To Fee or Not To Fee, IS That the Question???

Yesterday, I came across a blog post that I could identify with... it's basically about how much designers charge, and what - exactly - they provide. The writer announced that she would be offering design services from her blog, then proceeded to explain what those services were and the fee structure for them. A bevy of comments ensued, basically split smack down the middle of two opinions:

Opinion A said that anyone who puts their work out there on a blog or website or article or book or video, et al, is basically offering those resources free. So to charge for offering advice or assistance, or even for answering specific questions about the information and photos that have already been shared, is ridiculous. 'How dare you!' was the basic message.

Opinion B said that offering information, photos, and work of any sort through the medium of magazines, blogs, websites, videos, etc. is the new way to advertise, maket, and promote one's business and services. Giving a certain amount free is a way to prove your ability to deliver the goods to a paying client. To charge for services, assistance, advice, etc. is what business is all about - not to mention that the fees she quoted were more than reasonable - so more power to her.

I'm with the B people.
'BeeKennedy. BeeMoses. BeeJesus.' (sorry, a bit of movie humor there...)
Honestly, I deal with this situation every.single.day. Yup. In the dozens of emails I receive each day, there are multiple requests for my services and lengthy explanations of why they are needed. I rarely ever get asked what my fees are. When I reply with a suggestion of how I can help, and what my fee structure is, I usually hear 'We are on a budget and can't afford to pay for services like this. We thought perhaps you could help....' I'd LOVE to help! I'm in business to help! I'm happy they found me, asked for help, and am ready to jump in and do so. And my fees are so reasonable it's killing me. But I just can't provide it free of charge.

I look at it this way: I've offered free information, inspiration, advice, and assistance of a general nature here on my blog, on my GHC blog, in my GHC videos, in several community forums, in articles for online web sites, blogs & magazines, all available to the public for free. I know that they are of help & benefit because usually the first line of an email request says 'I learned so much from your article....' or something similar, and I am thrilled to be able to help people by providing those free resources.

But the purpose of all of that time-consuming writing of free information is ALSO to express my ability to offer my services professionally. When someone needs me to provide advice on specific situations for their business, that's something I charge for. (Kind of like a taste of ice cream on the miniature pink spoon is free at Baskin Robbins - but a scoop or two on a cone is gonna' cost ya'!)

Like the designer who posted on her blog, I have devoted myself to education, practice, research, and more to develop the skill, talent, ability, and professionalism to be able to help people. I've chosen to do this work that I love, and it has been the primary occupation of my life since I was thirteen years old. Don't I deserve to be paid for that? Doesn't she? It's not rocket science or brain surgery, to be sure, but design is a valuable service. If I can spend half an hour to solve a dilemma for you that will save you days, weeks, maybe months of searching for answers and missteps, and all of the costs incurred in that, isn't $50 reasonable?

I am having a hard time understanding the rationale of the 'A' position. According to this kind of sideways thinking, I guess I should be able to walk into a store, see displays of product I like and am inspired by, and pick up the product and walk out without paying for it. Because, after all, they put it out there and I saw it, and now why should I have to pay for it?

??? What do you think???
And this time, I'll not forget to add PLEASE be courteous with your feedback. ;0)

Check out the original post and comments to see what I'm talkin' about here... http://mysweetsavannah.blogspot.com/2009/03/design-consultations.html

7 comments:

  1. You have spent your time and money to be the creative one to make a successful business. If a person does not have the creativeness or know-how to expand on what has already been given for free, they need to pay for your time! You've (not just you, everyone in any kind of business that has a blog, website, etc) already spent time (and this should be considered advertising dollars -- but the IRS probably doesn't think so!) putting out suggestions, ideas. If a person wanted to, they can spend the time to research, research, research right down to what they want. But they want to skip all that time (which breaks down to money -- time = $$) and get your time for free --- absolutely not fair!

    Sorry for the rambling...but in a nutshell....I Agree with "B" :)

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  2. H opinion...(sorry couldn't resist)
    You need to be paid for services. I have customers ask all the time if I make home visits. I realize they want my suggestions, ideas and creativity to visit their homes. When I say I do provide in home consultations for a fee. Well only one out of twenty, or so, ever hire me for the in home service. I even had a woman suggest that she makes the best pie...all you can do is smile. I guess they figure it can't hurt to ask. But it is awkward to say, pay me.

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  3. Hi Deb!
    I wholeheartedly agree with you...and "B"! I am a decorator, speaker, writer, etc. I have the same situations come up, too. Not only that, I have clients that I've worked with in the past who feel that after a certain amount of time of paying me they are "entitled" to a certain amount of free time, or huge discounts...when you turn it around to them and their job, etc...sometimes they get it, sometimes they don't! It is a challenge but the ones who DO get it and appreciate your talent and are more than willing to pay for it, make it all worth it!

    Happy Easter!
    ;-D

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  4. Well I would have to say that Option B is the only choice.
    I can't tell you how many times I've been asked just to do something just because I know how to do it! I'm the one who has taken the time to learn what I need to know so that I can do it in a timely and creative manner and using your example of $50, I would say that is more then reasonable! In fact if that is what you charge I would raise my prices!
    I just started reading and I want to thank you for the valuable info that you are giving away! Thank you, thank you!

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  5. No, it's not rocket science -- but if anyone could do it, they wouldn't be coming to you for help, now would they?

    You, nor anyone else, should have to apologize for wanting to earn a living with their skills and talents.

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, ladies. I love the conversation!!! Keep it comin'....

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  7. Ah!.. this is not just in the decorating field. As a homeschool consultant ( blatant plug - www.homeschool-confidential.blogspot.com) people think its more than ok to write and ask me "just a couple of questions" without regard to the fact that really answering a " couple" of questions in a full way can take 1-2 hours and at the very least 30 minutes,if by e-mail. A yet they are not willing to pay for the same thing. Very frustrating. I give away free homeschooling advice each week on my blog but it's not enough for some people and never will be.

    SO put me in group *B* also!
    Maddie Kertay

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my take on retail visual design:

"The thing is, retail design is driven by psychology. It is by manipulating space, visuals, lighting, sound, smell, and mood that we influence customers to enter, stay, browse, buy, and return. It is an endless exercise in change, endurance, growth, education, and imagination that enables retailers to stay on top of their game and at the forefront of their customer's minds. Yes, what you sell IS important - but even the very best merchandise won't sell at full price if it's presented in torn boxes on dirty shelves in a store that is too crowded to turn around in. Visual impact is a huge part of business, and utilizing the principles that have been proven to work can help you build a better business." ~ DWK