by Gillian Armour, AICI CIP, FSI CMFS

This article is excerpted from the course manual “This Business Called Image” and addresses the very important subject of setting your consulting fee’s.

Professional stylists command fees ranging from $75 an hour to $25,000 per day depending on the client, the job, and their experience in the industry. If you are just starting out, here are some guidelines — but remember there is a wide fluctuation in the fees you can charge. Take into consideration your own expenses, including overhead, transportation, and materials. 

The more experience you have and the more clients you get, the higher your fees should go. Don’t price yourself out of the market, however. Get paid what you deserve, remembering that even when working with high-end clients, you should never price gouge. A good rule of thumb on fees: reasonable + fair = return customers.

Getting paid for your time also means you need to document and invoice your hours. One way is to send a physical invoice through the mail (include a thank you card), as well as sending an electronic copy through email after you have finished your consultation. You can also keep your clients’ credit cards on file (with their permission) to invoice all other fees and expenses.

Figuring out how much to charge for your services may be one of the most challenging aspects of starting a business. Here are a few straight forward suggested guidelines for setting your fees.

For presentations

  • The National Speakers Association standard fee is $1500 a program depending upon the size of the group

  • For informational talks, you could negotiate a $20/ person fee, then provide a less meaty presentation than a formal talk

  • If you’re just starting out, speak “pro bono” for a charity group

  • Ask to write a column for the group’s newsletter and include your brochure

  • Donate your presentation as a charitable contribution; get a letter from the director of the group stating this for your records

  • Arrange your talk as a barter for services or merchandise with someone from the group

  • Group estimates for experienced presenters for larger groups are targeted in the range of $500 to $2000 per hour or day, plus travel expenses

  • If you have any materials published or printed, ask if you can bring those to have available for purchase by attendees

 For individual consulting

Set an hourly fee consistent with your level of experience and the demographics of your area. Find out what other consultants are charging (note that if you are a member of AICI you are not allowed to discuss your fees with others)

  • Factor in your preparation time, interview time, travel time, cost of materials, and follow-up time

  • Fee structure should remain consistent and not vary from client to client

  • Quote your rates in advance to clients and offer a proposal of services

  • Consider a flat fee or bundled services for clients to purchase up front; describe in detail

  • Consider a premium fee for “high maintenance” clients or jobs that require extra travel, effort, and follow-up

For phone and electronic consulting time

  • Consider charging for consulting time after 15 minutes via phone or e-mail. Inform the client up front

  • Offering gratis service information for prospective clients via phone or e-mail shows good faith and professionalism

Payment terms

  • Draft a general consulting policy to provide clients with your preferred method of payment and how you bill and set your fees

  • Discuss your policy agreement and have a signed copy for the client

  • Consider client payments to be due at the end of their service or within a 7-10-day billing cycle

  • If you have a client who repeatedly cancels appointments, you may wish to request a deposit or a 2-hour minimum upon scheduling

And, if you think it a good business decision then consider a retainer fee for new clients, i.e., an initial payment that covers a specified number of hours. Don’t ever be shy about asking for money and payment on your terms but always be sure to have written contracts in place when both parties have agreed to the fee and payment structure. For more detail, including sample fee structures for various services, click the link below to purchase a copy of this start up manual and begin earning your livelihood today!