Initial Consultations: To Charge or Not To Charge

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.

About Spencer

Spencer T. Clayton is the founder of Steps Toward Change Research Group, LLC. He is a graduate of Yale University and a current student at Rutgers University where his research concentration is the structure and strategy of faith-based organizations. When he is not busy running his consulting group, he works as an Executive Pastor, freelance writer, and blogger on his personal website Ministerial Life.

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