How do you help clients through spending anxiety? – Business of Home

Even clients who have budgets to splurge on their home can get panicky about just how much interior design can cost. We asked six designers—Keith Baltimore, Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, Betty Brandolino, Penny Francis, Glenn Gissler and Kymberlyn Lacy—how they help clients through those moments of doubt.

Glenn Gissler

Glenn GisslerCourtesy of Glenn Gissler

Plan it out
“We develop a furniture plan and comprehensive budget early on, where we look to develop a line item for everything and remain very diligent to keep to this budget. The result is that once clients sign off on the budget, we generally find that they remain comfortable to the end. We have all heard stories about budgets gone wild, and we look to reassure our clients early on that we are respectful of the budget. And along the way, we give them updates on how we are doing with the budget. We have also found that when there are two homeowners, one person is often deeply concerned about the budget, while the other is more invested in the comfort and beautiful results. By setting a realistic budget, the one more engaged in the aesthetics doesn’t get in trouble with the more cost-conscious partner.” Glenn Gissler, Glenn Gissler Design, New York

Penny Francis

Penny FrancisCourtesy of Penny Francis

Percentage points
“At the onset, I always communicate the need to have a contingency percentage for possible budget overruns due to many factors, like a lack of product availability, extended delays and unforeseen issues or changes. It’s great if you don’t need the contingency in the end, and it’s better to be prepared and not use it than not have the resources available should you need them. Committing to the plan and not making spontaneous changes also minimizes the potential risk for budget increases and fatigue. The more transparent you are with regard to all associated costs, [the better you can] reduce the potential for budget fatigue. In the end, this communication builds a stronger relationship with the client and your brand.” Penny Francis, Eclectic Home, New Orleans

Keith Baltimore

Keith BaltimoreCourtesy of Keith Baltimore

Cut back
“Clients may need to be reminded of their primary impetus for starting the project, which is to enhance their lifestyle in a space custom-designed to fulfill their personal requirements of comfort, aesthetics and practicality. Their initial approval of the plans to bring this vision to fruition is not usually the issue, so if there is a budget question as the project proceeds, we can put the emphasis on the most important design elements and cut back on those that are less impactful, thus reassuring them that they will still end up with what they visualized without excessive cost increases.” Keith Baltimore, Baltimore Design Center, Port Washington, New York

Janelle Blakely Photopoulos

Janelle Blakely PhotopoulosCourtesy of Janelle Blakely Photopoulos

Stick to the plan
“We have budget conversations very early on and get commitment on the total investment nearly from day one. Once the investment level is set, we intentionally source within that range, honoring both the budget and our clients. This builds trust, sets expectations and prevents a sense of budget fatigue, as they’ve already anticipated the total investment from the get-go.” Janelle Blakely Photopoulos, Blakely Interior Design, North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Betty Brandolino

Betty BrandolinoCourtesy of Betty Brandolino

Window shopping
“In general, clients are more likely to be weary of spending by the end of a project. We often run into this issue when we’re brought on to a new construction project to tackle the window treatments through our work as Hunter Douglas dealer. Whenever possible, our business plan is to get involved with the client as early as possible, both on the interior design side and the window treatment side. When we catch them on the front end of a new build, we’re able to plan each element of the design according to the budget. When we do catch clients on the back end and they’re experiencing budget fatigue, we value-engineer the project, which means we take a step back and reevaluate the priority areas of the home, helping them decide what’s most important to them at that moment.” —Betty Brandolino, Fresh Twist Studio, Elmhurst, Illinois

Kymberlyn Lacy

Kymberlyn LacyCourtesy of Kymberlyn Lacy

Talk it out
“I strongly believe that how you as an industry professional think about money sets the tone for ‘the money talk.’ One strategy my firm has incorporated is to have scheduled ‘money talk’ meetings with clients based on project progression instead of only when a problem arises. Another way we eliminate budget fatigue is to provide an itemized breakdown that categorizes the item cost, lead time, detailed description of the material and subcontractor cost. In addition, my firm provides a cost analysis overview that breaks the client’s budget down based on overall percentages per category. This gives clients a clear visual depiction of where they are spending the most and if we need to adjust in certain areas. I’ve found that incorporating a cost-analysis report has been a vital part of the business since the pandemic. Clients are provided with an overview of the cost and lead time pre-pandemic in comparison to what things cost currently and where they are in terms of budget based on the national average.” Kymberlyn Lacy, International Flair Designs, Little Rock, Arkansas

Homepage photo: A project by Glenn Gissler | Photo by Gross & Daley