The answer to that question depends upon what kind of first appointment the potential client wants and is asking for.
Any potential client need to be pre-qualified on the phone prior to setting that first appointment and using up your valuable time.
You will find many clues when you pay attention to the wording the client uses when making the appointment request.
Here are two typical but very different requests for a first appointment.
#1) The phone rings and you discover that this might be a potential client and she says to you …
“Will you came over and see my house? I want to hear your ideas.”
#2) The second potential client rings you up and says…
“I am considering redecorating my living room and I would like to talk to you about helping me with it.”
Instead of jumping in your car and running over there immediately, stop and ask a question or two first. You must clarify those statements, establish your boundaries and explain how you work before you set the appointment.
#1) is asking you to give away design advice.
#2) is asking you to interview for a job.
This is what you say…
Start by explaining how you work.
“I can meet you at your home (office) for a first appointment in 2 ways…”
“If you are considering hiring me on for your Living Room project, I would be happy to come to your home, get a feel for the scope of the job and see if we like each other at no charge.”
“Or, if you asking me to come to your home and give you design ideas and solutions, I can accommodate that request. Get your yellow pad out and start listing your questions, because we can cover a lot in an hour. I charge $350.00 (or what ever you choose) for this session.”
“Then ask point blank, which way would you like to work with me?”
In option #1, you will be meeting to discover the scope of the job so that you can set an appointment to come back with your Letter of Agreement the next day and sign up the job.
In option #2, you will spend an hour doing a “brain dump” with someone that might turn into a client. I recommend charging about three times your hourly rate for this particular service, depending on the travel time involved.
It would be wise to include one follow up phone call with this client so that you stay connected. I also recommend offering to the client a credit for the amount paid on this service if she hires you for a substantial job later on.
It is vitally important to establish your boundaries early and not give away your valuable design advise to potential clients. It is equally important to make clear offers for your services to potential clients so that they understand how you work.
I teach this strategy in detail in my Design Biz Blueprint training and coaching programs. I help Designers learn these kinds of strategies so that they can enjoy empowered and profitable design businesses. Check out the Design for Success Platinum Group Coaching Program here.