trade tales | Aug 2, 2019 |
Do you Google your clients before you meet them?

Like it or not, the internet has changed the way the design industry works. You can bet your buttons that clients have stalked your Instagram and portfolio before they set up that first meeting. But should designers look up their clients before they agree to a project? We asked nine designers—Paloma Contreras, partners Chanel R. Gaines and Monique Spears-Ireland, Lynn Kloythanomsup, partners Anna Kroesser and Amelia Strat, Sandra Lucas, Caroline Rafferty, and Summer Thornton—what their policy is on Googling clients.

Caroline Rafferty
Caroline RaffertyCapehart Photography

Meet them first

“Many times my clients come through referrals, so I often have a frame of reference. While I don’t look them up before a first meeting, I always Google my clients before signing an agreement. I like to go into our first meeting with an open mind so I can let them tell me their story and needs. But when it comes down to doing business, especially in someone’s home, it’s a good idea to make sure there isn’t a history of multiple lawsuits or any other red flags. In the end, you are getting into a long-term commitment and need to make sure you are dealing with good people.” —Caroline Rafferty, Caroline Rafferty Interiors, West Palm Beach, Florida

Paloma Contreras
Paloma ContrerasCourtesy of Paloma Contreras

Equal footing

“When I receive a new inquiry from a potential client, I always Google the project address. I am generally curious about what the house looks like, where it is located, and so on. I’ll usually Google the person’s name as well. If I happen upon their Instagram account or Pinterest page, that can tell me a lot about the person’s style and what they are drawn to, and this helps me figure out what they are looking for and if we would be a good fit. I feel like a potential client generally knows a decent amount about me when they make the initial contact based on what they have seen on my Instagram account or website, so doing a little research on them beforehand puts us on more equal footing. Above all, my curiosity generally drives me to Google those who come into the orbit of my business, whether it is a potential new client, an applicant for a job opening, or a new vendor.” —Paloma Contreras, Paloma Contreras Interior Design, Houston

Lynn Kloythanomsup
Lynn KloythanomsupCourtesy of Landed Interiors & Homes

Lesson Learned

“Out of respect for their privacy, we have not done much research on our potential clients if they have not initially chosen to supply us with this information. We Google their provided address so that we can find existing photos of the project and check out public company links in any email signatures. There has only been one instance where we should have vetted a client more thoroughly before entering a contract. We had a very lovely wife we were working with for a year and a CEO husband who chose not to participate in the process. As the project was close to finishing and the husband entered the picture, we Googled his company and read some unfortunate Glassdoor reviews on his executive style that were in line with his treatment of us. We take responsibility for not leading him in our arena and asking him to be included in the process early on to avoid any surprises or misinformation between spouses. We now require in our agreement that all signing parties agree to attend at least one in four meetings.” —Lynn Kloythanomsup, Landed Interiors & Homes, Berkeley, California

Amelia Strat and Anna Kroesser
Amelia Strat and Anna KroesserCourtesy of Kroesser + Strat

Do a quick search

“For us, their profession is something we like to know going in. It’s not for financial reasons—we just want to see what we’re getting into before we walk in, but we don’t do a deep dive. It’s just a quick search. Say you Google them and see that they went to an art gallery opening or something like that, that tells you a bit about who they are. It’s hard to tell anything for sure based on Googling, but it is something we always end up doing.” —Amelia Strat and Anna Kroesser, Kroesser + Strat, New York

Chanel R. Gaines and Monique Spears-Ireland
Chanel R. Gaines and Monique Spears-IrelandCourtesy of Head of the House Interiors

Be as prepared as possible

“We use social media and the web as a tool to get to know the personality of our clients before our initial meeting. In addition to the online research we also send all of our potential clients a questionnaire and have an initial phone call. All of the preliminary research allows for us to be as prepared as possible for the first face-to-face consultation. We always inform our clients that we have looked at their Instagram or Googled them and we encourage them to do the same with us.” —Monique Spears-Ireland and Chanel R. Gaines, Head of the House Interiors, Lawrenceville, Georgia

Sandra Lucas
Sandra LucasCourtesy of Lucas Eilers

Ice breaker

“If it’s someone who has found us through our website or social media without a personal referral, we do Google them. It is nice to know a bit about their business and background. Many times we have things in common such as being alumni of the same university, or sharing memberships in organizations that we both support, which helps break the ice. I find that people are usually flattered that you have Googled them, rather than being put off by it. There is a wealth of information at our fingertips these days! I also think it is important to Google yourself at least once a year, it has made me realize when it is time to have a new headshot taken!” —Sandra Lucas, Lucas/Eilers Design Associates, Houston

Summer Thornton
Summer ThorntonCourtesy of Summer Thornton Design

Take it with a grain of salt

“Of course we do a quick Google just to get a feel for what’s out there. It’s no different than when we get a referral from a past client. We’ll ask our past client how they know one another and if their styles are similar or different. An online search may show if the client is active on Instagram and showcases their style, but I take anything read on the internet with a grain of salt. After all, not everything on the internet is true. We really learn about each other once we meet, and the client can open up and share more of what’s important to them.” —Summer Thornton, Summer Thornton Design, Chicago

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