My design process: It starts with a Discovery Call


I like to get to know my potential clients with what I call a Discovery Call. Every time I have the opportunity to meet a potential new client, I’m excited! It’s great to speak with someone who is looking for support in managing their home, looking at making positive changes and I am the one they have phoned to speak to about it. I consider it an honour that that person has waded through potentially a long list of designers and has decided to call me to talk about it.

Because this first interaction is always so important, I like to plan it and make sure that I am fully present for the call. I have a booking system here on my website that allows people to make an appointment to speak with me at a time that suits them. If they call directly without making that booking in advance, I will organise an appointment at a later time where I can focus wholeheartedly on our conversation. I want to make sure that I am listening intently and taking detailed notes for what may be a design consultation. I’ll get into the nitty gritty of the consultation in an upcoming journal, but for today I want to talk to you about why the discovery call is so important.

We both get to know if we are compatible with each other

It’s a bit like a first date, minus the romance! Each person is looking for attributes in the other that support their goals and missions. For you the client, you want to know if I have a process I can explain. When I come to your home, what will happen first? Will I understand clearly how you charge and when? Can we work together and if so how? Will you listen to my ideas or do I have to run with yours because you are the interior designer?

That last point I chuckle at because it is honestly what some people think. They expect that the designer will push their vision and take control, running with trends and not necessarily taking into account the client’s true vision and needs in their own homes. This has never been the case in my business, and I am quick to point out that it is always about the client. I’m pleased to say that most designers that I know also don’t do that either! We aim to please and will want to make sure that you feel supported and the outcome is a celebration of who you are, not us.

For me, I have questions I would like clarified as well. Are you planning now so that the project goals are considered & created from the beginning, or has the project started without a plan and decisions on finishes were due to the builder yesterday? The first scenario is obviously the most desirable for the designer [and client], but if faced with the second scenario, we will need to know that the potential client now going to hand over a higher level of control. We may be coming in to sort out considerable problems due to lack of planning, so will need to be empowered to make fast decisions. These are honest considerations that designers will think about before agreeing to involved in a project.

Plans and all finishes for our Manly bathroom project were decided well before builders wee engaged to start work on the project.

Plans and all finishes for our Manly bathroom project were decided well before builders wee engaged to start work on the project.

 Will you work within our budget?

The answer to that is yes. In fact, one of the questions I ask a new friend who has initiated a discovery call is if they have an investment amount in mind. I first understand how much someone wants to do and then I can roughly [please note-roughly] anticipate a very broad ballpark for the work. For example, if someone says they want to do their Kitchen, an ensuite bathroom and a living room full of furniture for 50K, I will quickly clarify that I do not think that may be a realistic budget. With most kitchen renovations staring at 30K without appliances [ballpark add another 12-15K] then it is not likely that a new ensuite and whole lounge room full of furniture will come in at 50K. I’m honest about that in the discovery call and if this halts any further meetings, I understand it was probably in the best interest for all to end it there. The designer also needs to charge design fees to create the kitchen, bath and living room plans and or course, the 50K will not cut it in that circumstance. The reality of cost is the reality of cost.

Will you charge for your consultation and how much?

I advise any potential clients that there is a charge and it is a prepaid fee before I arrive for the consult. A prepaid fee shows faith in the intent for the designer and from experience, people do not value free advice. The free ‘meet & greet’ is not considered worthwhile in a majority of cases and is generally a waste of time for all involved. Plus, like everybody designers have bills to pay, families to support and our time is billable. My fee is explained at the discovery call and if the client has to think about it or query the cost of the fee, it is an indication that this person may not actually be able [or comfortable] paying design fees.

 Can I ask for your opinion about a couple of situations now over the phone?

In the discovery call I am listening intently. We discuss estimated investment amounts and the design intent for the project. I talk about the consultation process and the value I can provide in the two working hours that I am there, but the discovery call is not a design session. It’s difficult to give sound advice without seeing what is actually there to consider, so I try not to provide feedback as I could be totally off mark. Once the consultation is locked in, I look forward to covering any number of scenarios and advice required at the consultation. Consultations can be for the DIY client or full-service client. Both types of scenarios are a paid consult, and both provide extensive value to the client as lots of information is shared and scope of work created in two short hours.

More to come on what to expect at the consultation shortly!



Adam Scougall