Consultations with clients can get pretty in depth and take some time. Some of the process is for the client to get information to see if they would be comfortable enough to work with you as their freelancer. Other consults may be asking for advice.
Your time is valuable, even when consulting. Normal consultations that might take 20 minutes or half an hour are great, but what happens when you are required to drive to a location to do a consultation? Do you just do it for free?
What if the consult is technical advice to correct a mistake or improve?
When should consultations cost?
Consultations should cost if the time used is taking long. Half an hour or more might need some compensation. It all depends on you as the freelancer. If you feel it is a good investment to do a free consultation in person, that is your choice. However, commuting time, gas, and more – that poses to be an expensive investment.
While you are wanting to land a job, most of your clients should be aware that if you are meeting with them outside of email or phone, it is a courtesy to provide adequate compensation. For myself, while I do not charge, I often am invited to lunch to do a consult and the client pays. It is not always expected, but I have never had to pay my own meal during an in-person consultation. It ends up being comfortable and I can get a better idea of how to deliver a good product for my client.
However, I have found lately I have had to charge for some technical support time that I had to either work or provide detailed advice. I normally charge my per hour fee and that has been acceptable according to some of my clients.
While I would love to always do free in-person consultations, it just is not logical. I recommend if you do, but you have been unsure of whether or not to charge, simply consult your clients. Ask them if they believe it is fair. Or, ask your peers in your niche?
Do you charge for web design consultations? If so, do you have advice to anyone unsure of trying this? If not – why?