Since the pandemic, virtual communication has become part and parcel of the working world. But designers’ jobs haven’t become any less hands on, nor any less personal. So we asked four industry pros—Irene Roqué, Mimi Meacham, Eleanor Trepte and Judy Pickett—to share how they strike the right balance when it comes to managing out-of-town clients.
“My firm isn’t currently working with out-of-town clients, actually—but at my old firm, local sources were essential. Even using local sources, we would always fly in for the week of the install. And probably once a month we would fly in and check in [with the client]. It’s important to communicate clearly. Nowadays, I would probably do that on Zoom or with a FaceTime call. It’s so much easier. Even with my clients in town, I rarely go on-site anymore. It saves time. It saves travel time for me, and it’s just a little more casual, too—like we’re just calling to check in.” —Irene Roqué, Alo + Hane Design, San Francisco
“I actually love working with clients from afar. We can do almost everything virtually now, so it makes it easy and fun. We use Zoom to conduct meetings and presentations: I can share my screen to review the concept design with them, and they can email us their feedback. We set up a Pinterest board for their project where they can upload their inspiration photos for us to see. We can even walk them through a 3D version of the designed space using a software called Foyr. For installs, I like to be there in person, though, to work my magic and see it come together.” —Mimi Meacham, Marian Louise Designs, Houston
Define Your Boundaries
“Get on the same page about communication. In what way, and how often, would your client like to stay in touch? Having the flexibility of remote work is great, but it’s easy for boundaries to be crossed. We like to overcommunicate in these situations to ensure that everyone is always on the same page. If your client is open to text messages or even Instagram DMs for sending them ideas or brands to review, then lean in to those messaging formats, as they can be huge time-savers and ensure that you and the client are in regular contact.” —Eleanor Trepte, Dekay and Tate Interiors, Palm Beach, Florida
Handle With Care
“While the pandemic made working with long-distance clients easier, I still recommend at least one [on-site] trip prior to the design work commencing. During this trip, try to procure as much information as humanly possible, even if it takes you an extra day or so. I like to go in with a comprehensive checklist to make sure I don’t miss anything crucial. I also always take a ton of photos. This way, the client knows that I have all the details I need, and [that makes them] feel more at ease as the design process moves along. Be sure to regularly touch base with your clients, letting them know what you’re working on, how their orders are coming along and so on. We also send care packages to our clients before they give us the final sign-off, with fabric swatches, paint samples, etc., so they have complete confidence in the decisions being made.” —Judy Pickett, Design Lines Signature, Raleigh, North Carolina
Homepage image: An Ocean Ridge, Florida, living room designed by Dekay and Tate | K. Hayden Rafferty