Thinking about increasing your fees can be a difficult prospect.
What if all my clients leave because of the increase?
I know other therapists who never increase their fees.
I can’t charge more than my therapist or supervisor.
By the time you know it, you’ve backed away from the very idea, and you’re stuck charging a fee you’re not really happy with, and that isn’t truly sustainable for your business.
Some clients may decide to leave. Although this hasn’t generally been my experience.
Some therapists don’t increase their fee. This is their choice, and one that might really work for them, but this doesn’t mean it will work for you, or produce the kind of income you want.
I’ve also seen talented therapists shy away from fee increases because they didn’t want to charge more than their therapist or supervisor. There has been no consideration at how sustainable it is for their individual needs, or their business. In reality, there is no rule that we have to charge less than our therapist or supervisor. This is something that I see trainees impose on themselves when they graduate which can then result in them struggling to break even. In fact, I would go as far as to say, make sure you charge as much as your therapist or supervisor, if not more. This reasoning generally works as the profession seriously undervalues itself.
Now down to the nitty gritty, here are the practical steps involved in a fee increase:
Prepare clients for fee increases in your contract.
In your contract or working agreement include a section that prepares the client for the fee increase. This can be as simple as: ‘each January I review my fees.’ I’ve found that when I’ve mentioned a fee increase to my clients they have often told me they were expecting it.
Give clients notice.
Don’t tell clients that you will be increasing their fees from next week. Give them time to prepare themselves financially for the increase. I tend to tell clients at the end of their first session in January, and advise them that the price increase begins from the 1st February. This gives them four weeks to adjust to the fee increase.
Think wisely about your fee increase.
This is important as you need to be comfortable with the fee for the remainder of the year. Ideally you also need to prepare for how your costs may go up, such as room rental or supervision and factor this in. I tend to increase my fee by about 10% annually. This means that if I have a sliding scale then everyone goes up, but not to the same amount. Another practicality to consider if you’re taking cash is rounding the fee up to a note, if you don’t, you’re going to be dealing with large quantities of change. When we’re in business with ourselves we have the choice to make decisions that will result in a simpler life.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Practice telling your client about the fee increase in front of the mirror, or ask a colleague to listen. Ask your colleague to pull you up on any signs of hesitancy or uncertainty around the fee increase. Watch that you don’t put it to your client as a question, and don’t go into the session with a plan to negotiate with your client. It is simply about stating your new fee confidently. If you client decides to negotiate, that’s a different subject, but don’t open it up for negotiation at the beginning.
Use the information.
Be aware of which clients you feel most reluctant to tell about the fee increase. Think about what is going on in the field, and what this tell us about both your clients, and yourself. Consider bringing it to supervision to gain more insight and support.
If you want to learn more about fees, and having the confidence to charge more then check out our upcoming event here.