How your office’s design and decor can win or lose clients

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As a freelancer, just being good at your job is not a guarantee for getting clients.

Sooner or later, we all realize that it takes a lot more than just being talented or creative to find success in freelancing.

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Although, blogs such as Millo do a great service to freelancers out there in helping them polish up their skills and knowledge – I’ve noticed that only few lines are written about the crucial impact of a well-designed office space when it comes to attracting quality clients.

Whether meeting a client in a physical office or communicating via a Skype call, the workspace essentially plays an important role in helping you sell your products/services more easily.

Yes, from a client’s perspective, all they need is to get the job done. And that may be right to an extent.

For instance, while working with a web designer, you might think the client won’t mind his/her poor taste in decoration as long as quality web designing services are given!

Well, it’s not that simple!

Most marketers and advertisers know very well that the context or package is often more important than the product itself.

It’s all in the visuals

According to Kissmetrics, 9 out of 10 people are visually influenced when making a purchase.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

We tend to make choices based on emotions. We do that every single day, even if we think we don’t.

I’ll give you an example.

Would you be willing to spend $100 on your favorite perfume if it was offered in a cheap disposable plastic bottle even if you were assured the actual perfume inside was exactly the same?

If you actually do go ahead and buy the perfume, you will surely be expecting a considerable discount!

So, why are you so interested in the package and the bottle, when you are only going to use what’s inside them? Now, just think of your workspace as the package of your services and be honest while answering the following questions:

  • Do the quality services you offer to your clients have the “package” they deserve?
  • How would you evaluate your work environment? Would you give it an A or a D?
  • How do you feel in your workspace, are there things you want to change?

I know it’s not at all easy to be objective with your own place but your visitors’ first reactions are a good indicator.

It’s easier if you try to imagine what your thoughts and assumptions would be while visiting another professional’s workplace. Perhaps as following:

  • old and poorly maintained, uncomfortable furniture,
  • tables and bookshelves covered with dust,
  • walls with dull, depressive colors or whose original shades are difficult to tell,
  • plants suffering from dehydration,
  • venetian blinds and windows, which haven’t been cleaned for years
  • and all these items just placed there by accident, without any plan!

I hope I haven’t described your office!

Even if I have, this can change and I’ll help you do it!

Making a great first impression

There is no doubt that first impressions are crucial.

Meeting your prospective clients in your office gives you a great advantage to play by your own rules. You must create a ‘scene’ that will help you play your “professional role” perfectly.

I don’t mean you should fake it. Your office or studio should be compatible with your profession and reflect your own creative personality. At least, the traits you’re proud of!

If not, people will feel it.

Whatever your style is, try to create a welcoming, pleasant, warm and cozy atmosphere. Think of your own first impressions when you walk into a place for the first time and try to define what makes you “feel at home” in your favorite restaurant.

People’s emotional responses change depending on their environment. Most of us avoid spaces that are cold and unfriendly, literally and figuratively.

We also know that customers buy more easily from professionals they like and trust.

Research has shown that we tend to find the people we meet in warm surroundings, more friendly and trustworthy than they really are!

In simple words, it seems that our minds “confuse” physical warmth with social warmth.

Before you turn the heating on and offer your clients a hot beverage, make sure that you’ve chosen the right colors and textures, that will warm up your office.

I’ll give you some great tips later.

While your clients are waiting for their appointment, it’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself and your company to them.

If you are a designer or a photographer this is your perfect chance to show off your portfolio. You can do this with pictures or other print material, but the most effective way to advertise your work, is with quality videos or slide shows.

My clients have the time to look around my studio, while I’m preparing their coffee.

I let them start dreaming of their new place, wondering if it can look as nice as those great interiors they see in photos and in my screensaver’s slide show.

Office layout design & furniture arrangement

I still remember my first bad experience. Visiting a print shop where I had a half-an-hour discussion just standing in front of a comfortably sitting employee.

There were no seats available around and he didn’t offer to find one for me.

It made me wonder if their budget was too tight or if the company’s tactic was to get rid of their customers as soon as possible!

Make sure you have enough seats in your office. It’s totally impolite to let your clients standing while you are sitting! Your client’s seat position should be arranged in a way that is interesting to look at. This is not the back of your computer screen!

