02/22/2011: "Why You Should Charge an Initial Consultation Fee"
Like almost all copywriters, I gladly provide prospective clients with a free quote. I spend very little time getting a quote together. After 40-plus years in this business, I know what to charge for whatever a client needs and I provide. But when someone wants me to talk with them on the telephone, I draw the line. Here's what I mean.
If you've been in the copywriting business a long time, you already know what time-killers people are. Most of the people who call you on the telephone and talk with you personally are mere tire-kickers. They're looking for someone to provide great copy and lots of it very cheaply. Now, I don't mean all callers are that way. I'm saying that my experience tells me 90% are.
To test my theory, I broke my rule before the holidays last year. A man who owns a plumbing company called and I let him through. Oh, he sounded sincere and he seemed like a really promising prospect. He kept me on the telephone slightly over one hour. And, it was my dinner time at that.
OK. My test began. Did he become a client? No. My fee was too high for him. I had wasted my valuable time and a number of emails and provided free advice --- all for naught. Test over. Back to reality.
You can avoid this problem completely. If you're a good copywriter, your time and skill is all you have. You must value both. Moreover, other people must value it.
I charge an initial consultation fee and put a definite time limit of 45 minutes on the phone call. I try and make things very clear to the prospective client so there's no misunderstanding. I put it in writing. A simple email will do. Since people really don't listen, if it's not in writing, they'll deny you said something that can later come up to haunt you.
You can apply the initial consultation fee to the project if they hire you that day. Otherwise, it won't apply. And always, any fee should be non-refundable. Now, you can certainly handle it any way you choose. But this is my suggestion.
I used to have people call me on the phone and talk forever. Stupid me for taking the calls in the first place. They would dig information out of me and go to a cheaper copywriter with my ideas! So believe me when I tell you, I'm not making these suggestions arbitrarily or from some book. I'm making them from the hell some people have put me through in my business life.
Your time is better spent on paying clients, playing with the dog, petting the cat, going to garage sales or whatever turns you on and whatever you need to do or want to do. Talking to strangers on the phone about "their" problems and not getting paid for it is not my idea of being smart and certainly it's not having a good time.
Do yourself a favor --- ALWAYS GET PAID!