Do you have a minimum charge?

The phone rings and a prospective client would love to hire you. They’ve read your website, heard your sales pitch and perhaps checked some references. And now they’re ready to enlist your services. There’s just one catch. They’ve never worked with a consultant before and they’re a little leery of the process. "Can we hire you for 30 minutes, just to see what you can do?" they ask.

Half an hour of your time. You’re still a little strapped for cash and even $75 for a few minutes of your time sounds attractive right about now. Heck, even if your consulting practice is booming, how hard would it be to carve out 30 minutes for this prospective new client? After all, if they hire you for a bigger project, it could turn into thousands of dollars.

So what should you do?

  1. You could take on the work, with the hope that it will turn into more work. But, realistically, you can’t accomplish anything in 30 minutes, let alone get to know a client, set up a contract, invoice and pursue payment.
  2. You could turn them away. They’ve insulted your sensibilities. But you’re missing out on a great opportunity to educate the client about your consulting process and the value of your services.
  3. You could tell them you’d be honoured to do the work and that you understand their hesitations — but insist on a minimum charge. This will cover the administrative aspects of the project and allow you to provide value.

I always go with number 3, unless the prospective client seems unreasonable and inflexible. Some people simply want to nickel and dime you, no matter how high or how low your consulting rates are. But, in most cases, I can explain why I need to stock with a four-hour minimum. If the prospect balks, I know it wasn’t a good fit.