7 Reasons all freelance creatives should charge for their initial consultations
I’m often challenged on why I charge for my initial consultations. I get it. The vast majority of freelancers don’t. However, I gotta say — billing for consults is vital; for the health of your business, and for your own self-worth.
When I’m on-boarding a new client, I typically give them three options:
- 15-minute Discovery Call (free) — This is my free, no-strings-attached option; A ‘getting to know you’ phone call, typically following-up after a networking event or referral. It’s a chance for us both to ask questions, and to get a sense of whether we’re a good fit.
- 30-minute Pick My Brains Call ($) — This is my on-the-fence option; Ever get stuck in an email back-and-forth with a prospective client with endless questions? Suggesting a longer call, or a short meeting (with a small fee) is a great way to give their questions your undivided attention, without compromising your need to bill for your time.
- 60-minute Power Hour ($$) — This is my ok-lets-do-this option; One hour of consultancy time = three hours of my time; An hour beforehand, researching their business and critiquing what they’ve sent over for discussion; An hour during the consultation, delivering value, listening, and responding to the client’s needs; An hour afterwards, pulling together our notes or action plan and an individually tailored proposal.
Still not convinced?
Here are 7 really, really good reasons to start charging for your time:
- First and foremost — it’s your time, and you need to be paid for it
When you’re a freelancer, time is literally money. If you’re on the clock, but you ain’t getting paid, then what in fresh hell are you doing? For anything more than a ‘getting-to-know-you’ chat, you’re giving your expertise, focusing your time on the prospective client’s business, and delivering value for them. You need to find a price point for that.
2. You ensure that you’re speaking to the decision maker from the start
How many times have you spent an hour or more meeting with a potential ‘client’, only to finish up with them saying, “Ok, that all sounds great, let me just check with my boss…” and then they drop off the face of the planet? By incurring a small cost at the beginning of the process, you know that you’ve already got a thumbs-up in principle from the person holding the purse-strings.
3. It forces you to bring your A Game
It’s very easy for an ‘initial consultation’ to turn into a nice coffee and a catch-up (especially tempting when you work from home a lot!) Don’t get me wrong, I love to go for coffee socially, but if I’m meeting a client to kick off a professional relationship, I want to make damn sure they think I’m hot sh*t from the word go. If I’ve charged them for their consult session, I am 100% accountable to make sure I deliver feedback and work with tangible value during that time.
4. The client is likely to be more professional too
The added bonus here is that you’re virtually guaranteed that your client will
a) Turn up — because last-minute cancellations can really mess up your day.
b) Turn up on time — because when you’re freelance, time is literally money.
c) Turn up prepared, and focused — because they’re as invested in this time together as you are.
5. It sets clear boundaries from the start
By being totally transparent that your time = money from the get-go, it massively helps in reducing the volume of late-night emails, Saturday morning phone calls, and demands for an 8th round of amends. By setting clear boundaries, you’re also letting your client know that when you are on their time, they always have your undivided attention and focus.
6. It gives you space to reward your best customers
With all that paid time in the bank, I’ve now got the space to offer special freebies to my repeat customers once in a while. I’d much rather do a seasonal discount, or a free workshop for my loyal clients, instead of the people I never ended up doing business with getting all the goodies. Seems only fair, right?
7. It’s the start of a great working relationship
You’re offering value and delivering great-quality work from the very start. Your client is fully invested in your design/ marketing/ copywriting/ fitness-training/ business mentoring process from the start. Put simply, this is a great way to start your working relationship.
These are my thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours too — let me know how you feel about paid consults in the comments below.