Tag: profitable practice

What Should I Charge?

This is an interesting question, not only for newly qualified therapists starting out, but also those in practice for a while. And there’s no right answer. You are free to charge what you want. I personally believe that it is important that some fee changes hands, even if it is a nominal one, but it really is a matter for you to decide for yourself. Don’t forget to be clear with your client up front about what your expectations around fees are.

Here are some points to consider:

  1. You are not bound by what others are charging. If your rate is somewhere within the broad range of that charged by others it is likely that there will be clients available to you at that price point. If your rate is significantly above or below the majority of your peers, then you may have to work harder to get clients, as you will be going against the market’s expectations.
  2. You can charge different amounts for different clients. You can offer a sliding scale depending on the client’s Photo no (1)circumstances.
  3. How you structure the fee can make a big difference, for example, are you going to charge for cancellations? If so, what is your policy? How many days notice do you require, and are you willing to rearrange the session, rather than charge a cancellation fee?
  4. One option is to charge on the basis of sessions attended, with no charge if adequate notice of non-attendance is given. Another option is that the fee is payable for a set number of weeks of the year, whether the client comes or not.
  5. The client is making a commitment that may last several months or even years. You can retain the same fee level throughout a client’s relationship with you, or you can change it. The possibility of future changes can be flagged at the outset of the relationship.
  6. Your starting figure, whether increased over time or not, will form the base line for the fee structure during your work. If you start too low, you will find it difficult to raise it substantially. If you aim too high, they may be put off before they start.
  7. A client’s financial situation is not your responsibility. Their situation may change during the course of your relationship depending on circumstances, and you may wish to be flexible, particularly in the short term, in order to enable the work to continue. Or you may not.
  8. Don’t assume that you know where the client is coming from as regards the fee. Some clients will make the decision about whether to start therapy with you based on what you charge. However, clients vary, and so do their circumstances, so while the cost will be a major factor for some, it will not be an issue at all for others. There are clients for whom €10 a week is too much, and there are clients willing to pay €100 or more. You choose who you want to work with.
  9. The level of fee you charge will be affected by your beliefs about what is appropriate and possible, and what you believe you have to offer and what that’s worth. It is useful to spend some time exploring these issues. Some of the limiting beliefs I have explored for myself around the fee include:
  • Ÿ  I can’t charge more than (someone I know), who has years more experience.
  • Ÿ  There’s something wrong in taking money for this work, when people are in so much pain.
  • Ÿ  No one’s going to pay me that much, I’m just listening, not really doing anything.
  • Ÿ  There’s a recession on, no one can afford to pay full whack for anything.

10.  Consider how you intend to increase your fees over time. If you are planning to be in this business for a long time, you are unlikely to keep charging the same amount forever.

And remember, the choice is yours, and it doesn’t have to be one you stick with forever. One of the big advantages about being self-employed is that you get to make the rules. So what do you want to charge?

If you struggle with this or any other aspect of running your practice, maybe I can help. Contact me here with your question or query, or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.

What Horse Riding Taught Me About Therapy Practice: Part 2

Jumping, Ambivalence and the Power of Making Choices

I’m the wimp of our family when it comes to any risk of physical injury. Where my brothers and sisters inherited the “neck or nothing” gene, I seem to have missed out. While they hunted and rode as children, I fell off and got such a scare that I refused to go back. I was ten or eleven. I have been making excuses for years for not skiing with them (the usual excuse is my knees), but the truth is, I’m terrified of getting hurt. Not some intellectual head based fear this, I’m talking wet hands, shaking body, palpitations, no speech and liquid insides. Read more

A Business Plan for a Therapy Practice? You must be kidding!

It seems over the top doesn’t it? You just want to help people, and don’t want to be bothered with all this business stuff.

I get it. But before you close this post down in disgust, bear with me just a moment or two longer.

Many small businesses don’t create a business plan until they go to raise finance. But a business plan is so much more than just a piece paper the bank might ask for, and even if you don’t need to borrow money, it’s worth the time and effort it takes to prepare it.

