Monday, May 17, 2010

There really is no such thing as a free lunch

Honestly, I sometimes wonder what people are thinking when they make an enquiry. Well, actually I don't because I already know the way the conversation is playing out in their heads.

Client: Hello, I was just wanting to know if you could follow my cheating bastard of a husband and get the proof I need to leave him forever?

Plucky PI: Certainly Madam, what specifically did you have in mind?

Client: Well, I was thinking maybe I could have you follow him at all hours, giving you virtually no notice and have you generally at my beck and call.

Plucky PI: Marvelous, Madam, we can certainly handle that. We will require $X in advance and our standard charges are $Y per hour per person. Expenses are additional. How would you like to pay?

Client: ***...silence...***

Plucky PI: Hello...?

Client: Oh, that much? I was sort of hoping that you would undertake to work all these unsociable hours, keeping you away from your family and friends and any semblance of a personal life, running around at my every whim for, say, a pittance? In fact, I was rather hoping you would put this ball-gag in your mouth and bend over so I can fuck you up the arse with this strap-on while doing so. Would that be acceptable?     

No, Dear Reader, that would not be acceptable.

And while the conversation may not play out that way word for word, the intent is all the same nonetheless.

Recently, I read a very humourous blog entry from David Thorne which had nothing to do with investigations.  There, David responds to Simon's request for a quick logo and some pie charts for a presentation with vague promises of future payment:

Actually, you were asking me to design a logotype which would have taken me a few hours and fifteen years experience. For free. With pie charts. Usually when people don't ask me to design them a logo, pie charts or website, I, in return, do not ask them to paint my apartment, drive me to the airport, represent me in court or whatever it is they do for a living. 
The underlying point is that clients seem to invariably expect that no matter what the standard rate is, it is too much. What they don't understand is that, like any other business, we have business costs and overheads to cover as well as trying to scrape together enough to make what passes for a living. Also, they are paying not just for the service being performed, but the prior experience and education that has given us the ability to perform that particular service.

I am reminded of a story I was told by a lawyer friend. Before completing his studies, one of his Professors regaled the class with a tale of how he once charged a client $10,000 for 15 minutes work. Obviously his standard rate is not $40K per hour but in this particular case he charged according to what the case was worth based on what he was saving the client, and, given his particular knowledge and experience in this matter. 

Or maybe I'm just eternally unlucky with the clients and the cases that I get?

Dear future clients, please remember that when you come to see me about your problem, I will do my very best to give you what help you require. But I won't do it for nothing. Perhaps you should first consider what the worth of your marriage, business, or whatever is beforehand and be prepared to pay accordingly.

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