Category: Starting a Practice

Fees and Mind Set

Another limiting fbrainactor to earning enough as a therapist is our mind set about charging an economic fee. The factors that affect what a therapist is willing to charge will include:

  • What I believe is ethical or moral to charge people who may be in pain,
  • What I believe clients are willing or able to pay (Which may not be the same as what they are actually willing or able to pay),
  • The extent to which I am influenced by the possible judgement (negative or positive) of my professional peers or colleagues,
  • What I believe I am worth,
  • My beliefs about success and wealth, and
  • My willingness to receive.

Let’s look at these one at a time:

What I believe is ethical or moral to charge people who may be in pain: This is a difficult one, because we can leave our own needs aside in order to take care of the needs we see in others. Rather than go into the nitty gritty of the values (that’s a subject for another day!) perhaps we can make it easier by just separating these two parts: I need to earn a living, and I want to help people in pain. I can do both, but they don’t have to necessarily be the same people. So perhaps I can give generously of my time to those who can’t afford to pay, through some charity or volunteer work, and as a separate issue, can attract clients into my practice who can afford to pay. Does that help you with this dilemma? Leave a comment or question below.

What I believe clients are willing or able to pay (Which may not be the same as what they are actually willing or able to pay):  Sometimes we can assume responsibility for our clients’ financial affairs. We don’t know how much clients can or will pay unless we ask. It may be more than we think. Surprisingly, clients may be put off by our fee being too low, as well as being too high. A client may decide that I don’t have sufficient skill or experience if I set my fee too low.

The extent to which I am influenced by the possible judgement (negative or positive) of my professional peers or colleagues: This is a sneaky one! What will they think of me if I charge that! Ask yourself how you’d feel if you learned that a colleague was charging significantly more or less than you. Most of us don’t like to get too far out of line with the herd, and become quite uncomfortable if we appear to be too different.

What I believe I am worth: Personally, I find this an interesting one. Pat O’Bryan (The Portable Empire) tells a joke about musicians, that they spend $50,000 on equipment, and drive in their $500 truck to earn $50 for a gig. Training as a counsellor or psychotherapist costs somewhere between €15,000 and €30,000 depending on the route you take, and many continue to add more training after they qualify. And yet, we still believe we’re not worth, not good enough, or not deserving of a fair fee for our service. What needs to happen in order for us to be good enough?

My beliefs about success and wealth: Our beliefs about wealth and success are often so ingrained that we treat them as fact. The term “filthy rich” suggests that money is dirty. “Money is the root of all evil” suggests that to have money will bring evil into your world, or that you too are evil.  “Health is better than wealth” suggests that we can’t have both. And so on.

My willingness to receive: How much goodness can I let in to my life? How much abundance? At what stage do you begin to feel that your receiving more means that someone else receives less? And then (speaking for myself) there’s the fear that if I get used to allowing this in, that I might get dependent on it, and then if it’s gone, or runs out, or dries up, where will I be?

If you struggle to allow yourself to receive adequate pay for the work you do, I can help you to sort through some of these issues and find a more supportive framework for yourself. Contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation, or browse my services here.

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Earning Enough as a Therapist – Limiting Factors

Recently, I wrote about the numbers you needed to work on in order to replace your day job with a life as a self-employed therapist. As I said then, in looking at trading a full-time employment position for a full or part time self-employed position, the questions are far more complex than working out the numbers. The number crunching is the easy part. Making the choices, and dealing with the “yes but…” and the “I can’t because…” is the harder part.no outlet

So let’s look at some of the limiting factors that may be getting in the way of earning enough as a self-employed therapist. What do you think they are? In general, when I ask this question, the answer is one of the following: Read more

How Do I Earn Enough as a Therapist so I Can Give up the Day Job?

Good Question.

And on the face of it, this is an easy one to answer: Have sufficient clients paying you a sufficient rate to give you what you want to earn.