Much of what is included in an average business plan is straight factual information:

  1. The name of the practice
  2. Contact details and location
  3. Legal status (sole practice, partnership, company)
  4. Details of financial and legal advisors
  5. Principle Staff (if any)

However, the real meat of the business plan (and where the most benefit lies in taking time to think about it) is under the following headings:

  1. An overview of the practice: your values, your vision, your purpose, what’s unique about it.
  2. The environment you practice in: The profession, locality, competition.
  3. What you offer: Your services, clients and marketing
  4. What you perceive as business risks and your response to those risks
  5. Financial Information: Budget, cash flow, historic income and expenditure

You may never need to borrow money for your practice, but clarifying your ideas about these things will reap you benefits you can’t imagine. It will help you to feel more confident about who you are in your practice. It will help you to focus your promotional activities, and it will help you to identify changes you may want or need to make to handle a problem before it has actually landed in your lap! In other words, it puts you into the driving seat of your practice.

There’s an example of how these headings might look in a business plan for a small practice on my website at http://thisbusinessoftherapy.com/small-practice-business-plan/

Finally, when you’ve thought about it, and gathered this information for your practice, think about what steps you need to take to implement what you’ve learnt and decided.

If you need help with this, I’d love to talk to you. Contact me at http://thisbusinessoftherapy.com/contact-us/

Spending Time ON Your Practice

A reader of one of my newsletters wrote to tell me of her struggle to find time to work on her accounts. It reminded me of how often we can forget that running a practice is more than just seeing the clients.

There are lots of little tasks that need to be done to keep the practice up and running. Tasks such as keeping the records in order, making sure there’s enough work coming in, and paying the bills on time. Much of this is done reactively. And some of it will only get done if we make the time for it.

Organic.Tasks that we need to make time for are those that don’t get prompted by outside deadlines or timescales. We are unlikely to forget to pay our bills, because our creditors will remind us! We also receive reminders about updating our memberships of professional bodies and renewing our insurance. However, important as these tasks are, they are largely housekeeping. Other tasks, which might help us to grow our practice, or move it into a new direction will only happen if we decide to do them. These latter ones may be the difference between the practice we’d like to have, and the one we actually have!!

Here are seven tasks you need to make time for in your practice:

  1. Make a plan for your business. It can be very simple and informal, but the exercise of actively thinking about your business as an entity that needs attention will work wonders for you
  2. Speak to people who might refer work to you; phone them, go where they are, but do speak to them.
  3. Keep an eye to where new clients are coming from, this will tell you what promotion is  working for you and what isn’t
  4. Ask yourself are you enjoying your work? If not, do something about it. The impact of doing work we don’t enjoy is highly stressful and leads to burn out and compassion fatigue.
  5. Write up your books of account, or get someone else to write them up for you, and measure your income against your budget
  6. You don’t have a budget? Then write one, and review it regularly to see how you’re doing!
  7. Take a risk, do something differently, say or do something you wouldn’t normally say or do. The power of stretching yourself is huge, as you begin to realise you have skills and abilities you never thought you had.

Time spent working ON your practice is just as important as time spent working IN it (working with clients).

If you struggle to make time for the important tasks of working ON your practice, I’d love to help. Please contact me here to make an appointment, or to avail of a free 20 minute consultation.

Or if you need a few CPD hours, you might like to attend our practice development course, see here for details.

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Can the Client Pay?

Twice recently, while discussing with therapists who might be their ideal clients, the question of clients’ ability to pay came up. Or rather, it didn’t come up. Neither of the therapists in question mentioned ability to pay as a criteria they would consider in forming an idea of their ideal client. And yet, both of them were struggling to earn enough in their practice.

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a trust fund, or an understanding and wealthy partner, most of us need to get paid for our work, especially if that work is going to go on for some time. So, in my view, the client’s ability to pay is important.

When I asked the question, each was surprised, and both agreed that it was an important factor. Isn’t it interesting, though, that it wasn’t something they thought of? Other possible criteria tripped off their tongues with ease: presenting issue, client’s age and gender, the client’s desire and willingness to do the work. But ability to pay? No.

