4 08 2010

Or should that be why is he/she charging you so much?

Of course, the consultant you are talking to might just be expensive but there are also lots of seemingly unimportant or irrelevant things you might be doing which are bumping up the price that consultant charges you!

From personal experience, here are a few things which have meant we have charged clients a little (or even a lot) more which will help you keep what you are charged down.

That consultant isn’t as expensive as you think

Not providing the consultant with the information required and/or requested.

In order to gain an understanding of a project prior to quoting we provided a client with a simple spreadsheet which highlighted what information we needed in order to quote accurately. All the client had to do was to fill in the highlighted cells and return it to us.

Instead they emailed a list of information which, once we had transferred the information to the spreadsheet, we found only partially covered what had been requested. We asked again and received another list with more information for us to enter into the spreadsheet. We asked a third and fourth time for the missing bits of data but to no avail.

When we then quoted the client we costed in the extra admin time we were likely to need judging from this experience plus further time for chasing down the information we were still lacking. The client suggested they thought the price was high but it was a fair reflection of the time we would need to invest should the client continue to be slap dash with details we needed. We still expected a good job of ourselves even if the client was going to make that harder/longer work.

Tip; keep the bill down by providing the consultant with the information he/she requests and by avoiding creating extra admin for them. Remember we charge for our time, all of it!

Pretending data and/or information exists when clearly it does not.

Another client had told us, before the job started, that all the files and other information, including budgets, had been done. Once we began the job we discovered that while some had, most were only part completed and would require finishing either by the client or by us.

The client’s view was that they had engaged us to do the job and therefore we should complete the missing files. The same client, for some inexplicable reason, was surprised when we invoiced them for the additional work!

Tip; don’t tell your consultant that work that needs to be done in order for them to complete the job has been done when you know they will discover it hasn’t. The job will still need doing only now at the consultant’s rates not your admin staff’s rates!

Use the consultant’s time wisely.

At Cowan Global we charge by the day, not by the hour, but we don’t mind you filling that day up for us. One client had us working on three separate projects for three different departments and despite our suggestions that they coordinate diaries they regularly arranged work on different days in two and three hour segments. This resulted in higher bills all for the sake of a little inter departmental planning and communication.

Tip; if you can coordinate the work into one day rather than spreading it over several part days the consultant will probably charge you considerably less.

Don’t be put off by a quote that is outside your budget.

Most consultants have a standard fee charged either hourly or daily. If they quote you more than you can afford don’t be afraid to ask what they can do within your budget. Most consultants do what they do because a) they enjoy it and b) they like helping people. If we know your budget we can help you find a way of getting the job done – that is assuming the budget is a realistic one!

Tip; don’t be afraid to share your budget with your consultant, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many will help.

Have you checked whether the consultant offers discounts?

Not all do but at Cowan Global (for example) we offer discounts to charities, not for profit organisations, community focused projects and for the third sector. But if we don’t know you are within one of these categories, we won’t offer the discount.

Tip; Ask about discounts within your sector, especially if you are among the type of organisation mentioned.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

We prefer clients who ask questions, it suggests they are interested. Those questions can (and possibly should) include asking about how a quote breaks down. By understanding that you might find that there are elements to a job you can do more economically in-house while letting the consultant focus on their own area of expertise.

Tip; employ a consultant for their specialism(s), not to do the things your existing staff can do as well and more economically.


Why does that consultant cost so much? Often it’s because of seemingly unimportant or irrelevant things. But apply a little thought about how you use the consultant’s skills, experience and knowledge to the best and most economical benefit, match this with a fair size dollop of common sense and you will see that maybe he/she isn’t so expensive after all!

Of course expertise does cost and there is another reason why that consultant might appear to cost so much; the effect on your business of not employing him/her will be even higher!

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited 2010


Twitter @cowanglobal



One response

5 01 2011

Why do some providers of professional services still think that time-based fees are better and preferred by their clients?…

I’m not sure that we do!   However many clients ask us to quote prices based on ‘how long is a piece of string’ descriptions of the likely volume of work making a daily rate the only way to quote without ending up taking on far more work than was co…

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