Guide to marketing for advice only, flat and hourly fee financial advisors

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I established this page to talk about marketing for flat and hourly fee financial advisors in the hope that it can be a resource to support these beneficial movements within our industry.

Thanks for visiting me.

For those of you who are new to my blog, my name is Sara. I am a CFA® charterholder and financial advisor marketing consultant. I have a weekly newsletter in which I talk about financial advisor lead generation topics which is best described as “fun and irreverent.” So please subscribe!

Sara Grillo, CFA is a highly fun and slightly crazy marketing consultant based in NYC.
I am an irreverent and fun marketing consultant for financial advisors.

Flat, advice only, and hourly fee financial advisors rock!

Chances are if you’ve arrived at this page, you are as psyched about the flat, advice only, and hourly fee movement in our industry as I am.

(Exclamation point)

I sincerely believe that the principles and beliefs inherent to this type of a fee model are beneficial for clients, and I applaud the courageous pioneers who have adopted it for their wealth management practices. And I’m sick of the golf club swinging, swaggering morons who are ripping off clients giving the GOOD financial advisors a bad reputation.

I put this blog together as a guide to marketing for flat and hourly fee advisors, because I want to support the movement. So let’s start here.

If you are trying to grow a fee fixed or hourly fee advisor practice, you may be puzzled by the following questions.

Marketing questions

  • What Google search terms do I use on my website so that prospects looking for a flat or hourly fee financial advisor in my area can find me?
  • How do you articulate your value proposition as a flat or hourly fee advisor?
  • How do you mention that you charge flat or hourly fees in your elevator pitch?
  • How do you present your pricing to maximize the benefits to client?
  • What should you be blogging about?

Practice management questions

  • How do you structure your legal agreements?
  • Who is the best lawyer for a flat or hourly fee financial advisor?
  • What custodians do flat fee or hourly advisors typically use?
  • How do I charge clients a flat fee if my TAMP / investment manager is charging me an AUM fee?

And many more…

In support of this movement, I have established this page to act as a marketing resource for flat and hourly fee financial advisors. My hope is that I can help you answer some of these questions, so that the movement to more transparent financial advice can gain traction. To do so I plan to reach out to my network of professionals who are aligned with the mission.

So far here’s how I can contribute and support.

Marketing/practice management resources for flat, advice only, and hourly fee financial advisors

Right now these are the resources I can offer you as support. I plan on updating this as I gain more resources to share with you.

#1 Read these blogs/watch these videos

On my blog, I answer (or intend to in the future) some of the practice management and marketing questions that a financial advisor charging flat fees may likely face.

Start by reading these articles below. As I do more podcasts I plan to add to this list.

Flat fee advisors

Hourly fee advisors

Advice only financial planners

#2 Get your SEO game right

First of all, please install Google Analytics and Google Search Console on your website. They are free tools. You can probably do it yourself, and if you can’t there are freelancers on Upwork that could probably do this in less than an hour. The reason you need these tools (and need to learn how to use them) is that your website can be a valuable tool for catching prospecting traffic.

Consumers are searching for flat fee, hourly, and advice only financial advisors. If you set up your website right, maybe you can come up in a search for some of these terms and get on their radar screen.

Check this out from Ubersuggest as of March 2022:

It’s basically saying that as of 3/17/22, when I researched this, that there are over 600 searches a month for terms related to “flat fee financial advisor.”

That’s fabulous!

It shows people are looking for planners like you online.

Also look at the search volume for the term “advice only financial advisor” as of April 7th, 2022, also from Ubersuggest. Not as high as for “flat fee financial advisor”, but there is some volume.

So, one of the things you want to do is try to grab as much of this traffic as you can while the getting is good! The keyword difficulty is low – still in the 30s. Get ’em now!

  • I did this podcast talking about how to optimize your website for SEO.
  • Also, Neil Patel has a fabulous blog about how to set up your blogs and website to get more traffic from Google. I’ve done quite a few of these myself and they’ve helped.
  • Try to get some of the local searched by including keywords on your website such as “Flat fee financial advisor in ??? city”. It should be on the homepage up high before the folder. Example, “We are a flat fee advisor in Boise, Idaho serving local families and clients across the country.”
  • Consider writing a blog entitled, “Questions to ask a flat fee advisor in ?? location.” See Patel’s tips above for SEO optimization of blogs.
  • Same instructions as above if you are focused on a niche. “Flat fee advisor for veterinarians.” Or the likes.

#3 Flat, advice only, or hourly fee advisor value proposition

Get your pricing clearly displayed and its benefits explained on your website.

  • State that you charge flat or hourly fees clearly on the home page before the “fold” so they don’t have to scroll to see it
  • Give it its own tab on the home page menu called “Fees”, “Pricing” or “How we get paid”
  • Get a fee calculator so the viewer can compare what they would pay with you vs. what they would pay in AUM fees

Moreover, clearly explain what the benefits are of working with an advisor who charges flat or hourly fees, and tie that into your value proposition.


