We stopped charging consulting fees for my time about 10 years ago, phasing out and selling our consulting business that built web sites and helped firms with online strategies and marketing. My current company generates revenue from product sales (well, SaaS, software as a service) and advertising so we are not dependent on consulting revenue for generating income – if we were, we certainly would be charging every billable hour. I’ve been asked many times by clients and others to get back into consulting, but I’ve declined each request.
Why we give away sound advice
If you have ever been in a meeting with me, you know that if I can contribute an idea, a technique or a strategy to help someone, I do it. I don’t hold back, nor do I try to drop morsels of input sparingly in the hopes of navigating my way into a politically strategic position. I just lay it all out there, whether it is during meetings with prospective clients, people I’ve met at networking events, or others.
Usually, if you are pitching consulting services, you need to be a little guarded with the amount of information you give away for free; otherwise, the prospect might get all they needed and have no reason to hire you. Not charging for business advice allows my team and I to be free and open with information without the agenda of trying to land a consulting deal. Sharing information also encourages those we speak with to share their knowledge.
Granted, the time I spend on “free consulting” is limited to a few hours at a stretch. If someone requires a longer-term consultant to implement a project, I refer them to qualified people I know. Had my company opened up a consulting division, it would have taken our eyes off of our core focus: building a robust, affordable email marketing tool, mailermailer.com, and our very fun-to-run small business portal, morebusiness.com.
So, by giving away sound business advice at no charge, we are able to keep our head to the ground and work on our core offerings. It makes good business sense.