It can be your collection of books, a beautiful painting, your valuable artwork or collections, your diplomas and awards or the amazing view from your office window. If you are going to make a presentation be sure that your client can watch it on your screen without difficulty. If not, install a second monitor.

Your space and furniture arrangement, other than functional, should be proportionate to the message you want to give. There is no right or wrong arrangement.

Specific positions can affect the outcome of a meeting. The classical layout, where the office table / desk is interposed between you and your client, emphasizes your prestige and becomes a solid barrier. It probably sends a message that you don’t easily allow interference in your work.

If you want to highlight your team spirit and look more engaged and friendly, then choose another less formal arrangement.

You can also change positions, depending on the project, the client and what you are trying to achieve.

A conference table where you can sit with your customers and partners is a great solution if you need to discuss about designs or documents. Sitting across the table from a person can create a defensive, competitive atmosphere

A round table is more preferable, if you want to create a relaxed and informal atmosphere and is ideal for promoting discussion among people.

According to research, people find curves more appealing than straight lines in furniture settings.

If the meetings, especially the first ones, take place in your client’s’ office, this automatically puts them in a superior position. Try to avoid this, especially if you want to persuade them on something or discuss about your rates.

Furnishing & decoration

It is necessary to know exactly what your intentions are:

  • To impress them or amaze them.
  • To emphasize your education and your training.
  • To show off your portfolio and skills.
  • To highlight your experience and your company’s reputation.
  • To inspire confidence.
  • To create intimacy and be considered as friendly, full of sympathy and understanding.
  • To help them feel relaxed and be more open.
  • To appease their fears and insecurity and create positive expectations.
  • To avoid conflicts.
  • All of the above!

If you are a creative entrepreneur, your good taste and style should be reflected in your work environment!

Being surrounded by beautiful, comfortable furniture and decorative objects, precious or tasteful art pieces and preserved plants, adds value to your work and create expectations to your clients.

But try to keep it simple! Overloaded spaces look cheap.

A random assembly of old furniture and spare pieces, won’t give your office a vintage style, as you may read in DIY blogs. Do not, by any means, transform your office space into a warehouse!

Most people feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings. On the other hand, many need a drastic change when they decide to visit an architectural studio.

Dare to be different and innovative, especially if your profession allows or requires it.

Color

Color is the most powerful element in interior design with great, almost magical effects on our emotions and mental perceptions.

It can be remarkable however, that so many architects and interior designers seem to be unaware of color psychology.

The use of achromatic colors such as white, black and gray in built environments, while it may initially impress and look gorgeous in Photoshopped images, it creates a sense of dullness, literally and figuratively.

It’s interesting to know, that the complete colorblind people (monochromatic) who see no color at all, rather just shades of gray, are only 1: 40.000 of the population.

The absence of color can make us feel depressed, isolated and bored. Gray is among the less preferable colors for office spaces.

Black and white and all shades of gray are necessary and can be used very successfully as a background for projecting colored elements and creating a vibrant effect or for showcasing an item.

My only objection is when other colors are totally absent.

It is necessary to find out what colors are associated with your industry and then begin decorating your office under those guidelines.

I’m afraid, you’ll have trouble convincing others that you are a respectful and reliable entrepreneur in your Barbie-pink painted office, with some cute green-apple highlights!

Consider the color red, which has been associated with danger that keeps us alert and motivates us to take action. However, it is not suitable for economic negotiations, since it may irritate us and makes us more aggressive. It is can be tiring to work in a red environment. It’s also not a very wise choice for a waiting room, because it increases impatience.

The same result might occur with a bold orange or yellow surface, while their more earthly shades create a warm, cozy and informal atmosphere, that helps communication and socializing.

Some brown, woody shades have the same effect and make us feel secure.

The bright yellow attracts attention, in fact it’s the first color the human eye notices; that is why most signs are yellow.

It’s a cheerful and bright color that can enliven a space when used appropriately and in the right quantity. Just have in mind that yellow and bright orange are connected with cheap products and services.

We feel warmer than the actual temperature when we are surrounded by warm colors like red, orange, brown and purple – all shades that contain red – and using them is a clever trick for reducing your heating expenses.

