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Should I charge for a quote?

Prior to working with each other, you should ensure that clients are qualified. Professionals working on home improvement projects get to know their clients and their homes very well. The consultation is a good chance to meet a potential client, learn about his or her desires, and display your expertise and knowledge as a home improvement specialist. Professionals might wish to visit clients in person to qualify them, which could happen during the consultation. 

However, not every enquiry will result in a venture, so how can you make sure you're using your time efficiently? Whether you charge for consultations or not, the business opportunity should make sense. 

Can I offer a free consultation?

It all starts with a free consultation strategy. Home service providers and tradies believe that by offering free consultations, they have the opportunity to meet more potential clients and sell themselves. The idea is that this will allow them to fill their pipelines faster. Industry specialists concur that offering a free consultation is a better choice for businesses that take on almost identical projects as they are almost selling a product rather than a customised or design-oriented solution. So, boiler installations, flooring etc.

However, some assert that they only offer free consultations when they are short on leads and need to get a new job underway. Many professionals say they used to provide free consultations when they first started their business, but they later revised their rates to include consultation fees. 

It seems like interior designers. landscape gardeners and high-end builders may have more luck with this strategy.

Melvin Goodhall (Bright Summers)

"I used to charge a consultancy fee but I have become established and in fact I get many, many recommendations for work from former customers now, so I don't need to charge it.”

Charging the consultation fee for a quote

When homeowners decide not to hire you, charging a consultation fee ensures that your time isn't wasted. Some pros believe that charging a fee is a way to quantify the value of their services, ideas, and time. Others believe that it's part of the qualification process. Charging a fee may deter some consumers from contacting you, but it also ensures that your time isn't wasted. 

If you charge for your services, define the value you provide and set clients' expectations for the initial meeting by describing what benefits they will receive. For example, will you provide colour ideas, provide a preliminary sketch with a layout, suggest materials, give them a price estimate, or provide any other benefits?

Roger Gorman (The Colour Specialist) 

'In the last 6 years, I have charged an in-home consulting fee after my mentor Nick Bramley persuaded me that my time and knowledge were very valuable. Before our meeting, prospective clients complete and return a questionnaire to me. During the in-home consultation, we discuss the questionnaire and ask the homeowner to talk about it. Then we discuss what's feasible based on the structure of the house and the budget. The homeowner's project timeframe and budget are determined by the end of the consultation. It's important that all parties feel respected and the consultation is non-judgemental and inclusive.'

Offering a free quote and consultation

Some home service providers are willing to meet in the middle between a free and paid consultation. You can qualify the prospective client by offering a free meeting in your office, studio, or a neutral location that is convenient for you. By meeting the homeowner and establishing rapport, you do not have to expend your time or resources travelling to their location. And indeed as you know we are big advocates of this. Even before this meeting you may want to communicate and even send over a very quick estimate via whatsapp.

You can distinguish a meeting from a consultation because no information is given at meeting. During a consultation however, homeowners learn more about the specific process within the company and the service provider learns more about the scope of the homeowner's project. 

The conclusion

There is no fixed answer but at the moment in domestic home service the best solution would seem to be, send an estimate, gauge budget and if the are happy with the price book a meeting. Complex projects are  good for consultations which are chargeable and refundable if the customer wants to go ahead.

Use software to help

There are many project management software options available, so it’s important to choose one that fits with your business. Make sure that it suits the type of work you do and that it’s easy for customers to book appointments or submit requests for work.

 

Once you’ve found the right software, make sure you have a strategy for marketing it to potential customers. You might want to offer a free consultation for interested customers so that they can try out the software and decide if it’s a good fit for their needs.