Pick and Pay (For My Brains and Expertise, Please)….
by Rob Schron
Independent meeting planners need to give serious thought to charging prospective clients a fee for their services – especially those who seek their advice and counsel and, at the same time, “must” have a proposal from you on short notice, even when the event being planned may often be many months away. After all, it takes time – your time -- to research and develop such requests and, among other things, determine hotel rates and availability, the air lift to a particular destination and the frequency of flights from various gateways, transfer possibilities, food and beverage options, DMC options and the cost of renting AV materials, etc., etc., etc.
So the question isn’t so much whether or not you should charge such a fee but how much your fee should be. People in the “advice” business generally charge by the hour and while you may not be able to quantify the time you’ll need to spend on developing a particular proposal, you do have some idea, based on past experience, as to how long it will take you to draw one up. Hence, a flat fee in such cases might be the way to go.
There is a risk and a reward to this idea and, in my view, a positive way to present it.
Here’s the deal:
Explain to your prospective client (I wouldn’t charge repeat clients as they have already shown their good faith by doing business with you) that in order to work up a detailed proposal you need to allot significant time for it and since, as the saying goes, “time is money,” you need to be compensated for it. And before the prospective client abruptly declines your offer, explain what you’re prepared to do, to wit, apply 100% of your fee toward the actual cost of the program should your proposal be accepted and the program moves forward. This way, you’ve put a value on your expertise by having the client pay for the time you’ve spent developing the program (as a retainer, so to speak) and paying for your services when, and if, the program -- and your management and supervision of it – materializes.
Bottom line here is that people seeking the help of a professional meeting planner shouldn’t expect to get it for nothing. Remember, most people think free advice is worthless. And while charging a fee for your services may not be the proverbial “offer your client can’t refuse,” it does attest to the adage that “there’s no free lunch” – unless of course you decide to take the client out for one when he’s ready to sign a contract.