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Canon 550d Rebel T2i
Sony HDR FX1
Sony HDR FX7
Sony Z7U and Sony 270U
(We’re continually adding to this camera list, Check here for the complete list.)
Giving Outstanding Customer
Service vs. Giving Away The Store
By Steve Yankee
That IS a toughie, drawing the line between taking client jobs in an efficient, time-conscious manner and educating clients or prospects on how things are done and what you do -or what they have to do to get ready to work with you.
What CAN you say to people who
1) ask outright for free information, or
2) want to “pick your brain” or
3) just start talking to you about something, and you realize that they’re trying to “borrow” your valuable resources without becoming a client, or
4) want you to help them do their homework; sit in front of a projector with them while they review their old home movie footage to see what’s there?
Doesn’t matter if you’re the only employee or if you have a staff. As a service business owner, part of what you “offer” clients (and what they value from you) is your knowledge and expertise.
It’s as much a part of your “services” as any tangible materials you produce. So make sure to treat your expertise, knowledge AND your time as such, and get fair compensation for this service.
In other words: start charging them for your time on an hourly basis. When a client comes in lugging a bag full of old, unmarked Beta tapes and wants to “sort of see what’s on them before I have them made into DVDs…” CHARGE for your time.
Likewise, charge for helping someone sit down and go through their photos and slides and putting them in order for a transfer; after all, they’re using both your time and creative expertise on behalf of this client, and we MUST be fairly compensated for our time. So it’s time to start charging clients for the time we spending helping them — time that can and should be paid for.
What’s Free? What’s Not? Try The 10-Minute Rule.
Personally speaking, I’m a firm believer in the 10-minute rule. If I can answer a question in ten minutes or less, I generally just go ahead and do so. If a question is more complicated than that, I reply, ‘I can’t really do justice to your question without a brief consultation. My consulting rates are …’
Again, part of what you “offer” clients and what they value from you is your knowledge and expertise. It’s as much a part of your “services” as any tangible materials you produce.
Your consulting rate should be in alignment with what you charge for your time while editing or shooting -less equipment charges, of course; they’re paying for your brainpower. You probably want to be able to break this down into 10- or 15-minute increments, so your clients don’t feel they are being cheated if you solve their problem or answer their question in 12 minutes and then charge them for a minimum hour of your time. If you’ve decided that $60 an hour is a fair price for your time (about what I’d call a minimum fee, by the way), then it’s $15 for the first 15 minutes; $30 for a half hour. This makes the math easy.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s in person or via email or by telephone. Otherwise, if it’s time that gets logged against an existing or upcoming job…simply add it to the invoice when the project is done and you’re doing your billing.
How To Implement Your New Consulting Fee.
You should notify existing clients in advance about your new policy of charging for your consulting time. I know it’s hard to talk about money, but remember your clients are in business, too. They know how valuable time is. It’s really your ONLY commodity.
For people who are not yet clients, feel free to simply say what I say “I’m happy to give you ten minutes or less of free time, however, most issues are more quickly and effectively resolved in an undisturbed session(s). May we schedule a phone meeting so I can give your questions my undivided attention? My service charge is $XX per hour, billed in 15 minute increments, and this can be billed to your credit card when we’re done. Incidentally, I’ve found that most problems can be solved in 15 minutes.”
A few other lines you can use…
“My charge for an initial consultation is ‘x.’ If we turn out to be a good match, and you hire me, I’ll apply half of “x” towards your project.”
“What I can do is refer you to a free resource on “_______.”
“Yes, I do work with clients on “name the issue.” Would you like to set up a consultation? That will cost “x” per hour.”
“Well, I’d love to suggest something; however, my fees for this are “x” per hour.”
“You may call me for a 15-minute talk, very focused, on that issue. We charge ‘x’ per hour for consultation.”
“Well, the answer to that question depends…” -then, spend a FEW minutes explaining some of the options and considerations. For example, I may explain that the best way to identify the “solution” is to work backward from the desired end result and process. That provides a natural lead-in to: “If I were to work with you on this project, here’s how we would do it…”
“A complete answer to your question is going to take more than five minutes over the phone. Would you like me to send you a proposal on this? Or…” (explain your consulting service rates & benefits.)
“It’s not a good time for me to begin a session right this minute. Would you like to briefly discuss session times and fees?”
P.S. When NOT To Charge By The Hour.
I learned this one early on in my career, when I moved from one ad agency to another. My replacement at the former agency -the new a/v production manager -was having a horrible time editing a piece of music down to 30 seconds for a radio spot bed. I think he had something like 12 hours into the job when the agency president -my old friend, Bill -called me to see if I could finish the job for them -they were up against a deadline.
“Sure, Bill,” I replied. “Is it worth $250 to have it edited right?”
“Absolutely, Steve! Can you do it?”
I said I would under two conditions: first, that they’d have a check ready for me when I came in (after hours) to do the edit. And secondly, I was to get the full fee regardless of how long that the job took.
I arranged to meet with them the following evening at 6 o’clock, after I got out of my new job and had time to drive over. I entered the studio at 5:58 pm. After the usual hello’s, I started the edit at 6:02. I was finished at 6:05 pm. I played the track, grabbed my check, and headed home.
$250 for three minutes work. More than a dollar a second. They didn’t care it only took me three minutes to do it -it was done, and done right. With the exception of the new producer, they were all quite happy.
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