So if you want to replace a €30,000 a year job, and if your expenses amount to €5,000 per year, you will need to charge enough clients enough money to generate €35,000 in income.  If you are willing to work, say, 20 hours per week seeing clients, for 45 weeks of the year, you would need to charge them €39 per hour (35,000/ 20/45 = 38.89). However, if you only want to work 10 hours a week seeing clients, then you’ll need to charge them €78 per hour (35000 / 10 / 45).

That’s the seurosimple answer. The more complicated piece is of course, that you won’t have the same number of clients every week, because people are sick, or away, or winding down, or on shift work, or have just got other commitments. So in order to have 20 PAYING clients each week, you probably need to have 22-25 ongoing clients at any time, or more, if they don’t come weekly.

Your income is a product of two factors, the number of hours and the price per hour (most people charge on an hourly basis, if you charge on a different basis, obviously this statement doesn’t hold true.) To increase your income, you have to vary one or both of those factors, so you’ll need to get paid for more hours, or charge a higher fee per hour, or both.

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However, there are other issues that we haven’t taken into account here, such as the perks attached to being a salaried employee, these include pension entitlements, sick pay, holiday pay, and maternity pay. Self-employed therapists have to fund all of these themselves. If you want to contribute to a pension plan, that amount needs to be added to the overall total you started with above, and so on.

And then, when you receive the money from clients, some portion of it needs to be put aside for those times when you are not earning, such as holidays or sick leave. This sounds complicated but really it’s not. It can be simply worked out, a system put in place, and then you’re up and running. So you know that each week you need to put €x into a savings account to cover those eventualities.

If this is a question that you’re struggling with, I can help you! Contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation or browse my services here.

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Look At What Technology Can Do For You…

The technological age has brought many changes, and not all of them are positive. Relationships changing with the advent of mobile phones, social media and instant information. The old ways are dying out, I hear people say, we aren’t talking any more, we pay more attention to virtual friends than real ones. In other words, the threats are obvious.

And all this is true. These changes often challenge us in ways we wish we didn’t have to face.

However, technology can also be an opportunity. If you’re reading this, you have the skills to use this wonderful world of innovation to your advantage.

Apart from the obvious emails and websites, technology has so much to offer the willing practitioner, and many of the resources available online are either free or come at a very modest cost. But many people get frightened away and don’t know where to start. A really neat trick I learned many years ago, that applies to this (or indeed any other problem) is summed up in this riddle:

Q:        How do you eat an elephant?internet

A:        A bite at a time!

Take it slowly, one step at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Choose just one of the ideas below and allow yourself to play around a little with it. Here are some of the great ways that technology can help you with your practice:

Marketing Your Practice:  There are lots of people online that will help you to solve just about any problem you might have. For example, on Fiverr.com, for $5 you can get someone to design a brochure, a flyer, a business card, write a blog post, or set up a basic website.

Online learning: There are plenty of opportunities for learning online, many of them free. There are podcasts, webinars, and demonstrations galore. Just Google the subject you’re interested in, and see what comes up. For example, I’m interested in EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or Tapping.) Each year, in Spring, there is a week-long summit of free presentations by well-known experienced EFT practitioners, sharing information and demonstrations of how to use EFT in many different ways.

Bookkeeping: You can use online accounting software to write up your books and records. This is available for a small monthly fee, and when the year-end comes around, you can use the records to prepare your financial statements or send the records to your accountant to do it for you.

Online banking: You can use online banking to pay bills and transfer money (all the major banks provide this facility). Regular payees (such as landlords, credit cards etc) can be set up and paid directly from your computer, without cheques or going to the bank.

Time management: There are dozens of systems for helping you to organise yourself, and save time. These include calendars, online to-do schedules, and reminders.

