Okay, this automatically sends up red flags for me. Obviously this person is totally unaware what a service costs. But does anyone? I mean, to charge for a service, could be anywhere from $1 to thousands of dollars! (Can I get an Amen?)
In order to keep expenses at a minimum for individuals, I usually charge a search fee of $50. This allows me to see if I can even locate that dear old grandpa in the "easiest" lists to start with. (A quick check through my favorite genealogy site, Ancestry.com!)
If I can locate the person there, then we reach an agreement. I usually start with $100-$200 down payment, for a 5-10 hour search. If further searching is required, then we will bill in another block of $100-$200 dollars. And so on, until the goal has been reached. There are other add on's that might be added as well. Costs for copies, or ordering of other documentation. Trips to cemeteries, courthouses, or genealogical societies, will also add on mileage and time. Overnight stays will include not only mileage and time, but costs of accommodations.
I keep a meticulous time record so that clients will be able to see that my charge for time has been documented well. I actually use a written time card. This keeps me accountable not only to the client, but to myself as well. If I find that I have flittered away too much time on any one search, which can happen when something truly exciting or amazing comes across, then I will credit the client that time.
It works for me.
I've been doing this for 13 , almost 14 years now. And it's always worked well for me.
I still always wonder, however, if they have to ask what my fees are, can they really afford to have the work done or not? It's a risk. For you to take a client that may not be able to pay. But then I think, playing Devil's Advocate, I know it is a risk on their part as well. And so I give it my all.
Be a give it "your" all type of genealogist too!