How to handle informal requests for service

How to handle informal requests for service

February 20, 2017 Uncategorized 0

When you provide a service, people can often cross the line between asking for your opinion and asking for advice. Some of them are totally innocent and unintentional, while others are blatant opportunists. To be clear, an opinion = a short, gut inspired response to a question. Advice = investigating the situation, considering all options and giving your professional advice on the best path to take.

Some requests are totally innocent. The person establishes you’re in marketing and they ask a ‘simple’ question. Others are looking to get as much free advice as possible, and in some cases return on several occasions. These clients are not the type of clients you want unless you can turn them into fully established paying clients.

Let’s take a look at the two scenarios to investigate the topic a little further and give you some ideas on how to handle them before they come up.

The Opinion Request:

This type of request is very informal and often impromptu, for example, “Oh – you’re in marketing! Would you mind taking a look at this for me and giving me your opinion…?”

Here are some ideas on how to handle this scenario:

  • Prepare some answers to handle the situation before it comes up. “I’d love to take a look, if its a quick 15 minute job I could fit it in by COB Wednesday. If it’s going to take longer I’ll let you know and we can suss if you’d like me to continue on the clock.” Or, “Sure, I’d by happy to take a look. I offer the first 30 minutes free to new clients. If it’s likely to take longer than that I’ll come back to you with an estimate.”
  • Prepare a policy beforehand. For example, I have a policy for the charities I support. When I get the calls requesting donations for various things and I’ve already donated my quota, my response is: “Thanks for calling. I’d love to help. I get frequent requests, so we have a company policy to support 3 charities per year. Unfortunately those spots are filled for this year.” You can apply the same type of concept to free/handshake requests. “We have a company policy to complete 3 pro-bono requests per quarter, and one per client.

The Opportunist Informal Request for free service

These come about because you’re being nice to someone, usually someone you know. It could even be a client. These requests are small and it seems over the top to formally scope the job and present a proposal. When it’s someone you know, it’s difficult to turn this type of request into your normal formal process.

We’ve all been there, and if you haven’t it will happen at some stage. Beware that this can become a regular request for some people and the jobs inevitably get bigger and bigger. The longer this continues, the harder it is to stop it or turn it into proper business. You need to stop it before it becomes awkward or uncomfortable.

Here are some ideas on how to handle this scenario:

  • Refer to ‘Prepare a policy beforehand’ above.
  • If the client is a repeat offender, bring their attention to the number of requests made and delivered for free in a nice way. “I’m not sure if you’re aware of the extra service we’ve provided this quarter at no charge, [list the requests]. Perhaps we need to look at a retainer to cover these if you think you’ll need that type of support in future.” We add any ‘unpaid extra’s’ to the invoice to bring to the client’s attention the added value we are providing.
  • Divert the request by extending the delivery time. “Sure I’d love to take a look at that. My client workload is pretty full right now, I could possibly take a look in the next 3-4 weeks. Is that ok?”
  • For those agreements that are not necessarily expecting the service for free, let them know your terms politely. “Sure, I’d love to take a look… we have a few standard procedures we need to follow when engaging with clients, so I’ll send you a quick proposal/terms of engagement to make sure I’ve covered off everything you’re expecting. What’s the best email address to send that to?”

When informal requests for service are handled nicely and promptly you can save yourself a lot of awkward moments. You can also turn ‘free’ clients into loyal advocates who are happy to pay for your services.

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About the author

Robyn Simpson: Seasoned Marketing Consultant who loves helping other Marketing Consultants grow their businesses. Self confessed marketing apps geek. Check out


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