As a profession we can be highly ambivalent when it comes to the matter of money. We need to earn a living, but many therapists seem to feel that it’s wrong to be paid out of people’s misery. A cartoon posted on Therapy Tales commented “I suspect that therapy is the only profession where the service provider feels somehow obliged to work for free.” They’re right. Doctors, Priests, Teachers, Social Workers and Funeral Undertakers all get paid. What’s so different about therapists?

eurosPerhaps this belief that it’s wrong to take money out of other people’s hardship is masking a reluctance to be seen as having needs of our own, or a fear of being thought of as “only interested in the money”? A commenter on ShrinkRap says that talking about money is more difficult than talking about sex or suicide, and I suspect that’s true for many of us. We can talk about sex or suicide because they are client issues. It’s usually easier to talk about someone else’s problems than our own. Talking about the fee for therapy brings into the open my need to earn a living, and it can be hard to make a stand for having our own needs met, perhaps in the face of the clear and pressing needs our clients may present.

And then again, maybe we make this issue far more complicated than it needs to be. Maybe it just comes down to a question of appropriate boundaries. Boundaries are the therapist’s responsibility and are part of the holding frame within which the work is done. We set out the boundaries at the outset of the relationship, including our fee (if there is one), and our policy about cancellations. We move the boundaries only if we are satisfied that it is appropriate to do so in the interests of the client.

It is the client’s responsibility to pay the agreed price for the service that they want and have asked for. And if they can’t pay? Well, that’s just grist for the therapeutic mill, we talk about it. I can hear the arguments against…what if the client is suicidal…what if they have a financial crisis…what if a child is involved? what if…? You have to decide as a therapist whether you’re willing to change the boundary for this client in these circumstances. If it’s a short term thing, then you may decide to take the bounce. On the other hand, if it’s likely that the client will not have the resources to pay you going forward, you may decide to wean the client onto another service that doesn’t charge, or charges less. And who knows how the client may benefit from your decision, whichever way you go!

From a business perspective, it’s even simpler. What business are you in? Providing therapy services for free? Or providing therapy services for a fee? The choice is yours. You can choose to provide your services for nothing, but that is very different from not charging because you’re unable to hold the boundary, or unable to say “no.”

One practitioner told me that after we spoke about this issue, she found herself becoming much clearer about the fee boundary, and as a result, felt freer to be totally present to the client. Interesting isn’t it?

If money is an issue in your practice, either because you don’t earn enough, or because you struggle to talk about it, I’d be glad to help. Please contact me here to avail of your free 20 minute consultation or to make an appointment or browse my services to see what would suit..

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Five Ways to Make your Marketing More Effective

A therapist client asked me recently to help her create marketing material that would bring in more clients. This otherwise articulate professional found it difficult to put words together into promotional material, in a way that sounded authentic without being sleazy. If you’re going to invest money in getting a brochure or flyer designed and printed, then you’ll want it to work for you.

Here are my five tips for making your material stand out from the crowd and still be appropriate to the work.

1. Talk about them, not about you

It’s tempting, isn’t it, because you are what you know best. You know who you are, what you’ve done and what you do. Sorry to burst your bubble, but potential clients don’t much care. They’re interested in whether you can bring some relief to the pain they’re feeling. You need your words to reach out and connect with where they are.

So talk about them, what they might be experiencing, and how you imagine that feels for them.

2.   Don’t talk about process, talk about what they can realistically expect to achieve, or what they want to achievehelping hand

Again, it’s what you know best! And yes, some clients will be interested in how you work, but only as a means to an end.  You are ethically bound not to give undertakings about outcomes, but you can still focus on what a client wants to achieve, and at the end of the day, all clients have one thing in common, they want to feel better. You may not be able to resolve the problem they have with their mother, but you can tell them that many people feel better for talking about it.

