My first-time client, referred by a very loyal client of mine, does not want to follow my designing route (for what Iâ€™m assuming are personal financial reasons). They want something â€œfresh, new, eye-catchingâ€ (all terms weâ€™ve all heard hundreds of times).
Iâ€™m an extremely reasonable guy when pricing, but my client is now asking for suggestions on how she could design her business cards, or simply for any tips or ideas for concepts, etc. (because she is â€œvery creativeâ€, in her own words).
I have no idea how to respond to my client asking for suggestions or concept ideas in an attempt to escape the designing fees after my detailed explanations on the value of my professional graphic designing services, designing from scratch, and not just an ordinary â€œcopied, stolen templateâ€.
My response when asked for free consultation....
I'm sorry, [client].
Please understand that my time is valuable. You are essentially asking me to donate my time for your project, even if it is merely in the nature of a consultation.
Unfortunately, it would be nearly impossible to try and convey all that I have learned through education, trial and error, and experience over the past [X] years.
I would love the opportunity to assist you with your project, but I just can't do it free of charge. If you'd care to schedule some consultation time, I'd be happy to discuss pricing. I'm simply not in the habit of offering free services.
Ask yourself... why are you afraid of angering her? She just wants free work. Tell her [in a friendly and polite manner] to take a hike and be done with it. If your "loyal" client has an issue with you doing that they A) aren't very business-savvy and B) aren't nearly as loyal as you think.
I've turned away brothers, sisters, cousins, wives, husbands, parents, children, etc. of clients - just about any relationship you can think of -- and still maintained the client. I don't personally know anyone in any business that sees the refusal to work for free as an inherently bad thing. I still get referrals, but I don't get the "Hey can you spend 3 hours for free helping my son with his school yearbook" referrals. I get actual business referrals.
Business is business. Be forthright, honest, and upfront without being insulting. There's nothing more to it than that. Believe it or not, many business owners/operators really respect a forthright answer, even if that answer is "no", rather than some political dancing around.
Note: I'm always happy to have a conversation for free. If someone whats to call with a question, I'm happy to discuss what they are struggling with. It is when it starts getting into reviewing files, suggesting colors, typefaces, layout that I think it's too much. Someone asking for "just some ideas" is over the line for me. It's not direct and targeted enough to be a quick, free, answer.
And honestly it wouldn't surprise me if she agrees to pricing after you make it clear you won't work for free.
There are a few options:
"Sorry, but I just don't have the time to volunteer for pro-bono work at the moment."
That's probably the easiest way to handle it.
On the other hand, is there a benefit in trying to make this person happy? Could it benefit you in the long run if she's your friend? Is she well connected? If so, maybe you want to try and keep her as a acquaintance. As such, you could try:
"Tell you what, how about you buy me lunch and we'll brainstorm together for an hour while eating?"
You were probably going to eat lunch anyways, and this way you can offer out some of your advice without it being a total loss of your time.