Concerned about the risks of going online? You’re right to be concerned. There are risks, and there are also solutions to those risks. One solution is not to engage with the technology at all, and that is indeed a valid choice. However, there are so many wonderful resources out there that could get you more clients, and save you time or money. It would be a pity not to give them a try! Another choice is to use technology the same way you would any other tool, with awareness. You don’t drive your car recklessly, and the same applies to going online. Be safe, and have fun!

If you’d like to know more about how you could use technology to enhance your practice, contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation.

Referrals and Referral Fees

Referrals are probably the most common way that therapists and counsellors get new clients. Many of them come through personal recommendations, from colleagues, friends, existing or former clients, or through other professionals, such as doctors.

photo  (14)Sometimes more formal arrangements are in place, where referrals are made in return for a fee or other consideration. Typically, you find this as part of a room rental agreement in a therapy or mixed discipline centre, or as part of a membership or directory based service.

The fee for the referral can be a once-off contribution, a one-time contribution per client referred, or a regular payment based on the sessions attended by the client (with perhaps a time limit.) The purpose of the fee is usually to recognise that the referrer is giving something of value to the therapist (ie paid work.) The referrer may have invested in the establishment and reputation of the centre or directory, and may continue to promote it through advertising or marketing.

The advantage to the therapist is that she doesn’t have to do all that promotional work herself, although, depending on the flow of referrals, a single source or client referrals may not be sufficient. It’s also wise to continue to generate referrals on a personal basis, in case for whatever reason the flow through that source dries up, or you move on.

Check out what it’s going to cost you for the referrals and what you can reasonably expect to get in return. Here are some ideas to think about:

  • Are you guaranteed a certain number of referrals?
  • If you make a once-off payment per client, how does it work if the client doesn’t stay? Do you get a refund?
  • If there’s no guaranteed number of referrals, check with other existing users to see what their experience has been like
  • Ask what promotion is being done by the centre or directory
  • If you can, get a sense of the quality of referrals. Are the clients assessed before being referred?
  • Can you specify the criteria for referral to you?
  • Check out the situation about “ownership” of the client.  In the event that you decide to move on, are there any restrictions on the client moving with you?
  • In looking at the cost, consider it in terms of the value you will receive. If you get a client that stays for a while, the referral fee will probably be a very small proportion of what you can expect to earn.

Can I Earn More In My Practice Without Working Extra Hours?

The subject of money can be a thorny one for practitioners. With lots of talk about recession and redundancies, therapists can find it hard to charge an economic rate. One way of earning more is to work more hours, but if that’s not possible, here are some tips:

1. Increase your rate per hour. A small increase of even a couple of euro per hour will result in a big change over time. There are several ways to do this:

  • Increase the rate for all clients from a particular date. Give existing clients several weeks’ notice, it makes the transition easier, and lowers the resistance.
  • Introduce an increased rate for new clients. This is an easier option, but also slower in terms of the result it brings.

2. If you allow negotiation about fee levels, create a minimum level below which you are not willing to go, and stick to it.

3. If you have a sliding scale, raise both the minimum and maximum rates, but narrow the gap, by cash registerraising the minimum one more.

4. Always offer your highest rate first. Don’t offer a discount, let your client ask.

5. Be clear about the criteria for reduced rates, for example, for unemployed, students and OAPs.

6. To avoid the possibility of being argued down by guilt about the client’s circumstances, have the contact details of a low cost service close to hand, and be prepared to refer the client on. If you find it hard to justify, try this or similar wording “I’m sorry, my own financial circumstances don’t allow me to charge less than x, but I recommend y, they give a very satisfactory service at low cost. Here’s their number.”

7. And my favourite tip. If you find all of this very difficult, don’t wait until you’ve met the client and heard their story before you introduce the subject of fees. Raise it at the beginning of the session or better still, when the appointment is made. That way you are less likely to succumb to the guilt!

If you’d like to talk about how you can earn more in your practice, I have a couple of coaching spaces available, so contact me here for an appointment.

Where Do I Start?

