When I first started Steps Toward Change Research Group, I decided against charging for initial consultations. After all, that is what most successful lawyers do. I figured that dedicating an hour of my time to try to win over a potential client would be worth my while. That way, I could say with a clear conscience that I only received payment from people who agreed to work with me in the long run.
At this point, I am seriously considering modifying my position. It all started when I scheduled my first meeting. The potential client was a friend of the family who was already fishing for discounts from the onset. I had some reservations, but I understood that every business has to start somewhere and most early entrepreneurs usually rely on their personal networks for clients and referrals. I agreed to catch up with the potential client at his house almost an hour drive from my apartment for free. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.
I am not going to go into any details because this potential client is still a friend of the family. Still, the whole episode made me wonder if things would have been different if I had charged for that initial consultation. From the beginning, it was clear that the potential client felt like he was working with “Spencer, the young guy who I watched grow up in church who will do me a favor” and not “Spencer, the business owner.” It made me wonder if I could even expect to receive any legitimate business from the environment where I was raised–especially since much of my network comes from African American church folk who typically expect people to do things for free.
For now, I am still in the process of refining my overall business model to ensure that I am not setting myself up for disaster. I will be sure to keep you all posted of my progress.