How To Manage Home Improvement Client Relationships

What To Do When The Client Takes Over The Project

Working with clients is often a balancing act. Even though they hired you as a professional for your expertise, it’s easy for clients to become overly involved and end up crossing boundaries by wanting more control. How do you address their concerns and keep them happy without losing control of the project?

“For residential clients, 80 percent of the project is client management, because residential clients are personally attached to their project,” says Harold Remlinger of DesignTeam Plus in Birmingham, Michigan. “As the design professional, we have to educate the client on the options, and we maintain constant dialogue with our clients throughout the process.”

While all pros should strive to leave their clients satisfied, maintaining some level of control is essential to completing the project as promised. Here are four tips for handling situations when clients take over.

1. Set Clear Limits

Unscheduled calls or drop-ins from clients can easily turn into never-ending conversations. Your time is valuable, and making that clear at the start of every conversation can help prevent unnecessarily prolonged interactions.

“When clients ‘drop by for a quick question,’ I will start out by telling them how much time I have. If their stay drags out much longer than I said I had, I politely excuse myself and suggest another time to meet,” says Kelly Zamonski of The Kitchen Place in Xenia, Ohio. “Set very specific meeting times and deadlines. With the micromanaging client, you have to be much more organized and keep them — and yourself — on schedule or you will go crazy. ” 

By being firm with your time, you will stay in control and leave less room for a client to suck up unscheduled time.

2. Get Your Documents in Order 

Having up-to-date and organized paperwork can clear up any misunderstandings. If your clients have signed off on any documents, they have no excuse not to be on the same page.

“Get your contract super solid. That should be a living document that you make changes to often when a situation pops up that you’re not covered for,” says Shawn Foley of Foley Development Group in Reston, Virginia. “Make sure you have a very clear set of prints and specs, and make sure that you have a clause in your contract that states everything must be in writing. When they want to argue, I just refer back to the contract.” 

3. Have a Last Resort

Putting terms in your contract can help clarify who is running the project and set boundaries before they’re crossed. If you’ve done everything you can to salvage a project and it’s not working out, you can still collect payment and gracefully move on.

“I always have a discontinue clause in my agreement that I cover with clients so they know they run it or I run it as the client hired me to do,” says Patricia Hall of Vistas Interior Design in Benbrook, Texas. “They can determine if I continue or leave them to their own devices, and my discontinue clause states the fee will be prorated and paid to date of discontinuance. I always leave amicably and invite a call to return within a fixed number of days.” 

4. Don’t Take It Personally

We know your work is important to you and it can often become personal, but keeping your emotions out of it can help you avoid conflicts before they start. 

“Let it go! It’s just business — never let it become personal,” says Colin Routledge of Calgary Stucco and Stone in Calgary, Alberta.

How have you managed a micromanaging client? Share with us in the Comments below.

This story was written by the Houzz Industry Marketing team.