Friday, May 04, 2012

Free Lunch?

Sometimes, Dear Reader, I wonder whether I am particularly 'special' when it comes to the quality of my prospective clients, or if my experience is typical... not just that for other PIs but also for other self-employed types out there...?

I've blogged about them before; the timewasters or tyrekickers, who I never get any work (or money) from after exhaustive emails, phone conversations, and/or personal meetings; and the tinfoil helmet brigade, who I could never take payment from anyway.

Because they are barking mad.

What I don't get, at the other extreme, is the sort of client like Kelly Rutherford although, since she reputedly doesn't pay her bills, it's probably just as well. Having said that, Banach did receive around $28,000 from her - which is about 4 times the amount I billed my single most spendy client for a case.

So, when it comes to private clients - individuals, not companies - I've noticed this particular trend: 

 * Seemingly Legit doesn't distinguish between those who actually end up paying their bills, and those who don't but most private clients have been good. 

Yep, Timewasters and Tyrekickers make up, by far, the largest group of enquiries. However, perhaps even more disconcertingly, the Barking Mad are on a rough parity with the Seemingly Legit.

So far, the odds are not with me.

However, there are problems even with the Seemingly Legit - and that is of expectation around pricing. For the most part, they want it done for next to nothing!

Unrealistic pricing expectations are probably what turns the Seemingly Legit into Timewasters too (although generally the Tyrekickers are those who never really intended to hire you anyway). This conversion is really out of my hands unless I am willing to chase bottom dollar and sell out whatever scrap of personal integrity I have.

Critics might say something like "you should take work on at any rate" but the problem is that you are setting a precedent, devaluing yourself, and undermining your ability to command higher (ie your 'usual' fees later). Also, if you are working for far less than the industry average, what message are you actually sending to prospective clients?

Take the conversation I had the other day with a Client in regards to a simple document service enquiry. With document service, I charge a single set fee which covers up to 3 attempts at service and the preparation and return of a sworn Affidavit; all for around 70% of my standard hourly rate.

This Client thought that the price was excessive for what seemed like a simple enough job. 

However, I argued that there was no guarantee that I would be able to effect service on the first attempt and, even if I did, the trip to the Subject's address (and back) would take at least 30 minutes on a good day. The same in regards to the lawyers' later for the Affidavit. So even on a best-case basis, the Client was getting my time for less than 70% of the usual rate and, at worst case, less than 35%.

Not only that, but the Client had already stated that the Subject was an alcoholic who was prone to violence so there was the added risk of putting myself into harm's way for the equivalent of a good meal out for two to a reasonable restaurant. 

The Client relented and I got the job. The Subject was served on the first attempt and was compliant enough.

Sometimes, prospective clients just need to be 'educated', I guess. 

What I would really like, just once, is that elusive 'dream client' - deep pockets and a complex case. 


Got any tips on making that happen?


No comments:

Post a Comment