Charge for meetings?

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Psyche
Psyche Registered Posts: 187 Dedicated contributor 🦉
Hi there

I have had a few potential clients ask me how much I charge for consultancy or an initial meeting. My policy is not to charge as I am hoping they will sign a contract, and so far I have been lucky and they have. But what if the client decided not to contract for my services? Suppose I spent an hour explaining some detailed information about their obligations to HMRC, how to calculate profit, etc, and they then decided to go with someone else. Would it be ethical/is it commonly done to charge for the meeting itself if no further work comes of it?

Thanks!

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  • Rinske
    Rinske Registered Posts: 2,453 Beyond epic contributor 🧙‍♂️
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    Hi,

    No clue about ethical or common done in this subject. But if you advertise yourself (by saying to potential clients) that the initial meeting is free, I don't think it's nice if you then charge them because they don't sign the contract.

    It's like you step into a store and they charge you for entering when you walk out of there without buying anything. I know the situation is different and you spent a lot of time on it, but personally I wouldn't charge those hours.
  • Timmne
    Timmne Registered Posts: 37 Regular contributor ⭐
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    I used to charge by the hour for the initial meeting which was then credited against any further work I did for them - basically a time waster prevention measure.

    Genuine customers never seemed to mind as they knew they'd get it back.
  • burg
    burg Registered, Moderator Posts: 1,441 mod
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    I don't charge for any meetings.

    I have fixed fees to which all meetings, correspondence, queries, etc are built in (except specialist one off work and investigations). clients like this as it means they can get help when they need it. It also helps me as it means I can make clients proactive rather than reactive and potentially they can save tax.

    I do build the meetings etc into the fees and keep a note of clients that I am spending more time on.

    As for the initial meeting itself I always advertise as free and it always is. I see it as the potential to sell myself and my services and that I should be making the most of the opportunity. I'm not there to tell clients how to do their own accounts so I don't think I am giving things to them for free other than to form some type of relationship and some reasoning for why they should choose me.

    It's not to say that I am correct in my method but it is what I believe in. I think you would struggle to attract clients if you told them that if they don't choose you then there is a fee for the meeting.
    Regards,

    Burg
  • T.C.
    T.C. Registered, Tutor Posts: 1,448 Beyond epic contributor 🧙‍♂️
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    I don't charge for any meetings unless they are of an official nature, ie accompanying my client to a tax office. I feel that this is part of my job to advise occasionally, not just on the first meeting with a new client. I often get clients asking for a "quick chat" when they come to pick paperwork up. All part of the service.
  • Poodle
    Poodle Registered Posts: 711 Epic contributor 🐘
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    Psyche wrote: »
    Suppose I spent an hour explaining some detailed information about their obligations to HMRC, how to calculate profit, etc, and they then decided to go with someone else. Would it be ethical/is it commonly done to charge for the meeting itself if no further work comes of it?
    Thanks!

    Hi,

    I do not charge for the first meetings with potential clients and as others unless specific work is undertaken all other meetings are built into cost.

    Perhaps you should be more careful with the information that you are providing at the first interview if you feel that you should be charging for it. I used to be just like you when I first started, giving out too much information for free, at interview and on the phone hoping to gain the client, with experience I have learned to be more careful and treat the first contact as more of a "hello" and "can I work with this person?" situation, leaving the advice until after the letter of engagement is in place.

    One thing that I do now, that may help is I always have a blank 64-8 on the desk and if the interview starts going the way that you say , I pause, fill that in and ask the potential client to sign it. It can help you to stop and redirect your thoughts and also to judge if the potential client is just there tapping you up for free information, I am sure that there are people out there that do that.
  • Monsoon
    Monsoon Registered Posts: 4,071 Beyond epic contributor 🧙‍♂️
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    We offer a free initial consultation. If we don't get a client from it, so be it.

    It's hard to know where to draw the line between general free advice and specific "Hmm I really should be charging for this" advice, but in general, an initial meeting isn't going to tell them anything they couldn't find out from google, more than likely, even if it goes into a bit of detail.

    Even if they don't become clients, hopefully your helpfulness will stick in the their mind, you never know what fruit can grow from those seeds.

    Now that's a little too philiosophical for a Monday morning for my liking! :lol:
  • mc25
    mc25 Registered Posts: 232 Dedicated contributor 🦉
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    Very interesting thread, I haven't got that much clients but like poodle said, i have stopped giving out too much info on the intial meeting, seem to be working fine so far, I dont charge for intial meetings.
  • Michelle S
    Michelle S Registered Posts: 13 New contributor 🐸
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    Fees for meeting

    I agree with TC, I only charge for official meeting over above what I would normally be expected to undertake. As it is taking me away from actual working time on my agreed letter of engagement. All other consultancy works fall within my fixed fee schedule agreed at the date they choose to go with my company
  • Vonni
    Vonni Registered Posts: 63 Regular contributor ⭐
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    I never charge for the initial meeting, telephone advice or meetings thereafter. I agree a fixed fee with the client at the initial meeting, after looking at the books and records that the client has kept or intends to keep. I then confirm this in a letter of engagement to the client, clearly outlining what records they will keep and what work I will carry out for the fee. At this point I confirm that if for any reason I do additional work there will be an additional fee.

    On the whole I have had no problems but if a query regarding my fees arises I can always refer to the engagement letter or additional emails, correspondence etc. - my advice is make everything clear from the outset.

    I have quite often been pleasantly surprised when an existing client has recommended me to someone else due to this level of clarity. In addition where I have given advice over the phone I always make a note of the conversation and keep the details in a folder headed enquiries. At a later date this has proved to be very useful when I had perhaps forgotten all about the enquiry and what I may have discussed; my notes have a date and time and brief outline of the type of work etc. More than once the potential client has later become a client.

    It works well for me

    Y
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