Like an executive recruiter, my fee is paid by the franchise company. You will pay the same franchise fee whether I am involved in the process or not. That is a federal law mandated by the Federal Trade Commission.
We never ask for social security numbers or bank account information. Franchise companies, however, require you to state your minimum financial net worth and minimum cash available. (For instance, Panera Bread dictates that in order to qualify for their franchise, you must have a net worth of $7.5 million and cash of $3.0 million.)
A lot of people have the thought balloon "I want to own my own business", so they go on the internet and research franchises. Taking action is a whole new ballgame. That's where most people realize that business ownership is merely an interesting idea, but a passing one.
You certainly can. That said, you will save time and frustration since I have "insider" access to know what franchises are available where you live and also what you qualify for as an owner. Remember, there are no contracts with me, so you are free to research independent of me.
Franchising isn't perfect nor is it for everyone. Franchises have their pros and cons. So do independent businesses. You have to weigh the value of being part of a brand and decide if you are better of going it alone. Neither approach is perfect.
That's a fair concern. Remember, there is never any cost to you. This is simply an investment of time on your part and mine. Neither one of us wants to waste any time. After 18 years and thousands of conversations with people just like you, you will realize some great benefit. If nothing else, you will become much smarter about franchising.