Safety First ! Tips for Interior Designers
1. Qualify your calls. Not all calls are referrals. We suggest that designers practice safe procedures. With social media, websites and numerous ways that a stranger can have access to contact you, it is important to identify the clients who are both worth your time and have good intentions. After the initial communication you can correspond via email.
2. A potential client with good intentions should not have a problem taking the time to fill out a Client Prospect Form.
3. While walking into a perfect stranger's home isn't something most people would do, professionals such as interior designers do it on a regular basis. Conducting site visits is imperative to the job of a designer but protecting yourself from harm must be a priority.
Here are some tips to help you avoid dangerous situations:
• Make sure that the potential client fills out a Client Prospect Form.
• If at all possible, arrange your first meeting with new clients in your office rather than on site. This establishes a professional tone between you and the client. Also, introduce them to someone else in the office so they will be identifiable. Ask to make a copy of the client's driver's license, even if it requires you to explain the safety measure.
• If meeting in your office isn't an option, let someone know exactly where you're going and when you'll be back. Make sure that the alternate location is public, that it is during the day and if at all possible, bring a colleague with you. An industry related location would be desirable. Meet at a Design Center with a client style questionnaire to engage in conversation about their potential project. Let the client know that you want to know a bit more about their goals prior to the home visit.
• Leave the client's name, phone number, and any other info you've collected at your office. If you feel that the information shared was not accurate, request it again and say you had trouble accessing the document. Once you arrive at the meeting, take advantage of technology to keep you safe. Text or email a photo of the client's license and car tag to a co-worker or family member. Introduce the client to people you know. If you feel unsafe or concerned, leave. Tell them that you have an emergency and must leave. Please contact local authorities if you feel that you are in danger.
• Your client doesn't need to know details of your personal life, such as where you live or info about family members, in order to have a quality business relationship and receive great design services from you. Keep your personal life personal.
• If possible, never park in the driveway where you could get blocked. Instead, park at the curb in front to be more visible if a conflict occurs.
• Do not agree to meet with clients after dark.
• Establish a safe word or code, such as “red file,” with a relative, close friend or coworker. Choose a word or phrase not commonly used that you can work into any conversation if you feel threatened and need to call someone discreetly. Example: "Hello, this is Cindy. I'm meeting with clients at (location/address) and I need you to send me the red file.”
• Keep your cell phone on you at all times and install a security app or panic button so you can easily call for help without drawing attention.
• When you are getting into your car alone, look in the backseat and underneath the car. Lock the doors immediately when you get inside.
• Consider taking a self-defense class to learn proper maneuvers to protect yourself from an attacker.
• Trust your first instinct and follow your intuition. If you have an uneasy feeling, come up with an alternative plan or take someone with you. Do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.