Being the one who  runs the practice, as well as the one who provides the service, means that sometimes there’s just too much to do in the available time. I’m sure you’ve had the experience, I know I have; the to-do list that just keeps growing no matter how fast or efficiently you clear the items, sometimes it just can’t be done.

There are many time management systems out there, thousands of books, computer packages and apps to help you “manage your time.” They all have in common a process of prioritising – you decide what’s most important, or urgent, and organise your tasks and your time accordingly.

They all work – once you decide what your priorities are. But for some people that’s the difficult piece, that’s the stumbling block, what do I prioritise?

Speaking with a friend this week she identified this problem, the things she should do for her practice, were not the things that were attracting her. Those things that were attracting her were family related and learning something new, both of which are important to her, but neither of which were going to progress her practice.

I’d love to be able to solve the problem for her, to magically slow down time, so that everything she has on her list gets done. But I can’t. I can tell her what I think she should do, but then that would be my priority wouldn’t it, not hers? Because here’s the thing, my friend, and only my friend controls what goes on the list. She and only she decides what to do, what order to do them in, and also what not to do. And while I can help her to be more efficient, I can suggest processes and strategies, I can’t actually decide for her what her priorities should be.

I struggled with this for a long time myself, and some days I still do. The first breakthrough came for me when I realised I never get to the end of the list. There are always more items, more tasks, more ideas to be added to it. And even if I get someone else to do some of it for me, there will still be more on my list than I can possibly clear.

I have to make a choice, and keep making choices, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day about what I want, about what I’m making important for me, right now. I can decide not to choose, or I can sit here looking at my list waiting for the right choice to emerge, or I can just start somewhere. Which leads me to the second breakthrough.

That came when I realised that the point of my life is not to get things done. The doing is merely the road I’m choosing to walk down in order to have the experience. The experience, what I learn, and who I become in the process, they’re the point. So what I do, or say or think, only has the importance or meaning that I give it. I get to choose that too!

My father told me when I was a teenager, “If you want to live your life, you have to get out of bed in the morning.” I’ve long forgotten the context of his advice, but the principle still applies. So I get out of bed. And photo  (43)then I look at the list. I choose, and go from there.

Choosing is painful at times. It raises all sorts of fears about getting it wrong.  What if I make the wrong choice and regret it?  What if I make the wrong choice and someone else disagrees with me? What about the loss of the things I don’t choose, or the things I never make enough of a priority to do? And so on, I’m sure you could add a few of your own!

Not choosing is also a choice, and a valid one. And it brings up exactly the same fears and feelings. And maybe the most important thing for me to do today is to do nothing, or to do something that isn’t on my list at all, but makes me feel good, like meeting a friend, or playing with a pet, or just sitting on the sofa in my pyjamas. Maybe the most important thing for me today is staying in bed (Sorry, Dad!)

If you struggle to know where to start when it comes to any aspect of growing or running your practice, I’d love to help. Contact me here with your query, or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.

Need to Attract More Clients? Just Ask

I was in the bank some time ago and a woman who was trying to encourage me to buy a pension gave me a box of mints with “Just Ask” written on it. It reminded me of how complicated we can make the whole looking- for-clients thing.

Earlier this week, a friend who was thinking of starting her own practice, said she was overwhelmed by the thoughts of what she had to do in order to get clients. She was talking about business cards, websites and letters to GPs and all that good stuff. But she hadn’t thought about the most obvious source of potential referrers, among people who already know her.

askI suggested she make a list of everyone she knows, (and yes, I do mean everyone!) and call them to say “I’m setting up in practice. If you hear of anyone who needs a counsellor, would you give them my number?”

Better still, write an elevator pitch and use the calls to friends and family to get familiar with saying exactly what you do and how you help your clients.

Therapists don’t really talk about their work. Well, we can’t, can we? So much of what we do is confidential. Unfortunately, and probably in an effort to make sure that we observe that confidentiality, we can wrap our work in a veil of secrecy, to the extent that those around us, family, friends, and former work colleagues can be afraid to broach it with us, and so, probably never think to mention our name to people they know who might benefit from talking to us.

