Most architects working in the residential market know the dilemma: A potential client calls and wants to meet. That meeting is free. They want you to sketch out something to see if you “understand their needs” and your work is presented… for free again! How much of your time and talent is given away for free while you try to sign up a client?
A good standard practice is to have that first meeting free but put a time limit on it, such as an hour. This gives plenty of time for the architect to get familiar with the scope and the project as well as an opportunity for the potential client to get a feeling about the architect and the firm. After all, you may not want that client as much as they don’t want you. After this initial meeting or longer requested timeframe, what should you charge after that? How many of you have given away ten hours chasing a project that you never signed? When you understand and respect your own value, clients will do the same. If they don’t, you probably don’t want them as clients. Architectural design is not a commodity, it is an intellectual property.