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Misunderstanding About Fees

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Angelique is a former client, and she referred a friend to me, offering to pay for the service. My mistake was not quoting the current fee, so Angelique was surprised by a higher-than-expected invoice—never a good outcome. This series of e-mails shows how we resolved the issue such that our friendship is still strong today.

From: Bill Frank at CareerLab [mailto:wsfrank@careerlab.com]
Sent: June 12, 20— 1:29 PM
To: Angelique Wittler
Subject: Invoice for Austin Darnall
I'm enjoying Austin Darnall.  She's every bit as delightful as you said. And what a go-getter!  She's moving along faster than expected.
You asked me to send invoices to you.  This first is attached. Is electronic okay, or do you need paper.



From: Angelique Wittler
Sent: June 14, 20— 10:59 AM
To: Bill Frank at CareerLab
Subject: RE: Invoice for Austin Darnall
I must have misunderstood….and Austin has the same recollection…that the hourly rate was $150.  Please advise.

From: Bill Frank at CareerLab [mailto:wsfrank@careerlab.com]
Sent: June 14, 20— 12:13 PM
To: Angelique Wittler
Subject: RE: Invoice for Austin Darnall
Hi Angelique,
I'm sorry about any confusion on the fee.  My rate hasn't been $150 since the late 80s. It has been $300 for the last year and a half.
We usually quote $850 for the career assessment, which is $250 for the test + 2 hours of consulting. Or we quote $1450 for the testing with 4 hours of consulting.
Generally, on these kinds of projects for friends and friends-of-friends, the amount paid out is well below the career gain.  My last graduate, for example, paid me $1575 to get a $280,000 job offer with $100,000 bonus and $25,000 signing bonus.  I expect a superb outcome for Austin.
I'm stumped as to how this misunderstanding happened.  What would you like to do about it?

From: Angelique Wittler
Sent: Monday, June 14, 2004 11:21 AM
To: Bill Frank at CareerLab
Subject: RE: Invoice for Austin Darnall

We're fine.  I must have misunderstood.

From: Bill Frank at CareerLab [wsfrank@careerlab.com]
Sent: Monday, June 14, 2004 4:05 PM
To: Angelique Wittler
Subject: RE: Invoice for Austin Darnall


I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. I'll throw in a few freebies for Austin along the way, and we'll settle up at the end such that she'll think the fee was a real bargain!

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William S. Frank, M.A.,
25 Reasons I love consulting.
by William S. Frank
  1. Brand. You are your own brand, and you can define it any way you want. For many years, I provided outplacement to the ex-employees of Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield service corporation. When departing employees left the company, they didn't request outplacement in their severance package. They said, "I want Bill Frank."
  2. Demand. The world will always be full of terrible problems that need solving.
  3. White Hat. I can be a helper and get paid for it.
  4. Pay. I can be paid to do things I'd gladly do for nothing.
  5. Variety. Every day is different.
  6. Happiness. At this stage of my career, I only work for people I respect and care about. If a client micromanages me or is otherwise no fun, I complete the assignment and replace them.
  7. Talent. I'm using 110% of my talents and stretching myself to the max.
  8. Change. I can change my focus any day I want. If you're a McDonald's franchisee, you don't say, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a meatball sandwich—let's try it out today." In consulting you can adjust your focus hour-by-hour, as long as your clients still understand and appreciate what you do.
  9. Income. No one else would pay me as much as I pay myself.
  10. FUN. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
  11. Retirement. I can write and consult as long as I am physically and mentally capable. Peter Drucker worked into his 90s, and when asked which book was his best, he said: "My next one."
  12. Job Security. Although clients come and go, no one can come into my office and say, "Pack up your stuff . . . You don't work here anymore." In 29 years, I've only had one employer: ME.
  13. Travel. I don't have to travel unless I decide to. I travel if it's both FUN and profitable—or at least FUN.
  14. Commute. I live five minutes from my office, a corner office in an upscale six-story tower. In winter, I leave a heated garage at home and drive to an underground heated garage at work. There's seldom time to hear even one song on the radio.
  15. Vacation. Consulting is more fun than vacation (except on Wailea Beach in Maui).
  16. Friends. I have developed hundreds of close acquaintances and several lifetime friends.
  17. Time. I can work as much or as little as I like: four-hour days or 18-hour days. (Of course, my income will reflect that.)
  18. Employees. I can work with employees, subcontractors, partners, or alone—I've done it all.
  19. Passive Income. I've developed several products that provide "mailbox money." I earn while I'm sleeping.
  20. Ethics. I've never had to violate my values or personal code of ethics. I've never had to lie, purposely deceive or harm others, or promise things I can't deliver. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That doesn't mean there's never any conflict. But the conflict is conducted according to generally accepted business practices.
  21. Virtual. My career is fairly portable. With the Internet, e-mail, cell phone, and FedEx, I can work nationally, even internationally from my office—or anywhere in the world.
  22. Purpose. I make a difference in peoples' lives every day. I see it in their faces, hear it in their voices, and read it in their thank-yous.
  23. Experience. Every painful or joyful life experience makes me a better consultant. So does every person I meet or book I read. Grey hair can be good in consulting.
  24. Structure. I have to work very hard, and the clients expect superb results—but I get to structure my days, weeks, months, and years.
  25. Boss. Most of the time, I love my boss.
As I was posting these letters online, I realized I want to communicate my love for consulting. It's just a great business. The single letters, taken together, may create a picture of enjoyment, but in a burst of creativity I listed some of the reasons consulting is such a good fit for me—and perhaps for you, too. They are not prioritized; this is just how they came out.