If you need more work, JUST ASK!

Sometimes when I suggest this, people tell me that asking those closest to them is actually harder than asking a stranger. I am curious about this and if you feel yourself hesitating to take the step of telling those close to you about your work, perhaps you need to reflect a little on what’s behind your hesitation. Our nearest and dearest are more well disposed towards us than a stranger will ever be. Perhaps there’s a concern about observing appropriate boundaries? Look at it this way, every therapist has clients they can’t work with for a variety of reasons, so what do they do with those clients they can’t see? Yes, they refer them on to another therapist. You may not be able to help someone because the connection is too close, but if you refer it on to another therapist, that therapist will probably reciprocate when they have a similar problem. What goes around comes around.

If I can help you with any aspect of setting up or running your therapy, just ask! I’d be glad to offer whatever assistance I can. You can email me here with your query or question, to avail of your free 20 minute consultation, or to make an appointment.

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Help! I Need A Room, Fast

The Buck Stops Here

Many therapists setting out in practice for the first time have closed their doors and gone back to working for someone else within three years. Not because they’re not good therapists, not because they aren’t helping their clients, but because they had no idea what it takes to run a business.

I learnt this lesson the hard way.

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I was 26 when I became self-employed for the first time. I became a partner in the small accountancy firm in which I had been working for a couple of years. I had been managing for some years before that, and so I’d learned some of the tasks of running a business. The accountancy profession works much the same way as large families do, last year’s intake supervise this year’s, (or the older kids rear the younger ones!) So I knew the form.

I was 28 when I began to learn what it really meant to be self-employed.  After my second child was born, things changed in the practice. We embarked on a business venture that was new and untried, which put significant strain on the resources of the practice. Our practice overdraft started to climb steeply, and I realised for the first time what being a partner and therefore “jointly and severally liable” for the debts of the firm actually meant in practice. The much hackneyed phrase “The Buck Stops Here” means just that. If the practice went bust, I was at risk of losing my family home. I had two small children, one of whom was less than a year old. Now all of that “liable” stuff had been carefully explained to me by my solicitors before I signed the partnership agreement, and I had studied law as part of my training, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t know it. But at another level, I didn’t really know it at all. Up till that time, it had been an elaborate kind of game.

Fast forward two years, and the partnership had dissolved in acrimony and never ending legal battles and I was out of work for the first time since I was 17. I’m not telling you this to scare you, just to illustrate how difficult it is to know what’s involved in something until you’re actually in there. They say experience is something you get just after you need it!

One of the most difficult things to explain to anyone who is expecting a first baby is just how your life changes after the baby is born. No amount of reading books, or going to classes, or talking to other mothers really prepares you for

Baby, Human Hand, Mother.

it. You can imagine the fun and the joy of it. You can read about the sleepless nights, or the symptoms to worry about, but nothing can really teach you about being a parent except the actual experience of it.

It is exactly the same for setting up a therapy practice. You can learn the skills of working with clients. You can learn the management skills, as I did, but the mind-set piece of being self-employed, that realisation that I am responsible for this venture, and just me,  is something you have to do on your own.

It’s a question of taking ownership, of committing, as they say in the marriage vows, for better or for worse.  It doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be hard, or that you’re going to have to struggle. It’s not so much about the doing, as the being. Without the commitment to the business of your practice, you’re going to struggle to find the energy, the interest and motivation to do what you need to do. The beauty of it is, that when you do move into that mind-set, it all becomes easier. It’s like finally accepting something you’ve been denying for ages, there’s a peace and a certainty that descends, and a knowing that it’s going to be okay.

If you’re struggling to take ownership of your practice and need some support, I’d love to help. Please contact me here to make an appointment or to avail of a free 20 minute consultation.

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