Sandra Funk’s secrets to landing dream design clients

Designer and business consultant Sandra Funk has been where a lot of designers are right now: feeling overworked and underappreciated and not doing the work that best uses their skills.

Sandra Funk

There is a better, more satisfying and more fulfilling way to operate, she says, and it starts with identifying your dream client and then designing your business to match their needs.

Funk, chief executive officer and creative director of House of Funk based in Franklin, Tennessee, shared her philosophy and strategy during a recent seminar at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, California.

When you envision your dream client, they have a huge budget (or no budget at all), they are easy to work with and give you ample creative freedom. Funk uses the metaphor of the kind killer whale. She wants fewer, bigger and more impactful projects. Here is how she attracts them:


Crossing t’s and dotting i’s

Your contracts are key to attracting ideal clients and repelling the ones that are less than ideal. Your contracts should outline your boundaries and clarify expectations. Agreeing to both cuts back on potential problems arising later.

Funk also suggests doing what designers do best and “making it pretty.” Put together a slideshow to present in your discovery meeting that outlines all this key information, including the project estimate. Intersperse your portfolio imagery to make it experiential and engaging for potential clients.

Talking numbers

No one likes being nickel and dimed. Pricing your projects clearly and upfront is key to attracting your ideal clients, Funk says. Ideal clients will appreciate it; nonideal clients will run. 

Even high-end clients appreciate knowing what a design project going to cost so they can write one big check and call it a day, Funk says. They don’t want to know where every cent goes and be sent a bunch of individual invoices.

Use past projects of a similar size and scope to help you create a full project estimate to provide to the client upfront. Is this going to cost $1 million or $1.2 million? The estimate should include your fees, furnishings costs, freight and taxes, and renovation or building costs — all together.

The worst thing you can do is ask your clients what their budget is, Funk says. They are hiring designers to educate them. 

See Also

Creating good systems

Funk’s strategies for designing systems for efficiency and growth include three major steps: 

  • Document all your processes.
  • Refine, revise, rearrange, remove duplication and delegate tasks to the right people.
  • Create templates for all your client, vendor and trade communications. 

Developing and implementing repeatable, streamlined systems will ensure you are ready for your ideal clients when they come along. (Funk has contracts, communications and systems designed and templated in her program, the Interior Design Standard. You can learn more about joining here.)

When you want to attract ideal clients, put yourself in their shoes and design an exceptional experience for them.

As Funk says, “Plan to spoil (clients) rotten, but price it in so you can afford to.” 

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