Candice Olson is a goddess, 4 gallons of paint will cover an entire home, and all contractors work for free. They can't wait to experience their own Big Reveal.

Now one or two of these signs doesn't necessarily mean the project is doomed. Any more than that though and you should snatch your card right back out of their hand and sprint for the door.

Tell me Dumplings Who Work in Design, what are your potential project red flags?


rebecca said...

"the wife" or "the assistant" who will be reviewing everything

David said...

I would never be able to work in design. Because I have friends who do. I don't know how bitch-slaps aren't a daily occurence.

Madam Pince said...

And this comes just as I'm contemplating a move into interior design.

Raina Cox said...

Madam Pince - My most recent project was so stressful, I had to be prescribed blood pressure meds and Xanax. Food for thought.

Camilla @ Designalogue said...

Ah I feel like this is a safe place to rant about this subject! (I can hardly on my own where physco clients might see can i!!!!)
Last year i had TWO insane crazy bitch mole clients! The first one kept me dancing around her project for an entire year working on a scheme that she was loving -LOVING while building was being done on her home. We did the bathroom - looked so amazing & incredible that even friends of hers who I dont know rang me to say how good it looked. When it came to the living room - with the scheme we worked on for a year even down to the smallest detail - she looked at the quote which wasnt insane AND was under the said budget amount even (unheard of!) she decided she couldnt afford it & would do it all herself. Sadly she wont let me photograph the finished bathroom which is a very unique & beautiful design. Very frustrating & I shouldve taken my initital insticts into account when I first met her & saved myself the heart ache.
eh. live & learn. Im sure it will happen again - I just need to manage it better I spose!

rant over. Thanks for being my safe place R!!! xx

Modern Country Lady said...

crikey! But then remember, the worst experiences produce the funniest stories! Anyway, that is how I try to battle my way through life! hehehe.

hush said...

While I don't work in design, it's funny how these red flags translate perfectly to my own totally unrelated line of work - especially #4, having someone else weigh in on your work. Ugh. And #1, a dirty, junk-filled home, is one of the most accurate signs of all sorts of crazy, period.

Madam Pince said...

Oh my. I'm already on blood pressure meds & antidepressants. Perhaps a lane change is in order.

Raina Cox said...

Madam Prince - I've talked to my husband about my going to nursing school. I'd rather have someone's life in my hands than their sofa. Much less stressful.

Holly Phillips @ The English Room said...

Possibly my favorite post ever! Two favorites of mine are...
"I have my own tax number. I just want your ideas..."


when they mention all the previous designers they have used exceeding and run fast. They don't play well with others and have no loyalty.


Holly Phillips @ The English Room

Appletree said...

The Realtor asks you to make the Chinese couple's home less Chinese. They don't speak English.

Tara Dillard said...

When the client says negative things about previous designers, they will say them about YOU.

Left a client, she was happy, next morning a long negative email. Crazy negative. Forwarded it to a peer, he said they have pills for people like her.

Amazed when a new client thinks I can come over tomorrow or this weekend. Happened again yesterday, the man went silent when I said I'm already booking into mid-February. Zero respect for my profession.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

Brenda Murphy said...

It makes you want to ask THEM for a reference!!!

Raina Cox said...

Brenda Murphy - I think I could make a boatload of money coming up with a psychological profile questionnaire for designers to give potential clients.

Cathy Wall said...

Hahaha! I had a kitchen client last year who, as I was "gently" guiding her towards pendant lighting that was not cobalt blue and actually worked in her kitchen, told me in a very nasty email, which upset me to no end, that "she was entitled to her opinion." Why did you hire me then? She also made many last minute changes to my design plan that rendered the kitchen not something I wish to show off. Flake city, I had a gut about her from the get go, my take away? Trust your gut!

Vyala-Arts said...

Oh my - lots of headaches I see. Similar applies to a painter's work. That's why I normally don't work on commissions...

julie said...

As a furniture maker, not an interior designer, my Red Flag was the word "simple". As soon as a client utters the word I know I'm in trouble. "There's a project I'd love to have you make - it's really something very simple and should be fast and easy (read: cheap) to build ". As if.

5th and State said...

dire times = desperate decisions, here's the scenario;

my new client recited her email address which includes the word 'pita'. she then proceded to vaingloriously decipher, "that stands for pain in the ass, everyone knows i am'
stay tuned...........

jtc said...

Every profession has those "special" clients. My favorite legal clients: "I just need you to write a simple xxx for me. You have a form for that, right?" Sure, why did I bother with law school when I can use LegalZoom.

The Pink Pagoda said...

My daughter has mentioned being interested in interior design. From watching Million Dollar Decorators with the horrid clients and now these comments, I'll be working to steer her away from that interest!

Margaret said...

Calling Nurse Raina Ratched!

You'd spend all your time on your knees pulling up green industrial waiting room carpet.

With a chance that some of your former clients might be patients, and watching you in horror.

I'm convinced that there are no professions that allows one to avoid customer contact altogether.

penelopebianchi said...

I will tell you everything! Good Grief!
I have been a decorator for 43 years! (not an "interior designer)!
Sister, Nancy Lancaster, Mario........among many others who are (in my opinion)"tops"! They call themselves decorators. and I always have!
Started in 1970! There weren't very many in Southern California. Pasadena.
I have had the most happy and financially successful career I can imagine! (I hope this doesn't sound like bragging)!
I am astonished at how much pleasure; excitement, and financial success could happen in the job of a self-employed decorator!

Until a very few years ago........ I did no advertising; no listed business phone number; now I have a website!
I think having a "website" is just like means people have seen your work; and they like it!
I am not seeking work! my website is ( I would love for you to look at it!

This is a wonderful blog post......and I wish I had read it 43 years ago! You have identified every single challenging situation I have encountered!

I have been so lucky; I have had a wonderful, and lucrative career in something that was practically nonexistent when I started!

I would like to do a blog post.......using this list.....and telling some stories from my 43 (almost 44 years!) Of course, crediting you!
Let me know if that is OK!

Check out my blog! I started it....and I have loved it.

I have been a little disappointed by so many blogs just post "pinterest pictures" (I adore pinterest)

But......what is that??? I don't get it , maybe!!
Let me know!


Nancy {at} powellbrower at home said...

The client needs small scale recliners to finish the room. We end up giving her about 20 choices, and she still is shopping texting us pictures of the exact same thing she has ( bonded leather, saddle bags, over scale ) We're done. We need to go back and photograph her family room and kitchen and she has removed our custom pillows in favor of cheap, garish pillows totally off plan. The fab new kitchen is now a mess and our next convo is 'can we remove everything you've put in there and restyle it for our photo shoot?' or just forget it.
Fun to commiserate! Love your post. xo Nancy

Raina Cox said...

From Carla Aston (accidentally deleted by my clumsy fingers) - "My designer friend has helped me in the past but she's too busy right now." (Ahem....designer "friend" is no longer friend because you abused your relationship, used her discounts, only talked about your project for months and wishes to never see you again....girl.)

penelopebianchi said...

There can be happiness in this job as interior decorator! Your other post about checking out the client is the secret! When "prospective clients are interviewing me..I am interviewing them!"

Pick the right clients......blissful career!

Honestly! And you outlined just how to!!