Do you find people seek you out for your industry expertise specifically because they value your opinion? How often do you come across people who request your opinion under the guise of possibly doing business? However, they want “free advice”, before they make up their minds. Anyone who is self-employed or on a commission must be very selective how we spend our time. There are individuals who will try to get whatever they can without paying for it. Being successful means using your time wisely and productively.
I can usually tell in the first few minutes if someone is calling for free advice or they are an actual prospective client. A prospective client will always respect your industry knowledge and level of expertise. They respect you as a Professional which is why they contacted you in the first place. They expect to pay for your time and services, and quite often ask up front what your fees are. In most cases they are contacting you because they have already checked you out through references or online. You have something they want or need and they are more than happy to pay for it. Good clients do not expect you to work for free.
We sometimes see clients who want to know “what they should do” for either a new kitchen/bathroom design or to get their homes ready for sale. With more than 20 years of experience, I can easily tell you what floor plan and products work best with your budget. I can easily help you plan the appropriate updates to ensure you get the best price for your home when you sell. We often suggest where to get the products you want with the best service and at a reasonable price. When it comes to staging, a floor plan materializes in my mind for a room almost instantly when I look at a space. We offer staging consultations that tell the home owner everything they need to do to get their home ready for sale. I am more than happy to provide you with all the product, vendor and contractor information if you want a DIY project. I always say “how we live in a home is very different from how we showcase a home for sale”. However, this knowledge was gained over years of experience. It is specialized knowledge. If a client needs a consultation for design or staging, there is a cost associated with the time and specialized knowledge.
We do free estimates for staging or design. An estimate is just that – you tell us what you want and we will give you an estimate for the job specifications. If you tell us you want 5 rooms staged, we will still design the rooms for staging but we will not tell the client what furniture to place where during an estimate. We simply will not give you any recommendations or share any design ideas for free. Quite honestly, planning creative work is still work. It deserves to be compensated no differently than any other work.
It is common for people to obtain “3 quotes” before deciding what they want to do. However, that only works when you are specific about the product or service you are requesting. If you say “re-design my kitchen” and see who comes in with the lowest cost, the products you are looking at will invariably be vastly different. I have never seen a “lowest quote” for service that did not go bad in the end. Either poor quality product is provided or bad service or both! It’s like comparing a basic model car to a high end BMW. It is still a car but the style, features and quality will be vastly different! If you only go with the lowest quote, the same is true. You simply are not comparing apples to apples unless you specify you want “red delicious apples”!
I am always painfully aware when a Realtor is being “played” by a potential client. They insist the Realtor jump through hoops and pay out of pocket expenses for the privilege of “maybe” obtaining their listing. They usually want the highest list price but are very reluctant to change anything to make the home more presentable and sellable! These clients are the same ones who complain the loudest when buyers are just not interested in their overpriced home. They typically pull the listing at the first opportunity and play the same game with the next Realtor! Learning how to weed out the people who will exploit you and waste your time and money is one of the most important skills for anyone who is self-employed. It can be difficult to walk away from “potential” business. However, if your radar is giving you warning signals pay attention. Every minute you waste with this client without compensation is time lost making actual money! Time is the only commodity we have a finite supply of, make the most of yours. People will only take advantage of you if you allow then to do so.
When you become very good at what you do, you will be sought out for your expertise. Ensure you deliver what you promise and set realistic expectations. Clients always appreciate honesty and integrity. Leave those who want to take advantage of someone to your competitors – after all – you’ll be too busy running your business and making money.