Is there anything as satisfying as a finished project? After weeks of hard work, the vision you’ve created with your client has finally taken shape. You might be ready to kick up your feet and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, but not so fast—to make the most of your work and keep your business going, there’s still a little more to be done.
One way or another, you need pictures of your finished project. They don’t need to be incredibly artistic, but they should be good-quality pictures that show off your work as well as possible. If your photography skills aren’t great, consider hiring a professional photographer. This is something you’ll have to coordinate with your client, of course, since it’s their space!
Either way, think of every project as an opportunity to add to your design portfolio. Even if a project was small-scale and less showy than some of your other work, don’t dismiss it! Building a diverse design portfolio reflects your diverse professional talents, and it can also reassure new clients that you’ll work within their scale and budget.
Set up a photo opportunity as soon as possible. Living spaces tend to get… well, lived in. Some homeowners are set on keeping their houses pristine, but chances are your project will see some wear as the family settles back in. Getting your photos done as soon as possible ensures you’ll have pictures of your work looking its best.
If you do decide to publish these photos on your website to showcase your work, just make sure you have your client’s permission. It might be your work, but it’s their home.
A Week After
Now that your clients have had a chance to settle into their newly designed space and really appreciate all your hard work, make sure to send a card thanking them for choosing to work with you. Keep a good stock of cards, envelopes, and stamps in your office—they’re tools of your trade, just as much as your trustworthy color wheel!
Some design professionals will also send a small gift with their card. By now, you’ve probably gotten to know your client pretty well, so this is a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship by sending them something that suits their personality or interests.
Alternatively, you could send a gift that helps to build your design brand: find a unique item that you give to all of your clients. Choosing a small décor piece that your clients can display identifies you with the spaces you designed—plus it can be a conversation starter that might get your clients referring you to their friends and family!
A Few Months After
It takes a few months to really get used to a new space. Now that the initial excitement has worn off, it’s time to get back in touch with your clients and ask if they’d care to share any thoughts on their experience with you.
If they’re willing to give you some feedback, try to find out if they’re happy with your work; after all, the service you deliver is at the core of your design business. Is it a good living space for them? Does it suit their needs? Are there any problems or issues they have with it?
You can also ask what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about working with you. Your design career has probably taught you that home design involves a lot of interaction with your client; a designer who does amazing work won’t be very popular if he or she is a pain to work with. Remember, your business goes beyond the final product: it’s the whole package, from marketing to client interaction to creation.
If your client is thrilled with your work, consider asking them to give you a good review to help promote your business. There are many different sites that house profiles and reviews for designers, so it’s easy to send your clients a link and ask them to fill out a quick testimonial.
On an Ongoing Basis
Keep your address book up-to-date! Maintaining good client relations doesn’t mean becoming best friends with all your clients, but it’s a nice thought to send out cards to clients for birthdays and during the holidays, especially if you worked with them on a big project.
This personal touch helps sustain your relationship with your client beyond the end of your first project together. If they had a positive experience with you before, reaching out to them again can keep your name fresh in their minds and make them more likely to think of you the next time they (or their friends) need a design professional—even if that’s a few years down the road.
Of course, as your client base grows with your business, it may get hard to keep your dates straight on top of all your other work. Consider creating a holiday card mailing list for your business—it’ll make a little more work for you around the holiday season, but sending all your cards out at once makes it easy to stay on top of things.