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Consulation Fee?

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by Sven, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. Sven

    Sven Member

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    If I have to go to a customer's site, to measure, take pictures, advise the customer etc., I will give them a free estimate, but, if I get the job, even if it's a small job, I include an onsite consultaion fee in the price of the whole job--usually $20-$50 depending on how involved the consultation is. I'm wondering how many other people do this and around what you charge?
     
  2. genericname

    genericname Active Member

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    In business classes back in the day, I was always told to simply charge a little more, and included "Consultation fee: --WAIVED--" on invoices.

    Taxes in my province, regarding the graphic design profession at the time, were not at all clear-cut, though it was understood that graphic design services were non taxable (but some did get burned). Since consultant firms' services were taxable though, many GDs in the province made a practice of stating outright that they weren't charging for those kinds of services. It also had the added benefit of looking like they were doing the client a favour. Any little trick in the book...

    We have a harmonized tax now though, which pretty much means if you give someone a piece of paper, you tax it, so I don't bother with the "waived" thing anymore.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2011
  3. ucmj22

    ucmj22 Very Active Member

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    I just build it in to the estimated price
     
  4. Sticky Signs

    Sticky Signs Very Active Member

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    i tell people that its' X amount of dollars to go out for a site check. If they buy from me, the fee is waived.
    I've been burned to many times going out to locations and spending time measuring, taking photos, etc only to have the job fall through or go elsewhere.
     
  5. Gino

    Gino Major Contributor

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    So, in reality, you really don't give them a free discount. You are however, charging them for a site survey/consultation fee for accepting your job without that cost upfront, but added in later ??

    So, the people that don't go with you are rewarded a free site survey and your customers are punished or penalized.


    If I were you, I'd re-think my story or verbal quote.

    To me, it sounds like you come out and do a free estimate and everything it takes to get the job. If it's accepted, you tack on an additional cost for your free quote portion. Yeah, that should make them happy.

    That's called a hidden cost....... revealed at the end.
     
  6. Smacka

    Smacka Member

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    I think he said it right... If he goes on location he charges a fee. If they purchase from him the fee is waived, just like auto repair shops do a diagnostic and it costs $x. If you get the work done the diagnostic is free...otherwise you pay.
     
  7. TyrantDesigner

    TyrantDesigner Very Active Member

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    Crud, I wish that worked in Florida ... I had to charge tax on everything ... professional services were required to be taxed whether you were a handy man, graphic designer or paid to think of the color orange all day.
     
  8. ucmj22

    ucmj22 Very Active Member

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    I dont advertise free onsite estimates. heck, I dont advertise free estimates at all. But if you "Need" me to come out and take a look at your setup to make a quote, I will quote the job including everything it will take to complete the job, that includes going on location, snapping pictures, taking measurements, ordering the materials, design time, prep, install, etc. I dont think I'm being devious for quoting this way. Although, I do like the idea of charging for the estimate upfront, and discounting it later. A bird in the hand....
     
  9. Mike F

    Mike F Active Member

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    I think what he meant was, he goes and does the consultation or whatever and gets the X amount of dollars for that, then and there, and then later on if they want to use him for the job, that money gets put toward whatever he quotes them for the job, kinda like a mini deposit for his time I guess. Not a bad idea, I don't see anything wrong with it.
     
  10. genericname

    genericname Active Member

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    Actually, although I'm opposed to the harmonized sales tax for other reasons, I'd say forcing me to tax everything is its one positive outcome. Before, we had Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and Goods and Services Tax (GST, which was a federal tax). If you provided goods or services that the province said was taxable, you had to charge both PST and GST, but if your goods weren't taxable, you only had to charge GST. Seems simple enough, but when you deal with an industry that has both taxable, and tax exempt goods and services, your invoices could get really messy. The harmonized tax (HST) not only married the PST to the GST, but also meant that anything that could get taxed by the GST, would get taxed by both, which is everything.

    On top of that, Graphic Design wasn't a listed profession with the province or country, so there were no written guidelines stating that our services were taxable or not. When one of us would call the taxation centre for advice, it would be a 50/50 chance of them saying we either had to pay only GST, or charge both. Needless to say, some got audited because they thought they were safe, which is still arguable. We had trade organizations act as lobbyists, trying to either get official answers, or to be accepted as a recognized profession, but it became a moot point when the HST was born.
     
  11. Gino

    Gino Major Contributor

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    Quoting me is not the issue. You want to charge for you quotes, go right ahead. I have no problem with that. In fact, I do myself, but I make that the first line item on the quote. We charge $265 for a site survey regardless of the size, unless we're given the job without any quotes needed. Then it's cleverly hidden in all of the costs. The devious part was the OP siad he told them it was a free estimate, but regardless of the size of the job, he then added $20 - $50 on top. That's the bad chit. He was afraid to tell them upfront of his intentions and added it once he got the job.

    I think you misunderstood what he wrote.
    Regardless of what you think, there are quite a few ways of interpreting what the OP was insinuating when he wrote this. If he levels with us, we'll find out the truth and the errors in his ways. Otherwise, we'll just argue over who does what and how.​
     
  12. Gino

    Gino Major Contributor

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    Not exactly..............

    ucmj made remarks about doing a site survey, which usually entails photographs, measurements, detailed drawings, explanations and so forth. That usually will take an hour or two, so if I feel the drive time, time on site and working up the details for them can be covered at $265, then that's what we quote. The most expensive one of these I remember was around $475.