3.   Talk their language, not yours 

Speaking jargon creates the impression that you are the expert. However, it can have the effect of reducing your client to a ‘case’ and is to be avoided. A potential client may be impressed by your technical knowledge, but in this world of fast paced communication, you have about 15 seconds to get your message across. If it doesn’t grab their attention, you run the risk that they drop your brochure in the waste before they reach your phone number. A potential client shouldn’t have to work to understand what you are offering them. Use language that is descriptive, easily understood and that your potential client can relate to.

4.  Don’t try to be all things to all people, you’ll just end up being nondescript. Choose something that you are interested in and focus on that

You don’t have to be an expert in everything.  And the purpose of marketing is not to display all your knowledge and expertise on all subjects. The purpose is to answer the client’s question, “Is this someone who might be able to help me?” Choose something that draws you and talk about that. Because you are interested, you will find it easier to talk (or write) about it congruently and from the heart. This tells a potential client (or referrer) something of who you are as a person and will help them to connect with you.

5.  If you want clients to find you, they have to be able to find you

A client has to sort through a lot of information to make a choice of therapist. You need to make it easy for them. That means having your contact details out there where clients are likely to look, whether online or offline. The more places your name and phone number appear, the better. You will also need to find something that makes you different from others. People remember your quirks! If you can’t think of something to differentiate you, include a good photo of yourself.

Finally, you could spend a lifetime trying to get it just right. Aim for good enough, and review it before you reprint.

If I can help you with any aspect of promoting your practice, or finding the ideal clients for you, I’d be happy to do so. Please contact me with your questions or queries, or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.

…And Then There Was The Accountant Who Spun Plates!

In most professions you get the generalists and the specialists. In medicine you have the GPs and the Consultants. In Law you have the Conveyancers and the Criminal Lawyers. You have the local dentist who does fillings and polishing, and you have the orthodontist. In counselling and therapy too, we have those who specialise in one field such as addiction,or adolescents, and those who can turn their hand to many issues.

Plates Spinning on Sticks
Plates Spinning on Sticks

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Do you Advertise or Not?

I often get asked by practitioners, “Is it okay to advertise my services?” And in particular, “Is it okay to advertise on the Internet?”

Those in favour of advertising online will argue that we live in a technological age, free soapand that potential clients will reach for their phone, iPad or computer as the first source of information about what they’re looking for. It makes sense, they argue, to be where their clients are looking for them. The detractors will argue that the best sources of clients come from personal connections, people you already know, people who know you and what you can do. Some will argue that it is inconsistent with professionalism to advertise our services at all, and especially on the internet. Read more

Our Time is Up!

Setting and holding firm boundaries is an important aspect of self care. It helps us to mind ourselves in the work, and reminds us that our needs are important too. It is also an important aspect of modelling for our clients. An ability to set and hold boundaries is an important skill in the business of having a therapy practice too, as it gives some priority to the therapist’s needs as well as the clients. If we can’t hold to the contracts we make, with ourselves and with others, we will find it difficult to earn a living as a therapist.

Time business concept.One place in which these boundaries arise is in relation to time. A colleague told me recently of her difficulty getting one particular client to leave at the end of their sessions. She had raised the issue several times with the client, and in supervision, but nothing seemed to work.

What would you do? Read more

Who Minds the Shop?

A couple of years ago, my therapist had to drop out of the work at short notice due to a sudden illness.  I can still remember the shock of learning that she was going to be absent for several months, and the difficulty I had in dealing with it at the time. As therapists we are often good at dealing with our client’s crises, but sometimes we aren’t so hot at looking after our own shop! In my case, she had enough notice of her absence to be able to tell me herself, and to arrange for another therapist to provide emergency cover, but not every emergency will give us that luxury.

red lightMany therapists work on their own, and very few have administrative or secretarial support. If you were unable to see your clients, through a sudden illness, or family crisis, the last thing you might feel like doing is ringing clients and supporting them, possibly dealing with their distress when you have an issue of your own going on. And yes, I know, we’re trained to do that sort of thing. But really, wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone in your life who could make those calls to your clients, and offer them the emergency support they might need to weather your absence? Read more