A Case Study: How We Overhauled This Designer’s Client Process for Streamlined, Effortless Communication

Oct 12

J Reiko Design + Co Portfolio

Design by J. Reiko Design + Co.

Wanna save hours a week in client communication and admin tasks? It all starts with solid systems. Take a peek inside a recent project to see how we did it.

There are a lot of buzzwords and acronyms in the business world — SOPs, CRMs, process mapping, etc etc. And while you may have heard them mentioned, you might not always have a clear understanding of what they could look like for your own unique business. Or, how to create and implement them on your own.

Plus, for many creatives in the design industry, this stuff is just, well…boring. You know you probably should prioritize these jargony acronyms, but also: you’d actually prefer the business stuff to run smoothly in the background so you can focus on the fun parts of your work.

If that sounds like you, read on, friend. Today, we’re giving you a peek inside a recent project where we took an interior designer’s client process from semi-functioning and cumbersome to crystal clear and streamlined.

Now, she’s got a start-to-finish client communication process that’s tailor made for her unique business. 

Let’s take a look…

[The Before] 

When interior designer Jenny Murphy of J.Reiko Design + Co reached out to us at Willow & Jax, she was looking for a better way to communicate with clients and to update the bootstrapped elements of her business that no longer served her. Specifically — she wanted systems that were buttoned up, consistent, and saved precious time.

She’d purchased a big brand’s designer-specific templates in the past, but wasn’t thrilled with the result. Like many designers, she found herself stuck in two common places:

  • First, the templates were generic and required a lot of work to customize. They also didn’t account for her unique design process or workflows. It was an awkward square-peg-round-hole situation.
  • Second, while templates can provide a basic outline, they still require you to fill in all the blanks and take on the bulk of the writing. If this isn’t your cup of tea, it can easily feel overwhelming. And those expensive templates sit, unused, in your Downloads folder.

In her words…

“If you see an easier way to communicate this, I would love your insight… Writing it is sometimes a bit confusing/cumbersome.”

So, we sat down and asked a ton of questions to get to know her business and client communication goals.

[The Wish List]

We dug into Jenny’s current business operations to get an understanding of what’s working and what isn’t. Then, we asked her to describe her ideal scenarios.

Here’s what she wanted:

  • Documented systems for onboarding and offboarding clients. 
  • A buttoned up process map that’s crystal clear and easy to follow.
  • Client communication that was a cinch to personalize for each client.
  • PDFs customized with her brand logo and signature fonts for a consistent, elevated feel
  • A waitlist strategy that kept clients nurtured and cared for before their project kickoff
  • An end-to-end process that she could later plug into a CRM platform like Dubsado or Honeybook
  • Clearly outlined processes to bring new hires up to speed and ensure her whole team was on the same page

Sound familiar?

These are common wish list items from many of our clients. Because being an interior designer requires you to wear a lot of hats! And sometimes, the business systems and processes don’t feel as familiar as the more creative aspects of your work, (especially when we’re working from memory instead of reference). When you go it alone, there’s often a lot of trial and error involved. 

Our experience as designers and VAs means we have a keen understanding of these workflows and how to optimize them. We’ve seen it all! And we love when clients entrust us with streamlining their systems.

In Jenny’s words…

“If you see anything that seems not aligned with industry standards or what other designers are doing, feel free to change it. This is a bunch of new territory for me, so I am always open to more experienced opinions!”

Thankfully, these are all things the Uplevel Experience is designed to provide. We dug right in, starting with a custom map for the entire client journey. Below, you can see the types of workflow maps we created for new inquiries.

We then created similar maps for the full client journey and design process, so each step — from that initial call to the final handoff — is crystal clear. No matter how the process goes, there’s a clear flow that shows what’s coming next. 

In Jenny’s words…

“I already feel more organized, so I can hardly wait to see what the next steps bring!”

[The After]

Not only did Jenny get a clear outline of every single step of the client journey. The workflows alone take a ton of the guesswork out of the day-to-day client interactions.

But the best part?

There’s a fully-branded resource for every single step.

  • Client’s not a good fit after that initial call and you need to let them down gently? There’s a process for that.
  • Need to give a nudge on completing some paperwork or sending a payment? There are processes for that.
  • Sending over your investment guide, project questionnaire, closing guide, or testimonial request? Yep, we wrote custom emails for that, too.

In fact, we created a full suite of templates and emails for every single step of the client process, so all Jenny has to do now is copy, paste, tweak a few words specific to each client, and send.

So, what does her client communication process look like now?

Here’s a sneak peek of the client process documents we created.

Not only is her workflow unmistakably clear. But there’s nowhere for a client to get lost — no part of the process where they’re left wondering, “Ok…what now?”

And, each of these templates is fully-written, with brief highlighted sections you can tweak in minutes. This saves hours each week, while still keeping client communications warm and personalized.

In Jenny’s words…

“This is AWESOME! I cannot wait to start using these.The brand voice/information are all on point.”

The perks of process mapping

This type of workflow clarity accomplishes multiple things in your business:

  • First, it removes the guesswork. You — and your clients — always know exactly what to expect. This builds confidence in the process, which ultimately cuts down on back and forth and unnecessary check-ins.
  • It also means you don’t have to keep careful tabs in your head (or on Post-it notes) for every step of the process — especially if you upload these templates into a CRM like Dubsado or Honeybook. This part of your business essentially runs on autopilot, freeing up that mental bandwidth for other things.
  • Another perk? Your business looks insanely professional. Your clients feel seen and cared for every step of the way. This leads to a smoother design process, better final outcomes, and a higher probability of quality leads and referrals.
  • Lastly, it paves the way for growth. Freeing up time and energy from tedious admin tasks gives you more room for more clients and bigger projects. Having a clear system like this also streamlines the onboarding process for new hires. When you’re ready to bring on a new team member or VA, your systems are well-honed and crystal clear. Hand over your new custom, branded process PDFs — it will cut down on hours of explanation and give them everything they need to take over administrative tasks with confidence.

An upleveled client experience = an upleveled business (and an upleveled bank account)

Client communication is one of the key pillars of running a successful business. Especially one as intimate as interior design. Your clients need to feel connected and cared for every step of the way.

And when your communications are also beautifully branded and feel elevated? It says that you’re running a white-glove business and are worth the investment.

In the end, you get a design business that not only looks more polished and professional, but it feels better. Because when you’re confident in each step — and can cut communication time way down — you free up time and energy for the things you love most about running your business.

“WOW! I love this new version of my investment guide. Your video was so helpful, and I am really enjoying the new direction.

The updated version is perfect! Love it all! I have really enjoyed working with you and cannot wait to implement all of this.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!”

Jenny Murphy, J. REiko Design + Co.

Ready to streamline your systems and level up your business? Let’s chat.