A recent solosezzer asked for ideas to reduce the number of no-shows he was seeing for first appointments. One of my favorite responses recommends asking for a fee at the time the appointment is booked- a prepayment.
Here's what Christian M. Frank Fas had to say:
During the first phone call, whenever a PC tells me that they want to meet I tell them: "I'd love to meet with you, but in order to schedule a meeting you will need to pay the initial consultation fee of $X at least 24 hours before the scheduled meeting. Would you like to schedule the meeting now?" If they do, I write down the appointment in my calendar, and then send them an invoice or Paypal payment request. If the fee isn't paid EXACTLY 24 hours before, I just delete the appointment and carry on. If it is paid, I sit in my office and wait for them. I've had a 100% show rate in 4 years.
Before I required payment, and waited until they showed to get paid, my no-show rate was about 1/3 of all PCs. Paying before is a way of guaranteeing their commitment.
Some PCs have rescheduled the meeting, but they have already paid up front. The logic behind this is that if they're serious about meeting, they need to be serious about paying before. In fact, if I have to send them my engagement letter twice, I won't until they pay a certain "re-sending" fee for the work done drafting their first engagement letter, and then having to re-send it another time.
I DO credit their retainers with the initial consultation fee or re-sending fee if they choose to retain me. If not, at least I got paid for sitting in my office waiting.
Nicely done, and a script you can use as well. If you need more of a "push", check out another post I wrote on the topic of free consultations.
As always, the goal is to do what you can to ensure that you spend your time helping people who value your services. Requesting a prepayment is one way to screen out anyone who is simply shopping around.