On the contrary, you can make a space look wider and cooler by using blue, green and white.

The 2 most favorite colors for both men and women, green and blue, are also the most relaxing and stress-reducing. They both help your creativity and inspiration; as do violet and purple.

Blue is associated with reliability and we see it in some of the most famous brands’ logos. Purple and green hues are often used for high quality, luxurious and expensive products and services, and so are black and silver, too.

Choosing the right color scheme for an interior is not an easy task. Therefore, a lot of professionals propose “safer,” monochromatic solutions.

Painting your office is the cheaper and most effective way to improve it. Making the right choice, however, is a very demanding task. Only a few can do it right!

Contact with nature

Would you easily feel stressed, anxious or angry, visiting a blossomed garden, taking a walk in a mountain forest, or staring at the turquoise blue sea?

Most of us know instinctively that being close to nature makes us feel more at ease. We experience less stress in natural environment.

If you have a garden, a nice terrace even if your office window has a view in a natural landscape, then you’re blessed! You can be sure that your clients will also appreciate it! There is nothing more relaxing than being in nature.

If there is no direct contact with the natural environment, there are ways to create it artificially and I don’t mean plastic plants!

Bring some real plants in your office (not just a few tiny cactus plants) and your mood will change! They are the best company for you and your clients!

Indoor plants are necessary in workplaces, not only for decorative purposes but because of their great benefits. They improve air quality by absorbing toxic substances, increase humidity and keep the air temperature down.

What most people don’t know is that plants foliage has the ability to reduce noise. Your office will be more quiet and more relaxed but, at the same time, more stimulating and interesting.

If I had to give you only 3 tips that could make your office environment healthy and attractive, they would be: keep it clean and tidy, put some color in it and add a few potted plants!

As mentioned earlier, if you are a creative freelancer or entrepreneur, your personality, good taste and style should be reflected in your office environment!

According to marketers, people buy using emotions, which in turn is heavily influenced by first impressions.

In short, making a great first impression with your office design, increases your chances to win a prospect and sell your services successfully!

Have anything to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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About Mania Mavridou

Mania Mavridou is an architect and an interior designer, owner of DesignMania the interior+graphic design studio, where design meets psychology to create spaces for people to live and work in happily. Having a rich experience in teaching architectural drawing and CAD, she now gives lectures and seminars on interior design psychology and image marketing. In 2014 she founded Designing for Happiness, the 1st Greek blog about design psychology, soon also available in English.

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Comments

  1. What about when you’re working from home and your kitchen table is also the place where you have meetings with clients?

    How do you find the balance between the personal part of your house and the environment you would like to create for your clients?

    • Hi Mr Sugar,

      A lot of freelancers work from home and many of them don’t have a room that can be considered as their business office.

      I will be honest. Discussing business around a kitchen table makes you look less “professional” than someone who is meeting with clients in his office.

      I think is very important for many reasons, even if we work from home, to have a room that is our work space.
      Especially if we don’t live alone.

      In some cases, this can be easily arranged, with a few smart changes in an existing apartment or house.

      A lot of creative freelancers have transformed a room or a part of their home into amazing and functional offices.

      I am one of them!

  2. Very nice article!

  3. Eleftheria Ntanoura says:

    Amazing article with useful tips!

  4. Great article, thank you!
    Very relevant to me at present as I have just started changing my office and space around to exactly reflect many of the things you mention,

  5. Awesome article and I am totally agree with your point of view what you see and how you see it matters. I am opening my firts office for my small web design company and me as a Graphic designer and web designer know that is a key factor for success. I will love to share some photos when I have all decoration and furniture in place if you want.

    • Good luck to you too, James!
      You can add some photos of your studio to your website.
      I like professionals that they do this, it’s good to know where someone is working and how he-she looks like.
      To be and look more approachable seems to be a great marketing strategy.
      Most of the biggest companies these days, who invest a lot of money to their work environment, let us know what happens behind the scenes.
      There are some great office design blogs to browse for inspiration.

  6. Great article, very useful information, it helped me a lot!!!

  7. Lovely article, Mania! Makes me want to redecorate my work space and get back to work feeling more inspired and uplifted!