“I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful. I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful” Successful by Drake
It never fails. Whenever I have a conversation with someone and mention that I’m an aspiring interior designer I get asked the infamous question that ALL designers hear throughout the course of their career: “Can you come over and help me design/decorate my house?” My response is always YES!!! Are you kidding me? Of course I will help you. Interior design gives me LIFE. But deep down I’m really asking myself are they serious or just pulling my chain.
Case in point. A few years ago, I attended a birthday party with one of my besties. She introduced me to a young , single (wink), professional man who was also her co-worker. He was attractive, smart, and funny. We chatted about current events, life, mutual friends, travel, and of course….careers. At the time, I was a first-year interior design student and aggressively sought out opportunities to gain real-world design experience by decorating my friend’s homes. After telling him I was in school for interior design he didn’t hesitate to mention that he needed my help decorating his condo. We exchanged contact information and agreed to schedule the initial client consultation in the near future. I was psyched. This was my first opportunity to showcase my skills and declare to the world…I am an INTERIOR DESIGNER, hear me roar. On the day of the consultation, I showed up at his house with my notepad, digital camera, client questionnaire, colorwheel, design magazines, pencils, pens, and sketch paper. He gave me a tour of the place. I was impressed. He had pretty good taste. There was artwork on the walls and every room was fully furnished. It made wonder why I was there in the first place because he obviously didn’t need my help. But that didn’t matter to me. I figured my job would be rather simple. I would rearrange the furniture (most people suck at space planning) and recommend a few minor cosmetic changes. We sat down and he told me all about his design needs, budget, space challenges, color preferences, etc. I arranged a time to come back the following week to present the design concept to him and get feedback and approval to move forward.
I spent the entire week prepping for the presentation. I researched furniture options online, collected paint and fabric samples and lined up contractors. I even drafted the space plan to scale. Not bad for a newbie. I was ready to win him over with my ideas and land the job! I was focused man (Jay-Z voice). I went all out…even dressed up as if I was meeting a “real” client* and not an acquaintance. After discussing my ideas, he showered me with praise for a job well-done and said I had a successful career as a designer ahead me. But to my surprise, he asked if he could take some time to think things over and would get back to me within the next few days. I admit that was not exactly the response I expected to hear from him but I understood. While packing up my pride belongings he began asking all sorts of questions like; what did I like to do for fun, where did I hang out in my spare time, what’s my schedule like during the week. Eventually, he asked me out on a date. I declined. I explained that I didn’t want to mix business with pleasure. I viewed this project as an opportunity to build portfolio and get my name out there not get free dinner and drinks. *le sigh* Unfortunately for me, it turned out my so-called potential client never intended to do anything to his condo. He went through all that trouble just to ask me out on a date. I was flattered appalled. I was just hoodwinked, bamboozled, and led astray. Needless to say, after turning him down, I never heard from him again. I ended up doing all that work, wishing, hoping and praying for nothing, nada, zilch. *wall slide* The moral of the story is never offer to do anything, especially for a single man, for free. My time is valuable. Hmph.
Have you experienced a similar situation? How do you handle client relations? What do you when someone asks “can you come over and design/decorate my place?
* This was not a paying job. Since I was a student he was letting me give him ideas in exchange for developing my portfolio and using him a client reference on future projects.
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