Expert Talk: Should You Charge for a Consultation?

Founder of his namesake beauty hub in Melbourne’s Toorak, James Vivian is emblematic of a modern, inclusive beauty industry. This week, James unpacks: consultation charges.

Unless you’ve been hiding underneath a makeup sponge, you’ll know the importance of a consultation when it comes to a safe, effective and enduring client/therapist relationship.

The what

The consultation allows a therapist to clearly identify exactly why a client is sitting in front of them. The moment allows for a therapist to inspect a client’s skin; to confirm any concerns and provide feedback. It finishes with the therapist informing the client on exactly how they can or cannot assist with the client’s concerns. Wrapping up this process is often a stream of questions from the therapist to the client; questions that span anywhere from lifestyle, diet, medications, to previous treatments, budget, availability for downtime, and so on.

The why

The consultation is an opportunity for a therapist to get to know their client and, often more importantly, for the client to get to know their therapist. Consultations can take upwards of one hour, and a great consultation will leave both therapist and client feeling empowered and inspired for what’s to come. With consultations taking up this time, and with some beauty spaces performing multiple consultations a day or week, there is often a question around whether a consultation should be charged to the client or not.

Client consultations are designed to build the client-therapist relationship

Charging for a consultation puts immediate value on the appointment. Although there is no treatment attached, it promises the client ‘I am going to charge you for my time, and in return you are going to receive my knowledge, experience, candour, philosophies’, and all the other bells-and-whistles one may attach to a consultation.

Therefore, a therapist charging for a consultation must be able to put their money where their mouth is and deliver on their promise to give a 10-out-of-10 consultation. Remember, at the conclusion of a charged consultation, a client won’t have anything except the information provided to decide whether that was ‘worth it’.

The how

Some beauty spots make their consultation redeemable off skincare purchases, or applied to a future service. This is discussed at the time of booking, which for the client provides a greater value for money than just the consultation itself. It also provides the therapist with an easy segue into a product sale or rebooking.

Some spots, like at James Vivian, offer complimentary consultations. This has been our philosophy since our inception 12 years ago where, as The Travelling Peelsman, I would drive from home-to-home offering the service. 95 percent of the time, these consultations would be immediately followed by a treatment and the selling of skincare.

We’ve continued offering complimentary consultations since then. However when a client books for the first time, they are offered the choice between a complimentary consultation only, or a complimentary consultation immediately followed by a Signature Treatment at a cost of $AU307. Over 90 percent of the time, clients will opt for the latter, which provides us with the comfort in knowing that a transaction will occur.

For those clients who book a complimentary consultation only, we would only have a very small number of clients who do not return following their consultation (I’m talking one or two annually!), so for us, there is little reason for us to offer our consultations at a cost. This sets off our client/therapist relationship without pressure to return, obligation to buy or need to rebook because they’ve paid a deposit. To be honest, we only want clients coming back to us who really want to. We understand that we cannot be the clinic for everybody, so if a client decides we’re not for them, we really don’t think they need to pay to find this out.

The bottom line

Ultimately, you can never put a value on a new client. Not charging for a consultation could potentially be the difference between a new client selecting your clinic over another clinic that is charging for the exact same consultation.

Read the current issue of our digital magazine here:

Have an idea for a story or want to see a topic covered on our site and in our pages? Get in touch at

Back to top