“We found that many of our clients needed us to advise on assets that were held away, such as bitcoin, real estate, or business interests. We set up our fees this way so we could include those assets into the planning which provides a more comprehensive view of the client’s total wealth including all assets and liabilities.”

#4 Include graphic depictions of the differences

This isn’t the best graph in the world but it does show the basic differences between what a flat vs. AUM fee portfolio would hypothetically look like. The assumptions are basic (I’m sure you could do much better) but you can see the major point.

This graph shows the difference between a hypothetical flat fee portfolio and an AUM fee portfolio over time.

Notes: 1% fee on AUM, $10k annual flat fee, 8% annual nominal growth rate, fee debited at end of year, no withdrawals, contributions, or transaction costs, 20 year time horizon.
Projected growth of portfolio is entirely hypothetical; future performance is not guaranteed. This illustration does not include ongoing service, platform, product, and other miscellaneous costs; this may decease potential yearly and accumulated growth and/or fee savings . Actual portfolio growth may vary.

You can see there is quite a delta. The flat fee portfolio reaches $4.2MM while the 1% AUM portfolio only gets to $3.8MM.

What I’m trying to say here is that you don’t just have to use words, you can and also show the differences graphically where possible.

#5 Network with other flat, advice only, or hourly fee advisors

I’ve created a LinkedIn group where flat and hourly fee advisors can post discussions and chat amongst their peers. Please feel free to join it, and if you do so I please kindly ask that you observe group rules.

Also, this blog has a list of flat fee advisors. Contact your peers and network!

#6 Attend webinar series

Here are the replays of past webinars:

In this webinar we talked answered these questions and more:

  • I want to create a practice that addresses the needs of those approaching or in retirement but only have modest savings, under $1M and many under $500k.  I see these folks as severely underserved other than from product salespeople.  I want to bring services to them that can truly impact their lives and retirement by making the wisest and most strategic decisions.  Many are charging much higher fees that can be sustained in that market segment.  Am I simply being too idealistic to want to serve this population with modest fees?  Can I actually make a living with very modest fees that are affordable for this population?
  • I hear difference in pricing for single versus married, but anyone offer a rate for families?
  • With the demographic you’re serving (pre-retirees/retirees), how many also invest their assets with you? Do you charge some nominal bps for the administration of that, in addition to the planning fee?
  • How do you work that out with the custodian?  Are you paying the custodian a flat fee?
  • Fee is annual, but is billing?  If not, how often are clients billed?
  • What is your max fee for any client regardless of size? I think I heard you say you charge differently for single and married is that accurate?
  • What tax rules to do you need to be aware of? I was under the impression that section 4975 allows for an IRA account to pay asset management fees without being a distribution – but not for even that same client’s taxable account and certainly not for other clients
  • With an hourly approach like this, how do you counteract the shortfall of the lost opportunity for deeper “financial life planning” type conversations?
  • A concern I have with hourly only is clients not reaching out before making impactful decisions. E.g. buying a car/house. For them, it’s a guaranteed hourly planning cost with a more nebulous benefit. What are your thoughts about charging based on Assets Under Advisement to keep the lines of communication open?
  • Is there any issue with doing investment management “pro bono” and billing the client hourly out of pocket?
  • Legal question.  Can you pick and choose whether to work with clients based on whether you would need to register with a state because you working with them?
  • What is the difference from a flat fee and a subscription?
  • If Clients wish to pay monthly and your annual fee is $5,000.  Can you charge $420 for that monthly fee and not be a “subscription”?
  • For those that are looking to refer out due to capacity issues, what are you looking for?
  • Can we get a referral group going, just in case we have some advisors niching?
  • Do you have separate single versus married rate?  Any family rate?
  • Since you charge an upfront and then an optional subscription going forward, how do you address clients that feel that they want some help with implementation but don’t feel like the full annual ongoing fee is necessary?
  • What kind of insurance do you have as an advice-only?
  • What about clients doing rebalancing/distributions or tax loss/gain harvesting. Do clients have a hard time doing the trading?
  • How about one-off questions after you’ve done a comprehensive plan (they’re thinking of moving and want mortgage guidance)? Would you do one hour?
  • How often do your clients return for that annual offering? What would you say to advisors who worry this model might prohibit the long term relationship part that a lot of advisors find a cornerstone of making this a rewarding career?
  • Is anyone engaging in insurance sales if the client has a demonstrated need from the plan?  Such as really need a second to die policy to max their objectives, Medicare supp, LTC, etc.?

#7 Stay in touch for other resources as they come available

Join my Advice Rockers newsletter to be notified as future resources become available, and to receive my quarterly updates on marketing and practice management tips for flat and hourly fee financial advisors.

That’s all I’ve got for now!

Thanks for coming by. Please stay in touch and let me know how your mission is going!

-Sara G