As business professionals (and human beings), growth is good. Usually. But sometimes expanding into new realms means saying goodbye to projects or people that are no longer a match—and that process can be tricky and even painful. We asked four designers—Rydhima Brar, Courtney B. Smith, Nicole Hurd and Sarah Rosenhaus—to share how they approach the clients they’ve outgrown.
“On one hand, I want to make sure our level of customer service is always held high; on the other hand, due to the client, the creativity and level of interest in the project may decline completely. With any type of client, you never know when a reference or referral might come through, so we do our best to make sure their requests are answered in the most appropriate way. If we feel the client is just not working out, we find a middle ground and gracefully part ways—we assess where we are in the project at that point in time, complete our deliverables and find a good place to stop. It’s tricky, but sometimes it’s required.” —Rydhima Brar, R/terior Studio, Los Angeles
“In my experience, the main reason designers outgrow clients is budget. Newer designers price themselves low out of necessity. As they gain experience and build their portfolios, they raise their rates. This might make them unaffordable for some former clients. One of the things I love most about my work is the relationships I develop, and I didn’t like the idea of discouraging clients from seeking me out as I became a more experienced decorator at a higher pricing tier. I am grateful for all of my clients but have an especially soft spot for those early ones who took a chance on me and helped me grow my business into what it is today. When I raised rates on my core full-service offering, I added an alternative for a two-hour package. It’s a good option for clients who aren’t ready or able to commit to a full-scope project or price. These mini sessions are a budget-friendly way for me to help clients who aren’t a fit for my full-service option, and there are a lot of them!” —Courtney B. Smith, Courtney B. Smith Design, Marin County, California
“I think it’s important to market your style and updates so your clients are aware of your growth and direction. For clients who still want to work together but you disagree on fundamental elements, I recommend referring them to another designer whom you have a good relationship with. I’ve never believed in having competition in the industry—if a client doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work for another designer.” —Nicole Hurd, Hurd Homes, Jupiter, Florida
“I think our job as designers is to be able to bring the client into our world and elevate their visual sensibilities. If one of our clients has a vision for something that we have moved on from, we try to encourage them to expand their point of view. A good designer can use the client’s brief as a foundation and expand on it in ways the client couldn’t have done for themselves. This is why they hire us.” —Sarah Rosenhaus, Sarah Rosenhaus Interior Design, Santa Monica, California
Homepage image: A featherlight office loft by Rydhima Brar takes its cue from Hollywood motifs | Mike Carreiro