Do your Facebook followers bemoan the fact that you live on the other side of the country? Is there no market in your area for the kind of design services you dream of? Or are you just ready to expand your business, but not sure where to go?
If any of these sounds like you, it might be time to consider adding a new design service to your business: long-distance design consultations. Whether you’re an interior decorator, a home stager, a professional organizer, or feng shui professional, offering your clients the option of a long-distance design consultation lets you diversify your business and bring in more clients.
But first, you’ll have to figure out the details. All design professions are very visual, so how will you figure out what kind of space you’re working with from across the country? Should you charge a long-distance client the same as you would for a local client? We’ve got your answers!
What is a long-distance design consultation?
First things first: what do we mean when we talk about a long-distance design consultation? Like many aspects of the design industry, there’s no single definition or setup. The way design services are packaged depends on the business. Even for traditional in-person services, two interior decorators or home stagers might offer totally different packages to their clients!
But in general, a long-distance design consultation is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than meeting a client in person to discuss their needs and look at their space, you’ll conduct a consultation by phone, email, or video call, without ever meeting your client face-to-face.
Obviously, this format expands your potential client base hugely, but it also creates some challenges. How are you supposed to advise a client on their space if you never see their home or office in person?
Luckily, you don’t have to do all the brainstorming yourself. Many designers have started offering long-distance consultations in a variety of forms. A little market research can help you find a style that’ll work for your business!
This low-commitment long-distance format doesn’t quite count as a consultation, but it’s a good place to start. As a design professional, you probably get people asking you for design advice all the time. For friends and family that’s fine, but writing detailed responses to every design-hungry Facebook post or blog comment you get can take up a lot of time.
Instead, add design advice to your business model. Now, we’re not suggesting you start hoarding all your design knowledge—that’s just bad for business (and super stingy). But you can offer “mini” consultations for clients who don’t want a total design overhaul.
For a fixed rate, let your clients send in photos of their spaces, along with their most pressing design questions. Maybe the energy in their living room feels off. Maybe they just can’t keep their hall closet organized, no matter how hard they try. Maybe they’re struggling to find the right piece of furniture to work with a strangely shaped sunroom. Whatever their problem, you can get back to them with some personalized advice. This style of long-distance design consultation is quick and easy for both you and your client!
You might not be able to arrange your client’s furniture and décor yourself, but you can still provide full-service design work, whatever your design specialization.
First, you’ll need some basic details from your client, including:
- Photos of their space
- Measurements of their room(s)
- Floor plan
- Design problems/needs
You’ll also want to pick up some extra info that’s important to your specific design business. For instance, a feng shui professional might also want compass readings and dates of birth for the space’s occupants. Professional organizers will need to know more about their clients’ habits and problems, while interior decorators will be interested in a client’s unique style.
Added up, it’s a lot of content to receive from a client. Unless you want your inbox to crash every time you book a new long-distance client, you’ll probably want to avoid getting everything sent to your email! Instead, look into tools like Dropbox or Google Drive.
What you offer your clients is up to you. You could include…
- A set number of hours of video call/phone call consultation
- A shopping list of furniture and décor to purchase
- A detailed space plan
- Coaching via phone, email, or video call to develop good organizing habits
- Almost anything else that you offer to your in-person clients!
Is it worth it?
We talked about scalability in a previous post, and for design professionals, offering online services is just about the best way to do it. You won’t have to fork out for a new office location or transportation. Most of the tech resources you need are already available for free online. And you’ll (finally) be able to reach people in other cities, states, or countries, who may love your blog or brand but despair over your distance.
Plus, long-distance work allows you to start specializing in things that just don’t sell in your area. Maybe there’s no market for luxury interior decorating where you live, or no real appetite for feng shui. Setting yourself up for long-distance design consultations means you’re no longer so limited by where you live.
But marketing your long-distance design services can be tricky. Suddenly you’ll be competing with designers offering similar services across the world—how will you stand out? How will you grab the attention of new clients?
For businesses ready to start growing, long-distance design consultations might be the perfect way to start growing—but they’re certainly not without their challenges!