In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had three client consultations. This is somewhat unusual for me because most times, when prospects contact me, they’ve already been to my website and they tend to know what they want. As my (SEO) writing company lists rates, they also know how much it’s going to cost them.
Why Freelance Writers Will Have to Give More Consultations
This uptick on consultations signals three things to me:
(i) Clients are spending more money on content, as we touched on in this post on content marketing; hence, they want to know more about what they’re getting for their money;
(ii) Clients are starting to realize the value of SEO and content marketing. The recent Google Panda update shook up the rankings. While many gained, lots of firms lost rank and are doing what it takes to climb back to where they were; and
(iii) Clients are seeking freelance writers who can provide them with a range of writing services. In fact, the trend I see is that many companies are looking for a “writing company” they can outsource most of their content needs to.
The reason I believe this is the three consultations I’ve had in the last couple of weeks, and the queries I’ve been getting in the last six months or so.
Freelance Writers: 3 Things to Consider to Help You Decide Whether to Charge for Consultations
I. Does the Prospect Know What They Want?
Many times you’ll discover that potential clients don’t really know what they want/need. Or, it may differ significantly from what you think they need based on what they’ve told you. For example, a recent consultation I had with a technology firm.
They’ve developing a new software (nothing like it on the market) for the real estate industry and are merging with a large real estate agency. They contacted another writing firm, who wanted to co-op with New Media Words (my SEO writing company) because this firm knows real estate writing, but we know SEO.
While talking with the company reps, we quickly realized that they didn’t know exactly what they wanted/needed (FYI, this happens far more than you’d think with prospects). Hence, the consultations we’ve had thus far have been more about helping them clarify what they need.
As a matter of course, my firm doesn’t charge for consultations. But, if there was an instance where I was going to, this one was it. So far, there’ve been two phone consultations and a proposal sent over. Total time invested has been about two hours (a bit more for the other firm I’m working with as it’s their client and they’re taking the lead).
This could be a lot (a lot!) of ongoing work, so that’s why I haven’t minded so far. But, time is money and it’s getting to the point where a signed contract has to be forthcoming or the deal will be a no go.
Otherwise, it’s like giving away your expertise for free.
Freelance Writers: A Note about How Much Info to Give Away in Free Consultations
I believe in guiding clients and giving them insight into what I think they need and why from an SEO standpoint. After all, it’s so new to many of them. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the SEO internet marketing guide (.pdf file) and distributed it for free.
But, be careful of how much time you spend helping clients to devise a strategy and there’s no forthcoming work on the table for you. This is exactly what seasoned consultants do and they charge a mint; and, they’re worth every penny I might add (if you hire the right one).
II. How Much Upfront Research Is Involved
Piggy backing on the above, if there’s a lot of upfront research involved, you might want to consider charging a freelance writing consulting fee.
For example, back to the above-mentioned prospect. In addition to articles, they want a press release, revisions to a marketing brochure and a rewrite of an almost 20-page PowerPoint presentation.
Of course, to come up with a proper proposal, you have to dig through this stuff.
Once I started to dig through it, I realized that what they commissioned didn’t match what they forwarded (hence, the back and forth so far).
III. Are They Willing to Put in the Work?
One of the ways I’ve avoided a lot of consultations I think is by turning the tables a bit. To explain, with this prospect, instead of spending hours going through all of the material, I devised a list of questions that would help me clarify exactly what they needed.
This does two things: (i) it shows them that you know your stuff; and (ii) it gives you an idea of how invested in the process they are.
If they answer your questions, or get back to you to let you know, “Hey, we hadn’t thought about that but based on what you said . . .” then you know they are serious. But, if they brush your questions off or tell you to “just do your best with it,” then be wary. Why?
Because even if you do a stellar job, there may be problems because what you give them may not be “exactly what they were looking for,” and they’ll want you to add this, change that, cut this out, etc.
You see, it’s easy to pick apart a finished product. But when you started and they had no clue about what they wanted, then you got them a finished document, bells start going off for them. They may realize all kinds of things they want to add and directions they want to go in.
All because they have a defined path now — the path you defined for them “doing the best you could” with the little direction they gave you. And this is exactly why many freelance writers do charge for consultations. In fact, I’m leaning towards it now.
Freelance Writers: How Much Should You Charge for Consultations?
I’m not even going to go into detail here because there are too many factors to consider: type of project, scope of project, niche; etc.
What I will say is, base it on your hourly freelance writing rates. Every freelance writer should know what they average on an hourly basis, even if they don’t charge like this a lot (many charge by the project, for example). But, projects are priced based on how much time they take to complete.
And, usually these are broken down by the hour.
Freelance Writing Business Advice: How to Cut Down on Consultation Time and Still Land Clients
Develop a new client intake form. It makes your firm look professional and it helps prospects clarify what their needs are. This way, you can cut down on the talk, and get down to the paying freelance writing work!
Here’s to a great rest of the week!
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