Common Mistakes: "This is not what I had in mind."


When I first started years ago, these were the most dreaded words to hear from one my clients (in reference to the design and services I had promised verbally). I just could not understand why they would say that. After all, this was exactly what I promised and saw in my head all along.

wedding decor,topiaries,flowers,rendering

A rendering we created for a client presentation

There was one client who received her bridal bouquet right before she walked down the aisle. I had made it with great pride and thought it was incredibly beautiful. To my surprise the bride started crying, and I, for a moment, was so pleased with myself thinking these were tears of joy. This was, of course, until she uttered those dreaded words, “Preston, this is not what I had in mind.” Years later, I ran into her and she still thinks I ruined her wedding.

flowers,topiaries,wedding decor

A picture from the actual job

I learned the hard way that it is extremely important your clients have as much information as possible in what they are getting before the event.

This is what I suggest:

  • In that initial meeting, make very clear notes of a client’s likes and dislikes. Make sure you send your client a copy to review just in case they have something to add or you forgot to write something down.
  • Give them a FULL PRESENTATION (never EVER before they are fully committed in using your services–read more about that here). Visual presentations are a very powerful tool. It could be done through drawings (there are a lot of great CAD programs, or you can even use something as simple as PowerPoint or Keynote), photographs, or whatever is appropriate.
  • Even more effective: setting up a table or providing samples of what you will be using (fabric, cutlery, plates, etc.) to actually see and touch. In my experience, these are very powerful moments of tears and joy. Once they love and approve your design, you should take a picture of of the table or design and give them a copy. On the day of the event, make sure you have your copy, just in case you hear those dreaded words, “This is not what I had in mind.”
  • If service is what you are offering, it is essential that you write these services down in great detail. Talk your client through each and every point, have them sign and hope for the best.

Saying you’re sorry is never easy. Do you think an apology should include some additional compensation?