Consultation Fees - for the 1018th time!

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by DVS Hardscaper, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    I would say no. I do simple 3d designs that aren't expensive at all, but is still more than a consultation fee.

    So ultimately the customer that buys the design isn't being overcharged in the least.

    And ethically it wasn't my conscious intentions to use the design buyers to off set for the tire kickers. It just happened to work out that way.
  2. etwman

    etwman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,466

    #1 - The potential client calls and we use about 50 well crafted questions to prequalify the client. Once this is done we set up an appt with both spouses at thier place.

    #2 - They know we are going to charge for plan (and its not $200 either), its a known fact before we come out. You won't get what you don't ask for, and you devalue your service tremendously if you give plans away for free. Don't give me that BS that I'm not going to get a job if I don't give a plan for free. We collect 50% before we leave to create the plan, balance due upon reveal at our offices.

    Bottom line: You have to be confident in yourself, and your company. Your client is buying your company, what it stands for, and what it delivers. Not just a patio in the backyard. Competition? Bring it on.
  3. AzLawnMan

    AzLawnMan LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 409

    When I get a call and while talking to the potential customer, if I hear this sentence "I am calling about a FREE estimate" I usually try to end the conversation as soon as possible and I normally dont bother returning the call. I usually charge $50.00 for a consult that is deductable if you accept my contract. In the old days I wouldnt charge a consult, but in todays market when the potential client is getting 5-8 bids, its simply not worth my time to give a feeler bid. I get calls all the time about driveways getting sink holes and walkways "dropping" I inform them that I have a $50 trip charge and they either say "great, when can you come by?" or "Oh, you charge for an estimate?" but its not an estimate, its a diagnosis. I charge $41 to send a sprinkler tech to trouble shoot a system, so why not charge to find a problem with pavers?
  4. tadpole

    tadpole LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,216

    If this is true and the design buyers are not being overcharged, but the fee that they pay offsets the tire kickers, then the costs incurred in giving free consults/estimates to the tire kickers is absorbed BY YOU with revenue from another source. Which brings us back to the fact that consults/estimates incur costs and these costs should be borne by the party initiating the costs, namely the party that requests the estimate/consult.
  5. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,417

    Many good points!

    One thing I wanna remind many folks of here is that prior tomthe recession I DID charge consult fees.

    $30 a pop, and I was doing 11 estimates a week. I kept it at $30 cause people have that in their pocket. Any higher and they write a check! So this consult things isn't theory, I've done it!

    I have survived through 2 years of recession. Barely.

    The phone is ringing for work more than it has since 2007. I hoping to get my son into moto-cross racing on his KTM 50 this spring. I'm at the point where Ive learned to get by with very little (due to the recession) and I would rather teach the kid about losing and winning, rather than stand in someones yard talking about a pretend patio!

    That and I just priced $18800 of work today and didn't leave my desk to do so! So that is spoiling me!

    When you start pulling measurements and your education, knowledge, and experience are going to work - you're working for someone.

    A pro is a pro. Doesnt matter if you're a CPA, attorney, plumber, or padio guy. I called a CPA last week, they won't even talk to me or answer a single question without billing $250 / hr.

    Why do some feel we padio guys aren't worthy of being paid for what we know?

    I think I'm gonna start playing with fees again.

    Posted via Mobile Device
  6. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,635

    24 yrs under my belt and not one time did I charge a consultation fee. I've a pretty good sense of people and their intentions, you know I read people quite well, and will now only spend minimal time on a plan just enough to take my #'s from,
    I shoot them a quick email stating rough prices then wait for a response. Last season I spent 50% less time on plans then the season before and still did the same production #s as the year before. I won't do a plan unless I get either a verbal or monetary comitment from them.
  7. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,417

    I believe I am good at reading people as well. But people also like to make themselves believe they are serious about getting work done, which in turn has contractors believing them.

    A few months ago I was talking to someone who basically said he does something similar to what Zedo mentioned. I think he does decks or something carpentry related. He said he'll do a quick rough sketch with a quick rough estimate. Then he'll e-mail it to a prospective client and see if they like the design and are ok with the rough estimate, and if so - he finish the design and firm up the pricing. If not - he moves on.

  8. AzLawnMan

    AzLawnMan LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 409

    I am doing alot of work for a friend of mine who is a general contractor and has a great name around town and gets a ton of work from word of mouth. Well, me and him are currently bidding 2 HOA's for maintenance and I am cutting him in on 10% of the monthly charge, not bad. Well he called and asked me to bid 1200 sqft of paver work, fireplace and sitting area for a remodel he is doing. I gave him a price and he was shocked. He will usually mark up the price about 5% when he submits it to his customers, which is fine by me. He thought I might be too high, so I asked him to call 3 other companies that I know that can do the work. Well 2 bid the property dirt cheap, one was 48% cheaper and the other was 37% cheaper. The third asked him for a $125 design and estimate fee, my buddy asked why and he explained that it takes him roughly an hour of field work and 30 minutes to prepare the contract proposal. Well, my buddy balked and the guy said he would do it anyways! Well his bid came in at 15% cheaper than mine. I explained to my buddy that my prices are my prices and I would much rather lose the job than to do it for less than I wanted, hell I know my cost of doing business better than my compition. I will be the first to say that I am on the high side, but I would much rather make the same amount of money on 3 jobs than I would by under bidding 5. I just finished a 800 sqft job and I was talking to a guy at the distrubuter and he was asking me prices, which I didnt reveal and he said in order to move their pavers they are laying them as well, for $3.50 a sqft!!!!!! Well I will forever stick to Belgard from now on.
  9. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,945

    When you explain over the phone that your charge for designs, it's amazing the percentage that self-selects themselves out of an appointment. When I worked for a design-build we didn't charge for consults but we did for designs (had to pay my salary). Even hanging out at the home show this weekend with one of my contractors, when some people asked how the process worked and I explained that I charge for designs (y'know, being a designER) you could see them immediately check out. I probably could have said "ok, you can walk away now" to those folks and they would have been relieved, not offended.

    So yeah, explaining that there's a charge for the design is a good prequalifier. As for a consult fee, it's a tough call. I feel like I'd want my volume of leads just a hair higher than where it is for me to make it a standard practice. Right now it's just case by case, either if they're a bit out of my way, want an appointment sooner than really works for me but they may be a good client, or if I can tell they want to pump me for info and then try to figure it out on their own with plants from Home Depot and a crew from Home Depot's parking lot.
  10. 2ndNature

    2ndNature LawnSite Member
    Posts: 147


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