    If someone is nearby [10 mile radius], I'll fit it into my schedule, drive by in the next day or two and then fax or e-mail them a quote, but no photos, measurements or anything else accompanies the quote. That's my information and not revealed for the customer to hand out to other shops. This will stop someone from using my information and forces them out to the site also.
    I've been around too long to give information away for free. They'll pay me for that part..... or do it wrong using my specs. ​
    The other thing I'll do is simply ask someone to take a few photos themselves, measure the area and send me their jpegs. That's the easiest way of all. I'll bet we do at least 4 or 5 that way a week on average. I'm working on four right now furnished that way.
     
  13. Custom_Grafx

    Custom_Grafx Very Active Member

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    List it as a site visit, charge your hourly rate plus any other costs associated with your transport to the location and return trip to your work.
     
  14. visual800

    visual800 Very Active Member

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    hell if I had the luxury of going to customer sites I would be rich. We dont charge for art or on site visits. We dont charge for layouts. Its a crap shoot, sometimes you get the job sometimes you dont. Its been that way for 22 years. UNLESS you have acustomer that is a royal pain in the a$$ THEN we charge them to get rid of them. I do not know ANY other sign compnay in this town or the surrounding area that charges for these services.

    OR I'm the only one that admits it openly. Others will say they do and then you see them on Letterheads wanting to sue because someone stole their art and when someon asks "Didn't you charge for art" and they reply usually they do charge but this one time they didnt...wth ever
     
  15. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    I work for companies who will charge a "consultation" fee. Usually enough to cover most of the the cost of a site visit.... some will fly to a meeting to bid on design work, quite a few will bid on large design packages from a design firm for free... but the majority will do site visits and design for free (on spec). Some companies, even to the point of flying across the country to do extensive site visits, photo studies and huge design packages and meetings for free. It must be worth it to them because sometimes they send me to do it. But in my opinion, seems like a huge risk, even with the potential for landing these larger jobs.
     
  16. Gino

    Gino Major Contributor

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    There is a large sign company not too far from us that gives complete free site visits and drawings up front. They say this, but I don't believe them.

    I know the guy/owner for about 20 years or so and he's very much the businessman, but the company depends on volume and not quality. He's been doing it this way ever since I knew him.

    They are on every bid list in the country. They bid so low to get the job [really... get their foot in the door] and once they have the job, they start jacking everything up here and there a little until the job becomes more profitable for them. However, I know of quite a few jobs where this has gone south for them for a different reason. They start cutting corners to make it profitable.

    :Oops: One in particular [and very recent] where they bid out about 1/2 million, got the job where everyone else was around 1.2 million and then the chit started to fly. Where the specs were to be clear acrylic, silk screened and flooded, they decided to flatbed print and use vinyl as the backer on plain plexi. There were about 2,000 of these signs. I know, because we did the flatbed printing. Their customer turned the job down, because of the vinyl backer. I have no idea how they knew the difference of flatbed vs. screening, but then I heard the other signs were refused that we had nothing to do with for other reasons.... the main one being they substituted substrates and materials and thought the customer wouldn't know the difference. Ha, but they got caught. They ended up having to do the entire job over not twice, but thrice... because the dumb *** still cut corners.

    If you want to give free quotes and all the information, don't try to recoup your costs by adding them in at the end or downgrading your own specs. Be up front and tell them if what they want is information, you will gladly do a site survey for them or just bid the job out using their parameters and hope for the best.
     
  17. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    I know this type of shop, they drive me crazy...

    At my old job, when we made a sign package to bid on, a few of our clients opted to weed out a low baller that were stupid low. On Government jobs, we did not have that option but made it very clear that the specs had to be met, and that the project had to go though an ongoing approval process. A lot of these low ball clowns do not get that we had already pre-estimated projects to a certain budget and we knew how signs were made... they just assumed we were just "graphic designers" or an "advertising company" We already know what the bid will come out at. And usually we got bids that were with 5% of each other.

    Once on a job, us and the client had estimated the job at about a million bucks, about 15 bids came in at 925-950k, but we got one bid from a very good company who knew what they were doing at 150k. The client was so concerned they had me call them and tell them to take another look at the numbers or maybe they misunderstood the bid package. We had a meeting with them, they understood it, and were comfortable with the numbers but wanted to know how low they were... I couldn't tell them, but they were the only company we pulled aside and told them to rethink it and thought it was so low it could break them... they ended up adding a little bit more to the bid. They almost lost their butt on it.

    On government jobs, there is no getting your foot in the door, it's always going to the low bidder. Even on large private projects, most EGD firms know how a sign is made and they will only work with companies who can make their designs work, as designed. Substituting after a contract is made is a bad thing... they are supposed to address changes in the RFQ process so everyone has a chance to consider it. I can't count how many times some shop substituted something and it not work out.

    This past month I reviewed a bid package for a huge shopping center remodel. This was the 4th or 5th time I have seen bid packages for this mall. To me it was purposefully made to trick shops into guessing at how they would build the signs, and some desperate law baller will get hit hard. The worst bid package I ever saw and they wanted bids within a week. I estimated the project was in the 800k range at the least, but told my client not to bid on the job... with no set specs and too many contract holes, the job was too risky. The client offered instead to design a clear bid package with set sign amounts and specs so everyone is bidding on the same thing. They declined... no doubt in a few weeks or months, there will be another bid package for this mall.
     
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