Stop putting out for free. That's not how you build a design business.
I was having a convo with an Anonymous Designer. Well, I know who they are, but you don’t and we are going to keep it this way for this note (but they’ve given me permission to share this with you).
They had been offering free consults (like I mention in this blog post here) and just felt like everyone who got on the phone was looking for free help and they felt used.
First off, I don’t want you to misinterpret “the free consult” thing. I probably should have worded it better. You should be using these calls with potential clients so they get a feel for who you are IF they are genuinely interested in HIRING you. That means paying you money, not paying you in pistachio shells. And you get a feel for them as well.
My A.D. (anonymous designer) made the mistake of offering these “free consults” and gave away fantastic advice. And then word spread like wildfire that A.D. would put out. For free.
So, A.D. had a line out the door with people who wanted a “free consult”. And who wouldn’t? She’d diagnose the design dilemma quickly and gave the farm away for free.
If you want to have a call with your clients to find out if you’re a perfect match for one of your PAID services, there’s a way to do it.
#1 Figure Out Their Problemo
You need to discern if you have the solution to their problem. If you don’t have what they need (although your online presence should clearly reflect what you do and who you do it for so your client’s have already figured out before they contact you). So you ask questions like:
What's your design problemo? What have you done so far and what would they like to have happen instead?
#2 Give Them An Overview
This is where you give them an outline of how you will solve their problem.
So, I think you’re going to need to do some work in regards to your space plan if your great grandmother has broken her hip three times in the past year. And because Benji has been puking all over your micro-fiber sofa, I have a few ideas on furniture that’s more pet friendly so you don’t have to euthanize Benji. And lastly I think lighting is one more area we need to tackle so your great grandmother will be able to see her way in the new family room and you can spot if Benji has made any messes you need to tend to.
#3 It’s Action Time
Now is the time you segue into asking for the sale. *wink wink* BUT do not pass go, do not collect $200 and invite someone to work with you if you don’t like their vibe. If they seem like a demanding or unrealistic client take that as a warning sign and move along.
If you’re open, I’ve got a design service that I think would really help you solve all of these problems we’ve discussed. Do you want to hear about it?
You’re not forcing yourself on them, you’re asking if they want a solution to their problem. See? You’re being helpful, not slimy.
I’ve have my Platinum Design Service package where I create a space designed specifically with you and your family in mind so everyone is safe and you don’t have to turn Benji into hot dogs. This design service starts with a design questionnaire so I can make sure I get the nitty gritty about your design dilemma. Then I take this information and create a plan for how to solve it. You’ll get (insert all of your deliverables here).
My Platinum Design Service has been crafted just for the family with elderly and pets so you can live in a functional and peaceful home. Does this sound like it would work for you?
#4 Ask For It
When they say yes: It’s time for you to tell them how much it costs (if you don't have the fee on your website) OR if you have the fee on your website -- tell them to get started you will need a deposit and that you'll be sending them a link to pay it while you're on the phone with them. (If you're at their house, you can ask for payment by check or credit card, however you do it).
And then say nothing.
Let them be the first to respond. This isn’t the time to start discounting yourself if the silence gets uncomfortable.
Depending on how they answer, you’ll respond in kind. If they can’t afford it, you wouldn’t want them to go into debt to work with you. However, you don’t know what’s in their wallet.
If they want to work with you bad enough because they know you can solve their problem, they will find a way to pay for it.
I used to put out for free, but not anymore.
I have done “free consults” which were essentially “Pick My Brain” sessions. I did these to a) make sure I was excellent with my coaching abilities and b) as research to make sure I am fulfilling a need in the market.
When you’re starting a business you need to make sure you are filling a need in the market, once you know what you are doing is valuable, you don’t put out for free. Otherwise you’ll be broke.
The consults I’m offering for my coaching clients are more about seeing if we’re a perfect match, they aren’t for picking my brain. I know the value I bring and I’ve had years experience to know that what I’m doing works.
If my website has done it’s job by providing great content and helpful advice, the designer who wants to work with me knows that I can help them create an online presence that gets them more clients in the virtual door. They see the coaching as the answer they’ve been praying for, so paying my fee is worth it to them instead of going it alone anymore.